“I come from a farming family in Uganda and I remember very well how my mother used to put a palm full of dried seeds in her mouth and spat them out as she sow into the ground. These were seeds she had harvested in the previous years and stored in gourds. My family always had gourds full of different types of seeds.
The sad thing is that this idea of saving seeds has become an old and under-valued tradition. There now shops selling packaged seeds. Most of the time, these seeds are hybrids or genetically modified usually coated with pesticide. I have seen maize seeds covered up in green pesticide.
Yes it is important to protect seeds from pests and insects, but one factor we have not looked at is the indigenous people who still use the above mentioned techniques of sowing seeds. They cannot read instructions and they are not informed about the effects of putting these protected seeds in their mouth before sowing. Many people in Africa are dying of unidentified diseases and these are some of the causes.
Many food organisations donate hybrid/exotic seeds to deprived Africans with the idea of improving food production instead of supporting them in what they know better and providing them with incentives to increase the production of indigenous crops. These crops are suitable to the climate and more resistant to tropical diseases and insects.
A big population of Africa is faced with malnutrition and under consumption causing many diseases and immune deficiency. People are increasingly becoming more dependants on fertilisers, weed killers, imported hybrid seeds and
pesticides none of which is sustainable and good for the environment.
These are all controlled by big companies and government organisations whose major intention is commercial gains rather than human survival. When this fails, they die of starvation if not given processed, tinned and packaged Food Aid full of preservatives.
This is all short term.
It does not answer the causes of our poverty and starvation problem.
The idea of intercropping, which diversify the diet and helps to enrich the vegetation cover and allows us to live with pests ecologically, is now substituted with modern, commercial and extensive mono-cropping which aims at ensuring high yields of cash crops and gradually lowers the natural fertility of the soil.
Creating an African seed bank involves researching, collecting seeds, and recording and practically cultivating African indigenous food crops mainly from the equatorial region. After each harvest we create a reservoir where other
people can collect and exchange seeds for different purposes. With this idea, the degree of famine and dependency on food aid will be reduced. People will start to appreciate and care for these neglected crops.
I am aware that since the 1850s many exotic food crops were introduced into the continent from other parts of the world. These included cassava, potatoes, bananas plantains most of which are adopted and fitted to the tropical environment easily and added variety to our food culture.
What we should not ignore is that there were indigenous crops such as yam, sorghum, millet, maize etc which we need to pay attention to otherwise they will go into extinction the way working the land is done in this modern age. There still traditional stories and songs talking about these
plants. With determination and taking responsibility of our environment we can start to nurture these plants.
Historically Uganda is well known for its agriculture all of which happens in villages. Every family/community used to have granaries. These are now looked at as historical monuments. Recently a good number of people mostly the youth are deserting the villages moving to towns and Kampala city looking for jobs and ways to survive.
Unfortunately there are not enough jobs to support all these people and the crime rate is increasing. In Karamoja which is in the Northern part of Uganda, People are kidnapping children as young as four years old, put them on a bus to Kampala and place them on street to beg. These Children spend their day sitting in one place w ith their hands rose constantly begging. They are highly humiliated and exploited, their childhood stolen from them. Even when you give them food they cannot look at you in the face. This is really and it is happening as I write this article. Some parents are also happy to send their children off because they do not have the possibilities of looking after them. People can live without education, but they cannot live without food. The situation is depressing. There is a great need to recognise and support the indigenous way of living.”
– Sam Mukumba