On 8th September 2023, farmers and officials in a festive mood gathered at the local school compound of Nyatonzi to inaugurate Uganda’s newest community seed bank, named Nyatonzi Community Seed Bank.
By: Joyce Adokorach, Gloria Otieno, and Ronnie Vernooy
Smallholder farmers here are largely immigrants from the West Nile region of Uganda who came to the area to provide labour in the immense sugarcane plantations of the Kinyara Sugar Factory. The factory occupies vast land with the monocropping of sugar cane; with the result that there is limited land for other, diverse crops, which has led to inadequate and poor nutrition in the community.
Nourishing crop diversity and the community
Local farmers, already organized as a group, petitioned the establishment of the seed bank to safeguard and access good quality diverse seed; improve on-farm diversity; support the local seed system; empower women and youth in community leadership; improve social cohesion (peacebuilding in families and communities), nutrition, and income generation; and become more knowledgeable about seed management. As was evident during the inaugural event, the community applauds the new facility. The new community seed bank occupies a small storage facility which was offered by the school administration and renovated with the financial support of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the government of the Netherlands and technical support of the Plant Genetic Resources Centre of the National Agricultural Research Organisation of Uganda and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.
Restoring the fame of finger millet
The day’s ceremony saw the presence of 150 excited locals, including members of the Local Council of the four villages that will manage the community seed bank, the Local Council 3 of Nyatonzi sub-county, church leaders, and staff from the NARO-Bulindi Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute, led by the director, Dr. Sylvester Dickson Baguma, as Chief guest. The various speakers appreciated the new development in the area. The community was urged to embrace this new opportunity to conserve crop diversity in the region and improve accessibility to seed, with particular mention of finger millet, a nutritious and resilient crop of significant value for food security. The community was once renowned for the production of finger millet, which is not the case anymore.
The Local Council 3 directed his councilor to shift a similar activity of seed production from the sub-county to the new community seed bank to strengthen the new facility. The Alliance Bioversity international representative, Dr. Gloria Otieno, noted that the second phase of the project will focus on expanding the seed bank as needed. She mentioned that the intention is to install a milling machine for farmers who prove themselves capable to manage it, in order to add value to their products, particularly finger millet and sorghum. Dr. Baguma advised the community to also embrace government policies, such as the parish development model, which aims to improve the economic status of everyone within the parish.
The community expressed its gratitude and asked the community seed bank management committee to deliver on the objectives and work towards the expansion of the facility to standard-level and improve community livelihoods.
Header Image: Farmers present and evaluate the diversity at a seed fair during the inauguration of the community seed bank. Credit: NARO-BuZARDI/Abor Bob