Farmer seed houses in West Africa, an idea once planted may grow on you
Photo-case-semences-Djimini-P1040823The seed granary of the farmer seed house in Djimini(Sénégal)

In West Africa, in response to the introduction of ameliorated seeds, hybrids, or genetically modified varieties, more and more farmers are becoming aware of the benefits of saving, multiplying, and selecting their traditional local and farmer varieties. With them, BEDE ‘sows and cultivates’ the concept of Seed houses, from Brazil. Each house is different, in its beginnings, its history and how it is organized.

► In Togo : In 2009 BEDE facilitated the participation of farmers from the sub-region at the farmer seed fair. For Jacques Nametougli, who sells seeds and fertilizer at his center for agricultural training (CD2A: Center for Agricultural and Artisanal Development), it was an epiphany.  He committed to return his fields and farming techniques to peasant agroecology.  Starting in 2010 he has gone from village to village searching for knowledge on local varieties from community elders.  An informal network has been created, with the assistance of BEDE, and at the end of 2011, the cooperative Agrobio-Savanes was created, the first Seed house in Togo.There is no physical centralized building. The seeds are most often stored at the homes of the member and/or at CD2A, from where they are handed out, often sold, sometimes given, lent or exchanged. This great work of Agrobio-Savanes will soon publish descriptive sheets of the principal cereal varieties and of traditional and local vegetables cultivated in northern Togo. This kind of action can help protect them from the risks of bio-pirating.

► In Benin: The context is different, but the birth of the Barienou seed house also started after the 2009 exchanges in Senegal and then in Mali. Omer Agoligan, at the time a producer of seed maize using chemical agricultural practices, discovered that, like many farmers, he is victim of the multinationals that work with the government. He threw himself into the fight for agroecology and farmer seeds. With the peasant farmers of Barienou, he created ORAD (Organization of Rural people for Sustainable Agriculture). Their first activities were training about composting, but the villages also had the idea to organize themselves around biodiversity. A traditional collective seed house was created. Here samples are kept of the seeds cultivated in the village. A follow-up committee, of which the imam is in charge, oversees what comes in and goes out, and the conservation of seeds. Each farmer is in charge of the cultivation and conservation of at least one traditional variety.

► In Senegal: Created in 2003, the ASPSP (Association Sénégalaise des Producteurs de Semences Paysannes / Senegalese association of farmer seed producers) is truly a national seed house, referencing the species and varieties of its members, offering training on farmer seed production, organizing seed exchanges, and more. …
At a local level, at the Biolopin farm in Djimini, a traditional seed house was constructed in 2013 in collaboration with BEDE (see photo above). Lamine Biaye is the principal initiator and is in charge of this seed house. Here you can find the seeds of Biolopin and an ever-growing part of the seeds of the women’s group of Tessito. This tool should allow for a better organization of the conservation and diffusion within the surrounding area, and perhaps even nationally.
The second Farmer Seed House is in Medina Wandifa, started by the Baragnigni association, essentially made up of women. Their determination enabled construction of a traditional seed house for cereals, and to find a space for vegetable seeds. It was not specifically designed for seed preservation, initially, but it is used while waiting to be able to build one specially dedidated. One of the members is in charge of the storage and distribution of seeds.

Each farmer seed house has its originality and has followed an individual path. There is still much to be refined: organizing varietal selection, good practices for preservation, storing/labeling, adding value, promoting, etc. However, it has been put in motion and now, the diversity of farmer seed houses must evolve, while adapting locally.

› Diversity of seed granaries

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