MELCA-Ethiopia has built its first Community Seed Bank (CSB) in Telecho Kebele of Welmera woreda in Finfinne Area Special Zone of Oromia National Regional State. A spectacular inauguration ceremony of the CSB has been held on the 30th of November 2013.
Inauguration of the CSB was held in the presence of Finfinne Area Special Zone and Welmera woreda government officials, invited guests including ambassadors, representatives of partner and donor organizations, the media and farmer communities in Telecho area.
The SCB is built with the aim of supporting the farmer communities in Telecho area preserve their local seed varieties (farmers’ varieties). The local seed varieties are considered vital for adaptation to climate change, maintenance of the ecosystem balance and traditional knowledge connected to these varieties and should be transferred to the young generation.
Speaking about the intended purpose of the CSB at the inaugural ceremony, Dr. Million Belay, Director of MELCA-Ethiopia said MELCA’s main disposition is conservation of the culture and biodiversity of local communities. And agricultural biodiversity is the biggest area that signifies the culture and lifestyle of a community. It is also the pillar that supports sustainable life in local communities. So conserving farmers’ seed varieties is a prerequisite for maintenance of agricultural biodiversity and sustainable life of the community. As such, construction of the seed bank is part of MELCA’s set objectives to conserve culture and biodiversity.
Million also noted that MELCA’s work with the farmers since its establishment has enabled to appreciate farmers’ choices of different varieties of crops based not only on productivity, but also a number of other criteria like taste, aroma, nutritious value, market value, health, use of byproducts, cultural value and impacts on the environment. So mono cropping is not an approach that is of interest to and recommendable for most of the farmer communities in Ethiopia. He further mentioned that preserving the various farmers’ seed varieties, instead of focusing only on modern improved seeds, will help the farmers and country to withstand shocks related to climate change and other undesirable occurrences in farming like pests and crop diseases.
Deputy administrator and Head of agricultural office of Finfinne Area Special Zone, Mr. Admasu Teshome, who spoke on the occasion, on his part stated that, the agricultural sector and the government administration as a whole appreciates MELCA-Ethiopia for the support it is rendering to farmers to conserve their local varieties along with using the improved varieties. He said preservation of the local seed varieties is very important, as they are the basis for research to enhance crop productivity and get more improved seeds in the future. He also noted that the Agriculture Office of the zone he is heading is working in close collaboration with MELCA to use some of the enhanced local varieties on farmers’ plots and expand the use of natural/organic fertilizers, like compost for a better soil management and to increase productivity.
Inauguration of the CSB has also been accompanied by an exhibition of local seed varieties and root crops staged by farmer groups and students. The farmer groups and students have shown, to the attendants of the ceremony, the various local varieties of crops like wheat, barley, tef, beans, peas as well as vegetables and root crops.
Women farmer groups have also brought various food made of local crop varieties to the event and guests were invited to taste them.
A member of the farmer groups who exhibited the local seed varieties, Mr. Chala commended that the occasion has been an opportunity for them to collect the various rare varieties and realize that these are much connected to their culture and knowledge and they have to work hard to preserve them.
The seed bank, which will be owned and managed by farmers themselves, is expected to start to serve its intended purpose by storing 300-400 quintals of different local seed varieties as of this harvest season. The storage will be distributed to farmers during the next sowing season in the form of loan.