Seed Swap in East Africa Changing Food Futures
ECHO, an agricultural resource agency, inaugurates new seedbank and distributes seeds of highly nutritious plant species to organizations fighting hunger in East Africa.
On June 6, ECHO hosted the Arusha Conservation Agriculture Forum. The audience included development workers, directors and various representatives of agricultural and nonprofit organizations in the region.
"We celebrated what we all have in common: working together to combat hunger and alleviate poverty through sustainable and innovative methods. We went around the room to discuss the different projects we were working on, successes and hardships. One topic in particular that we concentrated on was the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease that has been ravaging farmers’ fields throughout northern Tanzania, shares Charles "Bonny" Bonaventure, ECHO East Africa Technical Advisor." Bonny has been working on a technical resource document on this disease, part of ECHO's free resources, that may be of huge assistance to farmers in the area.
ECHO East Africa had the privilege of invited the participants to ECHO East Africa's first Seed Swap and to dedicate and officially inaugurate the newly established and fully functioning ECHO East Africa Seedbank.
Erwin Kinsey, Director of the ECHO East Africa Impact Center, opened this time with a Bible reading. “The Bible mentions seeds over 200 times” Erwin remarked. Brian Lawrence, ECHO Technical Advisor, then shared the vision and mission of the Seedbank and their hope for it’s future.
With the seedbank officially opened, the group then made their way to the seedbank for the first ever “Seed Exchange.” Participants who brought seeds from around the area stood around a round table sharing information about the seeds they brought. Seeds to be exchanged were spread out and each contributor had a chance to obtain samples as they heard about the seeds. Seeds came from all over the region including Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. Green manure cover crops included highland lupines, grass peas, different runner beans, lima beans, and lablabs. Other tree seeds exchanged were chinaberry trees, Gliricidia, Moringa, and Faidherbia. Other notable contributions included a lima bean from Kilimanjaro, a local soya bean known to be easily digested, a local maize that is adapted to high altitudes, and spider plants. Some seeds we were familiar with and others were completely new.
In total ECHO distributed 132 seed packets to the participants. The participants enjoyed the experience. It was a first-time experience for most of those that were gathered there.
Talking with Erwin Kinsey, the ECHO team was excited. "We at ECHO were very thankful for everyone who was able to attend. We hope today was a catalyst to the vast potential our seedbank has to offer this area by storing and distributing high quality seed and useful plants to equip farmers in effective sustainable solutions. A special thanks to Neil Miller from the MCC for donating many useful seeds for us to experiment with and to AVRDC’s World Vegetable Center for their generosity in offering future collaborations in swapping seeds."
Networking followed during a short tour of the seedbank cold room and demonstration gardens.