Seedless Somalia Taps Emergency Cache

In Somalia, political tension has abated to the extent that farmers are now able to return to their fields to plant. The problem is finding seed to plant. The countrie's seed supplies were raided and consumed during the war by Somalians attempting to fend off starvation. Fortunately, secure caches of indigenous Somalian seed stock exist outside the country. These supplies will now be tapped, the seed will be replicated and distributed to farmers.

The International Board for Plant Genetic Resources is coordinating the international effort to obtain, replicate and replenish Somalia's seed stock.The largest seed collection is in Kenya. Almost 300 samples of maize and sorghum were sent there for safekeeping at the request of the Somalian government. Supplies also exist at the ICRISAT station in India, the IITA gene bank in Nigeria, the Vavilov Research Institute in St. Petersburg, and with the U.S.D.A.

This process of replicating seed, however, will take a year or two. In the meantime, farmers need seed now, and of course not just any seed will do. They need seed suitable to their specific conditions and needs.

While the international community grapples with tracking down and replicating the seed stock, Somalians are not idly waiting. Somehow a few farmers' obtained some seed, and planted it with the short rains last year. This proved to be a good crop of sorghum, maize and sesame, and will provide farmers with some seed, but much more is needed for the March planting.

External agencies like CARE are now trying to purchase the farmers crops and distribute the seed to the areas that need it the most.

Loss of seed stock is not unique to Somalia, but can easily occur in time of famine, particularly when compounded by war.

New Scientist, February 6, 1993. p. 11.