The need for local seed banks in Africa’s rural that can survive disasters. Sue Jean Taylor

A plea for more local and village seed banks  as part of disaster recovery planning in Mozambique

A quick scan of research and online agricultural fact sheets for Mozambique indicates that the mechanisms of  agricultural recovery from the impact of a large scale climatic disaster like that from Cyclone Idai has not been envisaged as an actual eventuality, even as realisation grows that climate change will bring extreme more of these weather events (Arndt and Ringler, 2019).

In March 2019, existing crop plantings, just ready for harvest, were devastated by the floods resulting from Cyclone Idai, with an immediate situation of food insecurity for rural households. Livestock has also vanished during the floods, and herds will have to be replaced. As well as this, road and other infrastructure in these provinces were destroyed, and the flood waters and displacement of topsoil will undoubtedly affect the soil structure for planting in seasons to come. Mozambique is not alone in experiencing these disasters: the whole of Southern Africa and East Africa is highly vulnerable now.

Maize harvest in Zimbabwe. Image sourced from Internet.

Crop landrace seeds for next season lost

Because of the devastation of 750 000 hectares of planted lands, the seeds for land races of local maize and other crops have also been lost, along with the crop production itself.  This means that there will be no local seed to plant the fields next season, yet the subsistence agricultural sector will need to recover. The next growing season in Mozambique starts with the first rains in September 2020  in the south and December in the north. The question is, what seeds will be used for these plantings? This is a time when previous work to build up crop gene banks in Mozambique will pay off.  For example, drought-tolerant cowpea landraces have been deposited in a Mozambican gene bank, as well as other work to gene bank local seed varieties in Mozambique.

The recovery of subsistence agriculture in the affected provinces

While in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone, governments and humanitarian organisations are responding address both the immediate crisis and minimise the long-term adverse effects on livelihoods and development prospects of those directly affected and those impacted indirectly (Arndt and Ringler, 2019).  How the subsistence agricultural sector will be restored to production again after the cyclone needs some serious thought, as will be the long term resilience of this sector in Mozambique and neighbouring countries.

Subsistence farming needs more innovation to increase its disaster resilience. Image sourced from Internet.

References

Joala R (2016). Beira Corridor smallholders concerned about impact of agricultural investment on Mozambique’s seed regimes.  Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS). http://www.plaas.org.za/blog/beira-corridor-smallholders-concerned-about-impact-agricultural-investment-mozambique%E2%80%99s-seed

Arndt Cl.,and Ringler C. (2019). Cyclone Idai shows why long-term disaster resilience is so crucial. Reliefweb. https://reliefweb.int/report/mozambique/cyclone-idai-shows-why-long-term-disaster-resilience-so-crucial .

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