Community seed banks, an alternative solution to accessing quality seeds

Community seed banks, an alternative solution to accessing quality seeds

The SNV Sustainable Nutrition for All project is supporting communities in three districts to improve their nutrition through adoption of improved agro-biodiversity and dietary diversity.

Access to quality indigenous seed is a challenge for many rural farmers. It is estimated that less than 15% of Ugandan farmers use quality seed[1]. The majority however (over 70%) use poor quality seed stored and replanted over time due to the high price of seed and inadequate knowledge of available varieties. This is exacerbated by the highly unregulated informal seed market where farmers buy seed with no guarantee of its quality.

The SNV Sustainable Nutrition for All (SN4A) has been supporting communities in three districts (Kasese, Kakumiro and Kyenjojo) to improve their nutrition through adoption of improved agro-biodiversity and dietary diversity. The project however recognises that the success and adoption of improved nutrition by households necessitates inducing behavioural change. This however requires a buy-in from the households by triggering their understanding of the critical factors for improved nutrition and removing the barriers to production and consumption.

One of the challenges that the project identified in its promotion of dietary diversity and nutrition sensitive agriculture was the lack of quality indigenous nutrient rich seed. In 2018, the project partnered with the National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO) to build the capacity of local farmers as seed multipliers of an alternative category of seed known as quality declared seed. A detailed value chain analysis was carried out to ensure the enterprise selected was of high market value and met the nutritive content. This analysis was carried out by the project team in partnership with Agriculture Officers from the three project districts (Kasese, Kakumiro and Kyenjojo) as well as the Nutrition Action Groups and farmer representatives. NARO Bean II was selected because it is rich in iron and zinc, micro-nutrients highly needed by pregnant mothers and children. For vegetables, nakati (also referred to as bitter tomato) was identified as a potential enterprise to be promoted.

A total of 215 seed multipliers were selected and trained in the three project districts to provide enough planting materials for the 17,200 households targeted by the project. The seed multipliers were trained, mentored and supported throughout the whole production process on good agronomic practices, post-harvest handling, including drying, sorting and storage to ensure high viability of the seeds by scientists from NARO. The seed multipliers also underwent training in marketing to be able to sell their seed. The intervention would not only strengthen the seed networks but guarantee small holder farmers access to high quality, lower priced diverse seeds required to boost productivity, food security and nutrition. This has greatly boosted the projects efforts to get households to consume nutrient rich vegetables. All the 17,200 households targeted by the project have adopted nutrition sensitive agriculture and are growing the high-quality NARO bean II and NAKATI being sold by the seed multipliers.

At the start of the initiative, the project bought the foundation seed and distributed 10kgs of quality declared seed to each seed multiplier to promote the uptake of seed multiplication.  All seed multiplication gardens performed fairly well harvesting between 80-400 Kgs of seed per site. Once the seed multipliers began earning profit from their business venture, they embraced the business fully. So far, 13 community seed multipliers have commercialised their production and are able to produce and sell quality declared seed to their fellow farmers.

[1] The Uganda National Seed Strategy, MAAIF, 2014/15 - 2019/20 http://extwprlegs1.fao.org/docs/pdf/uga175068.pdf

Showcasing produce

Promoting dietary diversity at household level

Stories of success

Ssimbwa Robert one of the seed multipliers from Nkooko sub-county, Kakumiro district harvested 400kgs of bean seed from his quarter acre of land with the initial 10 kgs of seed he received from the project. With the UGX2,000,000 he earned from selling his seed, he expanded his farming to 1 acre and harvested 1,600Kgs of seed. “It is hard to get money in agriculture because of the unpredictable weather and its effects on crops. Being a seed multiplier however has earned me more income than I have ever gotten from farming other crops and I intend to continue in this business,” Robert said. He added that farmers trust them (seed multipliers) because they get their foundation seed directly from NARO and are monitored by SNV together with the District Agriculture Officers to ensure consistency in the quality of seed that they sell to households.

Wilson Kyomuhendo another seed multiplier and a member of the Nutrition Action Group (NAG) in Kyenjojo district was selected by the Ministry of Water and Environment to benefit from the micro irrigation programme after adopting vegetable production as a business. With his irrigation equipment, Wilson is now able to grow beans even during the off season and earn better prices. He has also mobilised 35 other NAGs to benefit from the irrigation project and together they have started bean farming on a 20-acre piece of land. Wilson is grateful for the SNV SN4A project for making him a model farmer in Rwenzori region. “Seed banks and vegetable production are lucrative businesses if taken seriously. I am always encouraging my fellow farmers to take it up as a business and I am glad that 35 of my NAG members have joined me,” Wilson added.

The Sustainable Nutrition for All (SN4A) Phase II project is implemented by SNV Netherlands Development Organisation in partnership with the Center for Development Innovation, Wageningen UR (CDI), with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).