Small Scale Farmers Score More on Seed Savings and Multiplication





 Small Scale Farmers Score More on Seed Savings and Multiplication

Agriculture occupies a very important place in the lives of Tanzanians as well as the national economy.  Seeds are not only a strong symbol for food sovereignty and biodiversity, but also one of the important elements to strengthen small scale farming communities for food security and income generation. In Tanzania there are two types of seed systems: the formal system, which is market-oriented and is developed by the public and/or private sectors, and the family or community production system which is based mainly on seed self-provisioning exchanges and selling among neighbors, and the informal market. The later is a result of many years of farmers’ selection and is rich in agri-biodiversity.

A recent field visit by ESAFF to Dodoma, Kongwa District has revealed that some scale farmers have formed an association (ZOASEM) to participate in local seed savings. These farmers have also been able to ensure that their seed is certified by the Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI) based ion Morogoro. This farmer led seed multiplication has provided farmers with a chance to have constant seed supplies for maize and sun flower. The leader of the association Mr Mathius Mtwale said that as farmers, commercial seed system done by companies had over the years created dependency by small scale farmers on private companies but those seeds are example and some of them cannot be re-used. ‘‘We have over the years to multiply our seeds for maize and sunflower and share with other farmers and also sell some said Mr Mtwale’’. Our seeds can be re-used for a period of 3 years and still producing high yields added Mr Mtwale.

The visit also revealed that the farmer led seed management is ripping earlier the traditional seeds from companies and it is drought resistant. The farmers are also training each other to be active in policy making on issues of seed and they are reviving support from extension officers and local policy makers. A local extension officer said that ‘this system has enabled our local farmers to be self-sufficient, maintaining seed sovereignty, food security and sovereignty as well as improve farmers’  incomes as they sell to other farmers’’. Farmers continue to benefit both in terms of food security and income generation thus seed multiplication is a source of livelihood for our farmers, he added.


It has been noted that under the Seed legislation, a regulatory framework for control of the quality of seed produced, imported, exported and used by the farmers in Tanzania is provided. The law provides for a compulsory seed certification, laboratory seed testing, variety evaluation and registration under the control of the TOSCI. The number of private companies doing seed business in Tanzania has been growing every year.

ESAFF has been documenting and sharing success stories in 4 other Southern Africa member countries as well as Uganda and Rwanda from the Eastern Africa. The Southern Africa members are Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi and Rwanda. Physical visit were organized to document on the ground success stories on agro ecology practices among successful farmers in these countries. ESAFF also together with other likeminded organizations in Tanzania; (MVIWATA, PELUM Tanzania, TCCIA, ANSAF, TOAM, SUA and SWISSAID) conducted platforms that brought together small scale farmers, agriculture researchers, CSOs representatives and policy makers to discuss issues on seed banks, seed multiplication and brining involving SSFs in agricultural research. Currently farmers in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and South Africa have different kinds of indigenous seeds for maize, beans, groundnuts and other cereals.

Community Seed Banks, or Community Seeds Storage Facilities, are collective spaces where Smallholder farmers store, preserve and manage their own seeds and other planting materials. Seed bank stores seeds as a source for planting in case seed reserves elsewhere are destroyed. It is a type of gene bank. The seeds stored may be food crops, or those of rare species to protect biodiversity. Seed banks (grain banks) are measures taken by Smallholder farmers to preserve seeds. Some countries have allowed Quality Declared Seeds (QDS) in which farmers within six villages can sell or exchange seeds with fellow farmers. But this is restrictive by nature. ESAFF is fighting at least to for this to be allowed in the same ecological zones.

So far we can see that some commercial crops or rather mainly hybrid maize projects are being subsidized in Africa and the beneficiaries are the MNCs and private companies as well as commercial farmers at the expense of small scale farmers. In this regard farmer led seed management has helped small scale farmers and the situation is the same in Mbeya and other regional countries practicing seed multiplication. The indigenous varieties were almost disappearing as most farmers used commercial seeds provided by private companies.

If the government of Tanzania goes ahead to pass the new Seed Laws Amendments, such legislation will criminalize small scale farmers especially youths and women’s contribution to the development of agriculture. Woman farmers cannot save seed and propagate seeds year to year especially if the seed is a GMO or a seed registered by a Plant Breeder, irrespective of whether the breeder is a Tanzanian or foreigner unless she pays royalties to the breeder.

The new amendments deal with appointments of officers to regulate the seeds sector at national and local government authorities’ levels; accountability of seed sector regulators; seeds standards; registration of seed dealers; and issues of substandard seeds. Local authorities are also undertaking seeds quality control by or on behalf of TOSCI. Their concentration is on ensuring that seeds that are produced, imported, sold or supplied are of required quality. Again, there is a mandatory requirement imposed to any person who produces or acquires any prescribed seed which is not tested and he intends to sell it for sowing to submit a sample to TOSCI for testing. The sample should be accompanied by a statement as to the origin, kind, variety and quantity of the seeds and fees. But what worries farmers are that the process is expensive to get their seeds tested and certified.  Seed dealers are required to strictly observe the standards in respect of seeds to the effect that such seed must be an approved variety for use in Tanzania and its production, processing, testing, sale, or importation is in accordance with prescribed standards; it complies with germination and purity standards; packed in containers which are adhering to requirements of the law; the invoice or delivery note for imported seeds must indicate the genius, species and variety of such seed, and the country of origin; and where such seed has been tested previously and has been found to be of the required standard of germination and purity as required by law.

Additionally, selling of uncertified seeds; selling seeds that do not conform with standards of germination and purity prescribed for such kind of seeds; selling for sowing any seed in the name other than its varietal name; selling seeds in bulk quantity without a certificate issued under the law; selling certified seeds without furnishing to the buyer a certificate required to be furnished at such time of sell; and testing or purporting to test any seed without approval of the TOSCI amount to commission of criminal offence.  The penalty imposed by law is a fine to the tune of not less than one hundred million but not exceeding five hundred million or a fine of not less than five but not exceeding twelve years or both.This is despite the fact that smallholder farmers may exchange uncertified seeds. Section 14 (6) (a) of the Seeds Act in the amendment makes it an offence to sell the seeds that are uncertified in accordance with the provisions of the Seeds Act. 

ESAFF will continue to fight for farmers rights to produce, sell and exchange seeds through a Farmers Rights Protocol and will lobby relevant ministries at national and regional levels. ESAFF will also continue networking with like-minded organizations on issue of seed sovereignty. 

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