Strengthening Farmers Rights to Seed Diversity through Community Seed Fairs.
The Regional Advisory Information and Network Systems (RAINS) in partnership with the African Biodiversity Network, and with funding from Brot für die welt, is implementing a project to address the contemporary challenges brought about by the breakdown of traditional practices and cultural norms of sharing and exchanging seeds as well as the breakdown of seed networks. The aim is to revive and sustain traditional seed varieties.
In Ghana and across the African Sub region generally, traditional knowledge and seed storage systems are eroding. This has been occasioned mainly by the introduction and promotion of hybrid and genetically modified seeds. As a result, traditional seeds are under threat and increasingly seed is being commodified. The rapid commercialization of seed in local markets is stripping communities of their rights to their own seed – the very essence of their life. Embracing hybrid or genetically modified seeds often puts poor farmers and vulnerable communities at the losing end. Most hybrid or genetically modified seeds cannot be replanted after the first cultivation because they lose their viability and predictability. An act which burdens the farmer and continues to make them poor.
It has become imperative for civil society organizations to mobilize community support to lead and advocate for the desired changes in seed policies across Africa that promote indigenous seeds.
As part of the implementation of the SEWOH project, RAINS has been mobilizing communities and facilitating participatory processes for the strengthening of community seed systems and management in Tindang, Yizhegu, Yilkpani, Langa, and other communities in the northern region of Ghana. In line with this commitment, RAINS organized a community seed fair in early December in the Tindang community. The event provided a platform for farmers and community people to showcase revived indigenous seeds, meet and discuss traditional practices connected to indigenous seeds. Several varieties of local seeds were on display, including millet, sorghum, Bambara beans, guinea corn, groundnuts, yam, sanzi, local cowpea, maize.
The community seed fair increased awareness amongst farmers as well as highlighting their rights to crop genetic resources. Farmers underscored the relevance of traditional seeds within the context of ecological, sociocultural and spiritual values. Farmers and community people acknowledge the fact that the continuous disappearance or loss of crop genetic resources, especially the local crop varieties, can disadvantage indigenous communities and people. In consequence the Chief of Tindang did not mince words when he said, “I will be watching closely how many other farmers will take up this project idea and work towards reviving traditional seed for household food security.”
Mohammed Kamel, the RAINS’ Project Officer also reiterated that communities are the drivers of social change and that RAINS was only facilitating the process for the desired change. To achieve this, communities will have to lead the process, taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the project.
To this end, communities recognized the importance of the seed fair and how the successful implementation of the SEWOH project could strengthen their capacity to understand, and participate in decisions that affect local knowledge, traditional seed and storage systems. Seed exchanges were a very valuable element of the Seed Fair, promoting access to local varieties of seed.
There is a renewed sense of effort by farmers and community people including chiefs and elders of communities to work together towards reviving traditional knowledge and practices associated with seed storage systems and food production.