2. Burundi: Seed banks are the answer to chronic seed shortages (Syfia Grands Lacs)

| September 7, 2009

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In her 60 years, Tabitha Mukamusoni has learned to be cautious. She was skeptical when she heard about a new community seed bank. Farmers began handing over portions of their beans and sorghum to the bank. At first, she was unsure that she wanted to do the same.

Today, she does not regret placing half her beans in the seed bank. It provided something she could not – a place where her beans would not rot or be eaten by bugs. After three months in storage, her beans remained in good condition. And she had seeds to sow for the next growing season.

The local seed bank is made of aluminum, a metal that does not rust. Able-bodied farmers who wanted to use the bank helped in its construction. Those who did not help build the seed bank pay 20 Burundian francs (about two American cents or 0.01 Euros) for each kilo of seeds they store. This money pays for maintenance, cleaning, and pesticides, to keep the seeds safe.

Mr. Juvenal Muvunyi is the governor of Kirundo province in northern Burundi. He explains how the seed banks started. Community leaders and administrative authorities were concerned that there was never enough seed for planting – even if the last harvest had been good. They held meetings with communities to discover the reason for the seed shortages. The need for protected storage facilities was realized. NGOS and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations pledged to support the construction of community seed banks.

Now, an estimated 175,000 families in Kirundo province are using seed banks. The banks have proven to be an effective solution to chronic seed shortages. Most farming families in Ms. Mukamusoni’s community use the seed bank. They trust that by storing their beans and sorghum, they will get a good start on the next growing season.