by Precious Naturinda
The introduction of high yielding seed varieties and use of chemical fertilizers in the Bunyoro sub-region has eroded the diversity of indigenous seeds threatening local culture and food security.
Indigenous seeds have long been part of Bunyoro’s cultural heritage. They are integral part of many rituals, traditionally ceremonies and festivals that celebrate the cycle of birth, life and death. For example, seeds of millet, peas and others were used for ritual performances and offertories and this compelled people to save the seeds. The practice of seed saving has also been a cornerstone of farming that made agriculture a way of life.
As farmers moved away from the practice of saving and exchanging seeds with their neighbors and families to buying seeds from the market, their own indigenous knowledge systems related to farming and seed saving slowly became irrelevant. As a result, crop diversity has suffered. Alice Kazimula, a farmer from Bulisa, says the indigenous seeds were pest resistant and would be saved for long compared to high-yielding varieties that depend on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. She says this is threatening food sovereignty and security.
Asuman Irumba, the chairperson of the Coalition of Custodians of Sacred natural sites in Bunyoro sub-region, says it should be the responsibility of every individual to go back to the traditional knowledge of saving seeds before they get extinct so as to conserve the cultural heritage.
Especially the role of women has been crucial to seed conservation efforts to keep their families endowed with food,says Sheila Kyomugisha, the NAPE Gender and food security Officer: “They should go back to the culture of exchanging the available indigenous seed varieties so that they can be regenerated.”
NAPE is working with communities in Bunyoro Region to ensure that the indigenous seeds are restored.