Why we work on seed.
Seeds are genetic resources and carry plant genetic diversity. Small-scale farmers play an important role in Uganda’s food systems, with some estimates showing that they meet up to 80 percent of the population’s food needs. The bulk of farming in Uganda is still mainly done by small-scale farmers. Seeds have long been a part of the cultural heritage of different societies in Uganda, seeds are an integral part of many rituals, ceremonies and festivals that celebrate the cycle of birth, life and death. The practice of seed saving has been a cornerstone of farming communities that made agriculture their way of life. Seeds are very instrumental inputs that determine development of agriculture among other factors. Quality seed is a key input for agriculture with an immediate effect on agricultural production and productivity. ESAFF Uganda promotes a participatory farmer-led approach for systematically planning and executing interventions towards promoting farmers seed security and seed sovereignty.
Our Actions in Promoting and Protecting Seed Rights
Promoting Farmer Managed Seed System (FMSS)
ESAFF Uganda promotes Farmer Managed Seed Systems (FMSS) because it addresses issues related to seed security and sovereignty of small-scale farmers. This reduces monopolies in the seed sector and increases farmers’ seed choices. Small-scale farmers have since been advocating against laws/policies that prevent them from saving or exchanging seed hence undermining the farmers’ rights or seed sovereignty.
ESAFF Uganda has been implementing models like Community Managed Seed Security model (CMSS) that protect the seed security and sovereignty of small-scale farmers. The model mainly aimed at providing small-scale farmers with a practical, harmonized and systematic approach of promoting community-led seed security; this was first done in Gulu district, northern Uganda and is now being up-scaled in other regions. Through this model, small-scale farmers are taken through the eight modules of the model where they gain knowledge on seed rights. The major objective of the Community Managed Seed Security model is to improve agricultural productivity and seed sovereignty of small-scale farmers through increased access to affordable good quality seeds of their choice from a trusted source and within a timely manner. Small-scale farmers are also exposed to some of the techniques used by other communities in preserving their own seed through learning visit. Small-scale farmers use the knowledge they acquire to set up their own community seed banks where they preserve different varieties of seed as well as sharing the seed amongst group members and the community at large. In the process small-scale farmers have initiated engagements with their local and national leaders where they propose strategies and policies through which government can promote seed rights among communities as well as supporting women to secure their interests and assert their views in relation to seed rights.
Farmer Field Schools (FFS)
ESAFF Uganda established farmer field schools to improve access to Plant Genetic resources (PRG). ESAFF Uganda has so far established two farmer field school schools in Amuria district and further establishing more in Apac, Gulu and Adjumani district. The FFS empowers small-scale farmers through field based experiential learning, it enables small-scale farmers to make their own observations and analyse these observations then use the results as a basis for conclusions and decision making. Small-scale farmers are involved in deciding the days of the meeting, identifying land for the school, formulated their leadership, set the bye-laws and breaches, set breeding objectives among others. Each school consists of 30 members and 6 subgroups. Through FFS, small-scale farmers have engaged in breeding their own seeds hence improving the local varieties through Participatory Variety Selection focusing on selection of best traits. Small-scale farmers will soon start Participatory Variety Enhancement and later Participatory Variety Development. Small-scale farmers carry out agro-ecosystems analysis of the field where they observed and record.
Community Seed Banks
Community seed banks are essential in protecting and promoting seed security and sovereignty of small-scale farmers especially women. Currently, ESAFF Uganda has supported the establishment and strengthening of 2 community seed banks with structures and other 8 community seed banks without structures. These community seed banks have over 60 indigenous seed varieties. Some farmers groups have also turned their homes into community seed banks, ESAFF Uganda is supporting such farmer groups as well. The seed banks have become a safe place to access quality seeds hence reducing the financial burden that comes with buying seed from the market and sometimes with uncertainty.
ESAFF Uganda is working with the government through the National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO) to develop practical technical procedures for the registration of farmers’ varieties. ESAFF Uganda has been part of many policy processes and campaigned for the promotion and protection of farmer managed seed system.
Conserving Neglected and Underutilized Species (NUS) for food security
ESAFF Uganda acknowledges the overwhelming impact of NUS on food security, fighting poverty and malnutrition in communities. To ensure that NUS are no longer ignored by researchers and in the market, ESAFF Uganda focuses on mobilizing small-scale farmers to conserve the NUS. The focus is also on changing the perceptions on NUS as unimportant ‘poor man’s food’. In the year 2019, ESAFF Uganda organized NUS cookery demonstrations on World Food Day in Omoro districts where small-scale farmers cooked and showcased different varieties of NUS. ESAFF Uganda also uses to bring to the attention of policy makers the importance of conserving NUS. ESAFF Uganda will this year start farmer field schools for NUS in 4 districts with a drive to conserve and promote NUS in the country.