Unable to supply much-needed drought-tolerant food crop seeds to farmers (IRIN News)

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No seeds to weather climate change

Thembikosi Gumedze, the curator of the national seed bank in cash-strapped Swaziland, has been unable to supply much-needed drought-tolerant food crop seeds to farmers for more than two years.

He has not been able to source the US$7,000 to $10,000 a year needed to produce enough seeds to distribute to the country’s smallholder population.

For almost a year, the bank did not have money to repair its defunct vehicle. Once the vehicle was repaired, the bank was unable to afford the petrol needed to get it on the road. “We have been grounded essentially,” Gumedze said over the phone.

As farmers in Swaziland grapple with an increasingly erratic climate, the shortage of funds has affected the bank’s production of climate-resilient maize seeds and hardier legumes, like pigeon peas, that can thrive in drought-like conditions.

Two years ago, the bank could supply maize seeds to at least 40 percent of the country’s farmers – the number dropped to 10 percent in 2012. “And these are farmers who are able to come to us,” said Gumedze.

The seed bank only managed to produce 10kg of pigeon peas last year, he said, sounding both apologetic and embarrassed.

Seed banks suffer region-wide



Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.