TZ becomes Africa’s seed bank hub

TANZANIA: TANZANIA is poised to become a Seed Conservation Hub, following the construction of a state-of-the-art seed bank in Arusha.

Sitting within the World Vegetable Centre, the facility has been constructed to the tune of 1.2bn/-($400,000) and will see seeds stored to preserve genetic diversity for the future.

The modern facility which also comprises of a seed preparation and testing room has a capacity of storing seeds for a period of 99 years and is expected to be up and running in February next year.

“The facility will be one of a kind on the whole continent, making Tanzania a Seed Conservation Hub,” disclosed Dr Gabriel Rugalema, World Vegetable Centre Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.

Dr Rugalema, who was speaking on the sidelines of the 3rd Taiwan – Africa Vegetable Initiative (TAVI) five –day course on Germplasm conservation, quality management, and connecting genebanks to society, said the centre had received a clean bill of health to host the centre from Crop Trust, which is a global organisation that focuses solely on building and supporting a global system of genebanks for the conservation of crop diversity.

“They were here first in 2019 and suggested that we depart from seed depository, and came back a few days ago and were impressed with what they saw,” he explained.

According to Dr Rugalema, only 33 per cent of African countries have reliable seed banks, noting that the prospects of the Germplasm come handy.

He said this will be a place where suitable conditions are maintained to conserve seed specimens of different plant species.

Earlier on Dr Sognigbe N’Danikou said even though Sub Saharan Africa is known to be a key vegetable biodiversity hotspot, it was worrying to see how poorly preserved the veggies were.

According to the expert, 62 per cent of 126 selected African vegetables on the continent were poorly conserved ex situ.

“We need to safeguard them before they go extinct,” he warned.

Dr N’Danikou rooted for collaboration in rescuing biodiversity.

He observed that partnership with end-users of gene bank collections is key to enhancing sustainable utilisation and impact.

The expert equally underscored the importance of substantial investment for the rescue, conservation and sustainable use of African vegetable biodiversity.

Drawing more than 40 participants in person, and another 100 attendees online, the training aimed at strengthening the skills and technical capacities of national genebank staff, researchers and professionals involved in the management of seed collections, and will help to ensure that they make them increasingly available for use in breeding programs that support food and nutrition security.

The training sessions would cover good practices in germplasm classification, conservation and safety back-up seed testing and viability monitoring of African vegetables.

Others include seed inventory, distribution and data management with advanced tools; enhancing the use of vegetable germplasm and linkages with society; and genebank quality management systems.

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