Reviving Indigenous Seeds: the story of Salifu Haruna
posted by: Justice Atiim on July 9, 2019
With support from RAINS’ Sewoh Project, Salifu Haruna has revived the use of indigenous seeds and agroecological practices into his farming. Since this adoption, his yields have improved. He is from Langa, a community in Northern Ghana.
“When you cultivate with the indigenous seeds, and use compost [as fertilizer], you will get more when you harvest,” he said.
Unfortunately, indigenous seeds are at the verge of extinction in Northern Ghana. With this, culture is being lost, as farmers cease to carry out important traditional practices such as seed storing and sharing.
Instead, many farmers are using imported seed varieties. Despite that these are promoted as producing higher yields, they are not adaptable to climate change, require toxic chemical fertilizers to grow, and must be purchased each farming season.
Haruna has seen how climate change is taking effect in Northern Ghana and the impact it has directly on him and other small-holder farmers, who compose of 75 percent of the population. “In recent years, the rainfall pattern has been difficult to determine. If you plant a late maturing crop, the rain might stop early, and the crop would dry up before you could harvest” he explained.
Haruna cultivates crops including millet and maize. The unpredictability in the rainfall pattern makes it difficult for him to determine when to plant. It also means that the rain could end early or late, making harvesting difficult.
Indigenous seeds are a viable solution to these problems. They have short maturation rates and are drought resistant—two things that Haruna has noticed: “Most of the indigenous seeds are tolerant to the weather, some of them are early maturing crops. Whether there is a drought or no drought it will work,” he said.
Further, indigenous seeds do not need chemical fertilizers to grow. Instead, Haruna uses compost as an organic fertilizer. This is not only better for the soil but makes the harvest much healthier for consumption.
“When planting [indigenous] beans, they do not need chemical fertilizer or weedicides. Because we don’t spray it , we can harvest the bean’s leaves themselves to eat. With the new seed varieties, you sow it and you always need to be spraying it with chemical weedicides. Because you spray it, you can’t eat the leaves,” he described.
Further, Haruna now keeps his seeds in his household; he is not dependent on buy them each farming cycle as he used to do. This makes planting—especially with the unpredictable seasons—more convenient.
“When it is time for planting, you can quickly go and bring the seeds. If you didn’t store your own seeds, it would be time for planting, but I would be wondering where to get the seeds. By the time I got them from the market, it would be too late.”
This project is run in partnership with the African Biodiversity Network and is funded by Brot für die Welt. A cross continental project, it also implemented in Benin, Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.