International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

BSF Project - Third Cycle

Promoting Open Source Seed Systems for beans, forage legumes, millet and sorghum for climate change adaptation in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda
Where are we working?
Resource-poor farmers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania face a number of challenges including loss of agro-biodiversity due to climate change. Limited access to information on seeds, and low diversity of available germplasm make it difficult to diversify production and mitigate the effects of unpredictable weather, and hence to ensure food security.
This Benefit-sharing Fund project improves farmers’ adaptation to climate change by increasing the availability and diversity of climate-smart varieties of beans, finger millet and sorghum through the development of open source seed systems (OSSS) which provide access to germplasm unencumbered by intellectual property rights.

What are we doing?
  • Exchange of crop varieties among the three national gene banks in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda using Standard Material Transfer Agreements (SMTAs);;
  • Multiplication and characterization of crop varieties on station in the three different countries;
  • Participatory Varietal Evaluation and Selection through crowdsourcing – where farmers evaluate varieties against a set of traits such as drought tolerance, time to maturity, yield, resistance to pests and diseases and cooking and other functional traits;
  • Collaboration with breeding programs to isolate elite lines to be used for further breeding;
  • Establishment of community seed banks to improve access to diverse seeds;;
  • Development of a policy framework for the adoption of open source seed systems in East Africa.;

What has been achieved to date?
A total of 400 accessions of beans, finger millet and sorghum have been exchanged between the participating countries and are being evaluated in the fields, thereby diversifying crop production in the communities.
80 varieties of millet have been screened, of which 23 have been selected for further screening and use and have been stored at the new community seed banks. Likewise, of the 65 varieties of beans screened, 21 have been selected for further breeding or use in farmers’ seed systems. Of the 56 varieties of sorghum screened by farmers, 26 have been selected for further development.
Two seed banks have been established in Hoima (Uganda) and Nyando (Kenya). The seed banks are already being used to conserve local communities’ genetic resources and stock other varieties received through exchange. They have also served as venues for capacity building, farmer-to-farmer exchange and a seed fair.
Agronomic training programs have built capacity in planting, seed selection, identification of pests and diseases, crop varieties diversification and post-harvest practices. In order to promote awareness at national, regional and international level, several workshops have been organised to raise awareness of open source seed systems. A policy writeshop was held in Kenya, at which current legislation and policy frameworks were analysed and policy recommendations for implementation of open source seed systems were developed.
A policy brief has been published and shared with relevant legislative government bodies in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Moreover, Bioversity International and its partners have created both local and international media platforms to document and spread the OSSS ideas globally.

Who has benefited?
An estimated 4000 farmers (more than half of whom are women) have directly benefited from the project, through participatory varietal testing and crowd sourcing, the establishment of seed banks, capacity development initiatives and exchange visits. Scientists and technical staff have been trained on various aspects of data collection and crowd sourcing. Three students have pursued internships in the project.

Best practices and success stories
The innovative ideas which this project has promoted have engaged social seed entrepreneurs and enabled the identification of seed companies interested in linking with participating farmers to multiply seed and provide them with a market for their produce and guarantee their participation in value chains.
As a result of the project’s organization of policy platforms, all three participating countries have initiated policy review and revision processes to allow for the registration of farmers’ varieties and the recognition of open source seed systems.
Beans, Finger Millet, Sorghum
Window 2 - Immediate action projects
Region: Africa
Target Countries: Kenya, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania
Implementing institution: Bioversity International

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