Community Genebanking Takes Shape in Uganda
June 4th, 2012
To enable the community access bean diversity, the ‘Conservation and use of crop genetic diversity to control pests and diseases in support of sustainable agriculture project’ constructed Kabwohe community gene bank where seed is to be kept for the community. The land was provided by the local Government of the area and this seed bank will be managed by a committee set up by the community. At the grand opening of this gene bank by the Project International Steering Committee on the 21st June 2010, everyone was just full of hope that it would work because all the other factors were out of the committee’s control.
After 2 years from the opening, Geoffrey Mugarura, talks with a wide smile about what is happening in the gene bank. He is the farmer who took on the role of community gene bank manager responsible for overseeing all the gene bank activities. Geoffrey says, “the gene bank is operating well, we have thirty six varieties and six hundred fifty kg of bean seed yet we started with one hundred kg”. “So far, ninety one interested farmers from Kiziba parish have benefited from the gene bank and farmers from three other neighbouring parishes have expressed interest. Therefore we would like to spread to these parishes as well because when a farmer borrows a certain quantity of seed from the gene bank, he or she returns twice the amount borrowed.”
This is the first community gene bank in the area and its success will go a long way in being a model for the other communities in Uganda to learn from. Farmers in Kiziba parish are very appreciative of the project because the gene bank provides a variety of beans to choose from. Fifteen varieties are liked most by the farmers because they have a good taste with nice soup, ready market and are resistant to pests and diseases. Among these is Nambale long (local), Nambale short (local), Yellow short (local), Kahura (local), NABE 14 ( modern), Mahega short (modern), Sugar 31 (modern) and Kiribwobwejagure (local) among others. Interesting to note is that most of these are local varieties.
However, farmers are not interested in climbing beans because they require sticks to grow which poses an extra cost to them. The small sized bean varieties are also not liked much by the farmers because to fill a tin, one requires many more seeds than the big sized ones.
They are also not as tasty according to the farmers. Although very beneficial to the farmers as shown above, it is quite demanding on the gene bank management committee members who are working voluntarily. Among the major tasks is ensuring that quality seed is brought to the gene bank and this calls for monitoring the quality of seed right from the fields yet these may be scattered. Geoffrey assured us that he is heading a dynamic committee team that is up to the task and already there are some good lessons that can shape gene banking in other communities.