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Implementation of the seed fairs

At the village level, songs and dances are a means of calling people to participate in community functions, and they proved very useful in publicizing the seed fairs across the communities. The organizing committees identified the performing groups, gave them the themes of the seed fair and requested them to formulate songs and dances related to the event. The day before each seed fair, enough display tables were set up to accommodate all the potential exhibitors. Products were displayed in small temporary huts and on small tables made from local materials or on fabric sheets spread on the ground.

Farmers share their knowledge about seeds and crops with songs and dances (R.Laub)

Each fair was opened with a speech from the guest of honour, who in most cases was the local District Commissioner. The two seed diversity fairs in the central zone started before their opening ceremonies and continued after the invited officials had left. This was because their main purpose was to serve the needs of participating farmers rather than to act as official occasions.

During the diversity fairs, village leaders took part in welcoming invited guests and ensuring that food was offered to them. Among the guests invited were people from radio, the press and television. People from district headquarters and other villages bought seed and fruits from the farmers' displays. Researchers and farmers were also able to discuss issues of common interest, and farmers exchanged crops and varieties among themselves. Farmers found out more about improved varieties from researchers, while researchers were able to obtain local materials and varieties from the farmers.

Participation and attendance

Annex 1 gives a breakdown of who participated in the fairs and what they displayed. In each village, everybody involved in farming was invited to participate in the seed fair. This meant that anybody could display her/his crop diversity, and there were no selection criteria for identifying potential exhibitors. Special knowledgeable farmers in seed management were encouraged to participate, and many of them did so, especially elderly farmers. These farmers are particularly rich in local knowledge of seed management and usually keep a number of varieties that other farmers do not have. These farmers are part of the local system of the village; other farmers recognize them as sources of knowledge, supplies of local landraces/varieties, advice on seeds and seed management, and other agricultural information. Unlike contact farmers, these knowledgeable farmers are not supervised by agricultural officers. Contact farmers are identified by the national system in the village - the extension service. They produce seeds of improved varieties by following guidelines for production packages, under the supervision of agricultural extension officers.

In two villages, most participating farmers formed groups, with each member contributing several products in order to have a wider range of crops and diversity to display. In one case, the local primary school participated as a group, its students acting as contact farmers and producing seeds of improved varieties to sell to interested farmers in the village. It was important for the school students to display their improved varieties along with the other participants, and they explained their products under the supervision of their agricultural teacher. Schoolchildren also attended the seed fairs as spectators, and showed a great deal of interest, asking questions on different aspects of crop diversity.

In the southern highlands, stakeholders from the district level, research stations and NGOs were invited to display their technologies together with those of the farmers. Farmers at one of the villages in this area (Malinzanga) were slow to volunteer as seed fair participants. To encourage more of them to do so, the research team and organizing committee decided to publicize the prizes that would be awarded to the best individual and group displays.

In the central zone, the two seed fairs were attended by about 2 000 and 3 500 farmers, respectively. Most of these people came from the host villages, but several hundred travelled from neighbouring villages. Although more women than men farmers from the host villages attended, there were more men than women farmers from the surrounding areas. This was mainly because women tend to have less access to transport facilities such as bicycles.

In the southern highlands, the two fairs were attended by about 1 000 and 3 000 people, respectively. Again, most of these people were from the host village, although a sizeable minority came from neighbouring communities. Numbers of attendees were not broken down according to gender in this zone.

In addition, the fairs were attended by high-ranking officials from the district council and the ward, the Zonal Director for Research and Development, the Zonal Research Extension Liaison Officer, chairpersons from nearby villages, and officers and researchers from crop research centres in the zone. There were also representatives from FAO headquarters, the Commission of Science and Technology, local knowledge systems and FAO's Dar Es Salaam office.

At the two central zone seed fairs, 26 and 32 farmers, respectively, displayed their products - crop biodiversity, ethnobotanicals, small storage facilities, etc. Again there were more women than men exhibitors (14:12 in one case, and 17:15 in the other), and women farmers displayed more diversity than men.

In one southern highlands village (Shinji), 21 groups and four individual farmers displayed seed from different crop varieties, ethnobotanicals and storage structures used for seeds. Other participants were researchers from Uyole research institute and representatives from the Ileje Rural Trust Development Fund (an NGO based near the village). Participation at Malinzanga was lower.

Certificates and awards

All the farmers who displayed biodiversity at the seed fairs were given participation certificates, and awards were presented to the best three displays at each fair. Farmers were awarded from one to five points for each of the following criteria:

Four people carried out the evaluations: two women (a knowledgeable farmer and a school teacher) and two men (a crop researcher and an extensionist). The seed fair organizing committees opted for cash prizes, so that winners could buy what they wanted. The prizes awarded were US$15, $10 and $5 for first, second and third, respectively.

Crop diversity displayed

In the central zone, all sorts of material was displayed: local landraces, improved varieties and a few hybrids, especially of maize, which is a staple crop. The research team had identified six study crops for the years 2003 to 2005: sorghum, pearl millet, cowpeas, pumpkins, sponge gourds and mlenda. Farmers at both seed fairs displayed all of these. Other crops on show included maize, finger millet, tomatoes, castor, green gram, sunflower, beans, Bambara nuts, water melon, sesame, okra, Amaranthus, pigeon peas and wild fruits such as cactus.

In the southern highlands, farmers displayed maize, sorghum, finger millet, rice, cassava, sweet potatoes, green gram, cowpeas, pawpaw, beans, banana, pigeon peas, Bambara nuts, coco yams, groundnuts, simsim, pumpkins, sunflower, castor oil and different types of vegetables. Some of the varieties displayed at the seed fairs had not been listed in the study, implying that there is more crop diversity in the southern highlands than previously thought. For example, at Shinji, there were three new varieties of maize, all of which are early-maturing and resistant to drought. There were also six local bean varieties, which are characterized as high-yielding, small-seeded and disease-resistant. However, these bean varieties are unmarketable, so they are used for home consumption only. Drought at Malinzanga meant that several of the crops and varieties expected were not displayed at the seed fair there.

Castor bean seeds (R.Laub)


As well as seeds, farmers displayed different ethnobotanicals used to treat human diseases or to protect seed against storage pests. Ethnobotanicals for treating pests included Tagetes minuta, tobacco and local herbs such as lidudwe, lisakasaka and lidupala in the southern highlands, and mgonasimba, neem, mtumba, saka, nhunungu, mavu, lumbasi, mtungulu and Mutangang'unyi in the central zone.

Some farmers brought the ashes of goat and cattle dung, which is commonly used to control storage pests. At one southern highlands village (Shinji), farmers demonstrated the use of finger millet (iyelelo) husks, red soils and sunflower ashes as pesticides for stored crops. At this same village, researchers from ARI-Uyole exhibited pyrethrum dust and a local herb known as Ikowo. Various types of storage structure were also displayed.

Seeds mixed with ashes to protect them against storage pests (R.Laub)


The farmers and the crop diversity they displayed were registered for follow-up after each seed fair. Throughout the seed fairs, the research team members recorded all the types of crop diversity on show, and this information has been stored in electronic format for future use by researchers, farmers and other stakeholders.

The day after each seed fair, a feedback meeting was held and attended by all the committee members who had participated in the preparatory meetings. The main objective of these feedbacks was to review the whole seed fair to identify what factors had led to achievements and what had led to problems in order to use the experience to guide future planning. The meetings also identified ways of making seed fairs more successful and sustainable in the future.


The experienced farmers were requested to train other farmers on local technologies for controlling storage pests, including the use of ethnobotanicals. Expert farmers were identified by their colleagues and interviewed by the study team, and it was found that they had acquired much of their knowledge through the accumulation of experiences, their own informal experiments and a sound understanding of the local environment.

In the southern highlands, four expert farmers trained another 60 farmers (32 women and 28 men) on how to prepare, apply and handle traditional pesticides, including goat dung and the herbs Tegetes minuta and lisakasaka. The training created much interest among the farmers, and encouraged them to consider adopting the technologies. District extension staff were available to answer farmers' many questions on application rates and methods and to share experiences from other villages where similar practices are already widely used.

Training was also provided on the production and processing of oil from simsim, sunflower, groundnut and castor. In order to promote these crops as valuable contributions to local agro-biodiversity, training on the use and maintenance of manual oil presses was provided by an NGO that manufactures the presses.

Presses were bought for both the southern highlands villages and presented to farmers during the seed fairs. The NGO trained 40 farmers and three village leaders. After explaining that the seed should be sun-dried prior to pressing, the trainer demonstrated how the machine works, and how to assemble, position and operate it. The operation skills taught included feeding, pressing, removing the seed cake and adjusting the machine for efficient operation. Farmers also learned how to process the extracted, crude oil into refined oil. The seed crops used during the training were sunflower, pumpkin and sesame.

Three trained farmers were appointed to form a committee for managing the village press. The committee will be responsible for maintaining the press and preparing it for use by other farmers. The farmers also decided that people who use the press should pay small fees, which will be used for machine repairs and maintenance. The NGO will be making follow-up visits to ensure that the press is properly used and maintained.

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