Reviving indigenous seed breeding: Empowering communities for food sovereignty
In Uganda, amidst the threat of genetically modified organisms, communities are reclaiming their food sovereignty. NAPE, with assistance from the ABN, organized meetings in Hoima, attended by women, youth, men, and people with disabilities to learn, promote indigenous seed breeding and other sustainable practices. David Kureeba, Forests and Biodiversity CEG Programs officer at NAPE, shares the community’s inspiring story.
“Seeds are a source of life for our communities,” affirms Dorcus Drijaru, News Editor of Community Green Radio and member of NAPE, emphasizing the vital role of seeds in sustaining communities. In the face of corporate greed, changing climates, and pervasive poverty, indigenous seeds have faced an existential threat. Agribusiness companies, governmental entities, and some non-governmental organizations have promoted GMO seeds and chemical farming practices that are harmful to the soil, environment, humans and plants. Such practices disregard the crucial role played by indigenous species and micro-organisms important in preserving soil fertility and biodiversity.
NAPE, a partner of ABN in Uganda accompanies communities in Kihagya, Butimba and Kigaaga in Hoima, northwest of Kampala in Uganda. Through this journey, the NAPE team learns and encourages these communities on seed selection, and storage methods of the indigenous seeds. Communities are encouraged to revive lost seeds and protect their local agricultural heritage. Such practices aim to strengthen communities’ ability to grow, store, and experience food sovereignty to address the challenge of relying on external food sources. “Without indigenous seeds, we will forever remain slaves to food aid,” declares Basiima Joram from Kigaaga, a community working with NAPE. He emphasizes the need for communities’ local seed varieties for food security.
The encroachment of oil infrastructure is further preventing the communities from growing indigenous seeds, laments Tugume Recheal from Kigaaga.”Oil infrastructure has affected our power to grow indigenous seeds because the soil is infertile due to years of using chemical fertilizer and the chemicals in the soil from the oil extracts also add infertility to the soil,” he explains. Indigenous communities recognize the intrinsic value of indigenous seeds. “He who owns seeds indirectly owns proceeds and owns the life of nature,” asserts Musinguzi Isaac from Kakindo, underscoring the importance of indigenous seed ownership.
Impacts of agrochemicals on seed and food sovereignty
The detrimental impact of agrochemicals on soil health and indigenous seeds cannot be overlooked. “Agrochemicals have killed our soils, and our indigenous seeds can’t grow well,” warns Birungi Goret from Kakindo. Basemera Moreen from Kakindo, also in Hoima, agrees, pointing out the negative consequences of the GMO seeds and chemicals from the National Agriculture Advisory Services (NAADS). He says that “our seeds have lost nutrients because of NAADS provision of GMO seeds and chemicals to us. We continue to lose our seeds and kill healthy soils when we use chemical fertilizers on the farms.”
Expressing faith in the mission to revive indigenous seeds, Perez Nyangabyaki from Kakindo, states, “I believe in this initiative that aims at reviving indigenous seeds. We shall win the war against the use of GMOs if we remain persistent in growing more indigenous seeds. We need to believe in our indigenous seeds and resist GMOs.”
Karungi Justine from Kigaaga, proudly shares her sustainable seed-saving practices: “I keep my own indigenous seeds in the traditional granary after they have dried properly. I use these seeds to plant in subsequent seasons. I don’t buy seeds for planting. I grow and eat nutritious food grown from my indigenous seeds.”
In the face of adversity, community members like Bahigana Suleman from Kakindo, are committed to preserving threatened indigenous seeds. “I will do whatever it takes to multiply indigenous seeds that are threatened by corporations, to continue to enjoy nutritious food and have food throughout the year,” declares Suleman.
Food sovereignty lies at the heart of thriving communities. Promoting indigenous seed breeding and revival of lost seeds not only safeguards communities’ local ecosystems but also strengthens their resilience against corporate interests and environmental challenges.