Song and dance as farmers in Kisumu welcome seed bank

Dr Carlo Fadda

Dr Carlo Fadda, the research director at The Alliance of Bioversity International and Centre for Tropical Agriculture admires some indigenous seeds during the launch of Kabudi Agoro community seed bank in Kisumu County.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

On a sunny Wednesday in Agoro, Kisumu County, business goes on as usual with many traders selling indigenous mangoes which are in season.

At the area around the chief’s office, you are welcomed by local farmers with songs and dance, men and women unleashing their rich Luo cultural tunes.

One would be forgiven for thinking that the dancing is part of the festive season characterised by Christmas and New Year celebrations.

But no. These are smallholder farmers celebrating the launch of a new seed bank, in which they will be conserving seeds of resilient crops such as sorghum, finger millet and legumes most of them indigenous varieties.

Kabudi Agoro Community Seed Bank

The newly launched Kabudi Agoro Community Seed Bank in Kisumu County.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

Food security

In the wake of climate change, stakeholders in the agriculture sector are burning the midnight oil looking for ways to ensure food security by growing crops which are resilient and adoptive.

Under the Open Source Seeds System project, the Alliance of Bioversity International and Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) has been working with farmers in upper and lower Nyando, Vihiga and Kakamega in identifying seeds which respond well to erratic weather and are resistant to pests and diseases.

It is as a result of efforts of The Alliance, jointly with partners including government, that several seed banks have since been launched including the Nyando Community Seed Bank and another one in Vihiga which was launched recently.

Farmers from Kabudi-Agoro depended on the seed bank in lower Nyando, situated in Stoo Pamba area along Katito-Kisii road some six kilometres away.

“We would have to travel a long distance to Nyando Community Seed Bank at Stoo Pamba, a journey which would cost Sh400 per person,” says Evelyn Cherwa, the treasurer and trainer at Kabudi-Agoro.

seeds from Uganda

Farmers from Nyanza admire seeds from Uganda during an exhibition.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

Seed deposits

An active and innovative farmer herself, Ms Cherwa has contributed some of the seeds as ‘deposits’ at the new bank, having been producing them at her farm.

The seed bank is currently home to 10 varieties of sorghum, 25 bean varieties, two of millet and 12 of vegetables among others.

The 300 registered members of this group, Ms Cherwa adds, dream of adding more seed varieties from across the country and beyond.

Centre of excellence

This way, the seed bank will not only be a place of exchange, but also a centre of excellence where various stakeholders can visit and learn about seeds.

Already, Ms Cherwa notes, the group has 54 varieties of bean seeds   which will be multiplied starting the next planting season.

“We also hope to get equipment such as moisture meters to monitor seeds’ moisture content,” notes Ms Cherwa.

Over 200 farmers from upper and lower Nyando benefitted from two separate trainings on community seed banking and value addition in two separate trainings late last year.

The seed banking training was facilitated by experts, who are also farmers, from neighbouring Uganda where the concept of seed saving, sharing and banking has taken root.

This training aimed at equipping farmers with skills on seed saving, records management, preservation, selection and seed banking among other concepts.

On value addition, farmers were trained on milling and blending flours from indigenous crops such as cassava, millet and sorghum.

They were also trained on making cakes, pilau, potato chips and crisps among other products from drought resistant crops as well as branding and packaging.

The Alliance’s Research Director Carlo Fadda urged farmers to work together with relevant stakeholders, including the government and development organisations, to ensure access to seeds as well as food diversity.

He noted that there is need for policy makers to understand and support farmers who are keen on diversification of crops, which in turn leads to diversified diets, thus better nutrition.

Roller mill Nyando Community Seed Bank

The roller mill which was given to farmers during the launch of the Nyando Community Seed Bank.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

Improve incomes

Farmers have also been trained on quality seed production, seed multiplication and other forms of value addition. This will create opportunities for farmers not only to produce quality seed but also to participate in value addition activities to improve incomes and livelihoods in the community

“Just as commercial banks have branches spread across various areas, seed banks too should be widespread and easily accessible to farmers,” said Dr Fadda.

In addition to the launch of the new seed bank, farmers from the Nyando Community Seed Bank were presented with a roller mill.

This is geared towards supporting them to embrace value addition as a way of empowering them and increasing their sources of income.

“Let this machine change your lives, make money from it and improve your livelihoods,” said Dr Gloria Otieno, a genetic resources and food security policy specialist at The Alliance. She was speaking during the handing over of the machine.

Roller mill Nyando Community Seed Bank

The roller mill which was given to farmers during the launch of the Nyando Community Seed Bank.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

Flour from local products

Dr Otieno asked farmers to emulate Dash Foods, a local company which is making different flours from local produce such as cassava, millet and sorghum.

Value addition, Dr Otieno noted, remains a great way of diversifying income and creating jobs and should be embraced.

“Having trained the farmers, we expect optimum use of the equipment donated and that they can do value addition to improve their livelihoods,” she said.

She said she hoped that farmers’ products will be certified by relevant bodies like the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) so that they can be more marketable.

And in order to succeed and benefit from economies of scale, smallholder farmers are encouraged to operate in groups.


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