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Amid COVID-19, African church leaders say availing quality seeds to farmers can help beat food insecurity

Amid COVID-19, African church leaders say availing quality seeds to farmers can help beat food insecurity

Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC, 2017

03 July 2020

By Fredrick Nzwili *

As African nations begin opening after months of coronavirus closures, church officials and agricultural experts are stressing an immediate supply of quality seeds to farmers to help tackle a predicted food crisis.

Citizens in some of the continent’s countries are facing hunger and serious food shortages after governments implemented stringent anti-COVID-19 measures—including lockdowns, curfews and quarantines. These have also disrupted food chains, including the supply and distribution of seeds to farmers.

According to the officials, delivering seeds to small scale farmers— in the immediate, short and long term—will result in the production of food for the coming days and protect regions from food insecurity.

“This is very important. There is a very clear connection between the food security and the quality of seeds farmers have access to,” said Rev. Dr Fidon Mwombeki, the Tanzanian Lutheran pastor who heads the All Africa Conference of Churches as the general secretary. “There is the question of whether it is modern or traditional seeds. I know there are several ongoing researches to determine which seeds are resilient to climate change and pests. The churches should look into these.”

Researchers indicates that well-bred and selected seeds, which have been treated for drought and disease resistance mature faster and result in high yields, sometimes doubling harvests. The continent consumes mainly legumes and cereals including beans, maize and rice.

But for most rural farmers in the continent, quality seeds have not been available or where shops stock them, the cost is prohibitive. In the absence of quality seeds, the farmers have been planting what they have stored for food.

“We have been calling for effective and better distribution of quality seeds. The seeds planted by farmers here are of low quality, thus most of them record poor harvests. Getting better ones is an urgent matter if we have to improve yields,” said retired Anglican bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa who is currently works with farmers in the diocese he led. “They must also deal with the cost, which I think is prohibitive for local farmers, many who are women.”

Rev. Nicta Lubaale, general secretary of the Organization of African Instituted Churches said while quality seeds are needed, it was important to look at what the farmers need to produce, what they have had and what they have access to. For the quality seeds, according to cleric, extension services, resources and the regulation of quality also matter.

“The churches are looking into these. They are facilitating and training farmers to carry out seed selection, helping in the production of quality seeds and monitoring the quality,” said Lubaale.

According to the church leader, some families knew how to get good seeds, select and plant them.

* Fredrick Nzwili is an independent journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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