Rural farmers set up local seed bank
Flora Fadzai Sibanda, Chronicle Reporter
DRIVEN by the desire to preserve indigenous seeds, which are under threat of extinction due to recurrent drought conditions linked to climate change, 118 farmers from Ward 23 in Nkayi District have successfully established a local seed bank facility.
A seed bank stores seeds to preserve genetic diversity for years hence it is a type of gene bank.
There are many reasons to store seeds, one of which is to preserve the genes that plant breeders need to increase yield, enhance disease resistance, drought tolerance, nutritional quality and taste of crops, among others.
Realising that most of their indigenous seeds were getting extinct, farmers in Nkayi, with the help of Agritex and the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF) partners embarked on a project in 2019 to build a local seed bank.
A local Agritex officer who is working closely with the 118 farmers under the initiative, Ms Nonhlanhla Ngwenya, said establishing the seed bank was the best decision they ever made as a community.
She said indigenous seeds are now very expensive at shops because of their almost distinct nature. It was for this reason that Ward 23 farmers established their seed bank at Canaan Business Centre to preserve their own seeds.
“We keep over 30 different seed varieties ranging from sunflower, fodder seeds, ground nuts, round nuts and maize,” said Ms Ngwenya.
She said the farmers collect the seeds among themselves upon harvest and keep them safe at the well-built warehouse or storeroom.
“At the store room we keep the seeds in bottles that are dry and in a high shelf so that they do not get moist and end up being spoilt,” said Ms Ngwenya.
She said they do not just bank the seeds but multiply them through loaning them to some qualified farmers who were taught how to be seed multipliers.
“Seed multiplication is where farmers plant the banked seeds in order to produce more of the same breed. We usually give these farmers the most extinct seeds that we see we might lose especially to drought,” said Ms Ngwenya.
“Once the seeds have been multiplied, we keep the surplus and release it to the needy people during the planting season.”
This is a way of making sure that the seeds are well kept and everyone can get easy access to them, she added.
“The store room at our seed bank is open for other villagers who might want to buy the seeds. We sell the seeds at an affordable price, which is better as compared to the prices in the shops in towns,” she said.
Ms Ngwenya said farmers could also donate some of the seeds to vulnerable people in the villages so that they can also have access to the seeds.
She said the challenge was that at times the seeds become contaminated because of unavailability of chemicals to treat and keep them fresh.
“At times farmers do not produce the agreed quantities of seeds and this is a problem because the seed bank then does not grow but instead remains stagnant,” said Ms Ngwenya.
ZRBF is supporting implementation of resilience building activities in 18 rural districts in Zimbabwe via seven project consortia. The interventions are all aimed at achieving increased adaptive, absorptive and transformative capacities of communities to withstand shocks and stresses under a project dubbed ‘Enhancing Community Resilience and Sustainability (ECRAS)’. — -@flora_sibanda