With the advances of climate change, crops have been affected everywhere in the world. Only then did people start realizing that crops are important, but more important are the seeds the crop needs to exist. As long as there are quality seeds, crops always find a way around the land. The real issue is when there are no seeds, especially considering that most farmers in Kenya own small pieces of land which not only produce food to feed the people in the country, they produce for themselves.

Naturally, if the crop is not good enough and there are no seeds to start planning the following crop, they usually don’t sell what they produce, they eat it. Can you see the vicious circle in which just the lack of a small seed creates? Let’s see how a community seed bank saved the people in Gitare from this situation.

Seeds, seeds and more seeds

Many people may not be aware of this, but when one comes to think about it, it is not hard to notice that no seeds, equals no crops, which equals no produce of, say, rice, which equals not having a delicious dish of Spanish rice many are so used to (follow the recipe here successrice.com/recipes/spanish-rice/).

Scarcity reaches first the produce and then, the seeds and the people in Gitare saw the worst of it in 2006. And one might think it took them two or three years to recover, but this is not the case. It was only in 2015 and thanks to the farmers grouped under the name Mwireri SGH that were part of the Biodivision Farmer Communication Programme that they could come up with a solution: a community seed bank

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What is a community seed bank?

Basically, a seed bank is a place in which different seeds from different crops are deposited in order to preserve them to guarantee basic quality conditions for planting. It works like a bank does. As this is a community seed bank, every farmer in the area contributes to its archive. The bank is where they are kept and farmers are able to ask for seed loans or buy seeds only to loan or sell them back at the end of the planting season. In short, you take two, you give back four.

What are the benefits of a community seed bank?

For starters, seed banks preserve the diversity of the crops and this is one of the most important aspects of the success behind this idea. Crops are just another organism and they have to adapt to the environment and the climatic conditions.

Secondly, the bank makes organic seeds available. Organic seeds are not very common in the seed market. In addition, the seeds are kept under strict preservation conditions which, in turn, makes it possible for the seeds to multiply and reduces the risk of a crop failing. Most importantly, the fact that they are well-preserved reduces the risk of seed extinction, a common consequence of climate change altogether.

Storage not only guarantees seed preservation, it guarantees crops and people preservation. How so? Stored seeds serve as a kind of provision for natural or man-made disasters. Flooding, droughts or more could be overcome by tired seeds, which could help in crop propagation.

The first community seed bank

In the case of Gitare, the group of farmers that came up with this solution for their lack of thriving crops started their seed bank with some traditional seeds: beans, potatoes, maize, etc. Of course, they had to learn how to select the good seeds, how to treat them and preserve them as well as the proper storage for each of them. This was done with the help of agents from the Biodivision Programme who followed the first cycle.

  1. The first step was collecting seeds from some parent plants and then, naturally, the ones that were broken or damaged were sorted out.
  2. The second step was to perform a germination test to see which ones were viable. Those seeds were later treated in an organic way and the farmers used preservatives for storage.
  3. The third step was to pack the treated seeds in gunny bags inside glass containers in the seed bank.
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When it started, this project sustained 200 farmers and it kept on growing. The bank guaranteed quality seeds and thriving crops which ultimately lead to a significant amount of food available in the area.


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