Lobby group calls for preservation of endangered native seeds to improve food security

by MMC
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By Lénah Bosibori

A lobby group has called for the preservation of endangered indigenous seeds, saying the move would improve food security in Africa, adding that some companies producing seeds are on a mission to make money.

Speaking in Nairobi at the 20th anniversary celebrations of the African Biodiversity Network (ABN), which demonstrate its commitment to protecting African biodiversity and building community resilience, Dr Fassil Gebeyehu, Coordinator General of the NBA, said indigenous seeds are free of pests and diseases and can grow under extremely harsh conditions.

“Promoting indigenous seed breeding and reviving lost seeds not only protects communities’ local ecosystems, but also builds their resilience in the face of corporate interests and environmental challenges,” Gabeyehu said.

The commemoration was marked under the theme “Celebrating 20 years of the African Biodiversity Network: nourishing community livelihoods through reconnection with nature and culture”.

ABN focuses on indigenous knowledge, ecological agriculture and biodiversity rights, influencing policy and legislation. It builds the capacity of communities on how to preserve their indigenous seeds and teaches them agro-ecological practices.

ABN also works closely with community elders so that they can pass on ecological knowledge and customs practiced across generations.

The idea of ​​establishing the NBA was envisaged in 1996 in response to growing concerns on the continent about threats to biodiversity and the need to develop strong African positions and legal instruments at the national, regional and international levels.

Currently, ABN has 41 partners from 19 African countries. These are Benin, Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, from Burkina Faso, Rwanda, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Gabon, Morocco and Egypt.

“In order to make money sustainably, they need to create mechanisms to keep farmers dependent on their supplies,” he said, adding that these companies control plants and therefore life.

Gebeyehu said these companies know the ongoing challenge is food insecurity and they continue to claim they must feed the growing population with their seeds.

“Powerful external forces continue to distract the region from solutions as they push for the privatization and industrialization of land, knowledge and biodiversity in the name of poverty reduction.

He explained that these seeds are often subject to certain conditions such as the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Gebeyehu said farmers are becoming increasingly dependent on these seeds, leading to the disappearance of some native seeds.

He said farmers will become increasingly dependent on these seeds, leading to the disappearance of some indigenous seeds, adding that indigenous seeds face an existential threat due to corporate greed, climate change and poverty widespread.

The debate over native seeds comes even as some food companies, government entities and some non-governmental organizations promote genetically modified organism (GMO) seeds and chemical agricultural practices.

The debate over indigenous seeds comes even as some food companies, government entities and some non-governmental organizations promote GMO seeds and chemical agricultural practices.

A ban on GMO foods in Kenya, imposed in 2012 following a Cabinet and Presidential decree. was lifted by Cabinet in October 2022.

The ban was imposed in November 2012 following a decree from the Cabinet and the President.

Beth Mugo, then Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), ordered public health officials to remove all genetically modified (GMO) foods from the market and impose a ban on GMO imports.

She noted that the ban undermined Kenya’s legal and regulatory system for agricultural biotechnology, codified in the National Biosafety Act of 2009.

Opponents of these new technologies say they harm the soil, the environment, humans and plants. Some experts said such practices ignore the crucial role played by native species and important microorganisms in preserving soil fertility and biodiversity.

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