Food and nutritional security of resource poor farmers globally is increasingly under threat due to climate change. In Uganda, agricultural production rates are low, exacerbated by frequent erratic rainfall and droughts. The loss of genetic diversity in farmers’ custody has greatly narrowed the genepool from which they choose varieties that do well in challenging environments. In order to strengthen farmers’ adaptive capacity, a project called “Promoting Open Source Seed Systems for Bean, Millet and Sorghum for Climate Change Adaptation,” funded by the Benefit-sharing Fund (BSF) established under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), was implemented in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. This project increased the availability and diversity of climate-smart varieties of bean, finger millet and sorghum, through testing, breeding and production of high-quality seed and increased access to a wider range of locally adapted varieties. In Uganda, the activities were coordinated by the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO)-Bulindi Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (ZARDI) in Hoima, in collaboration with the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, and local farmers organized in the Hoima Community Seed Bank.

In Uganda, 99 bean and 147 finger millet accessions were locally sourced, and shared with the Plant Genetic Resources Center from Kenya and the Tanzania National Gene Bank, through a Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA), for testing in the neighboring countries. Overall, 34 bean and 44 millet accessions performed well during multiplication and were therefore given to 250 farmers for crowdsourcing trials during the cropping seasons of 2018 and 2019. On-station trials were also established for breeder’s evaluation and participatory varietal evaluation. The best performing varieties were later subjected to organoleptic testing, and seven bean and seven finger millet accessions were selected as the best performing. To ensure increased production of the selected varieties, the CGIAR research program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (CRP-GLDC) provided funds to upscale the best performing varieties of millet and bean through seed and product value chains.

 Establishment of seed multiplication sites and production units

Seed multiplication units are farmer-managed and include land, and a seed storage facility. In this case, the Hoima community seed bank is the main seed storage facility and the first production unit  established. During the implementation of the “Open Source Seed Systems project,” originally only Hoima district was targeted for intervention. However, due to increased networking between farmers in the Western region, a neighboring district, Masindi, developed interest and joined the project under the umbrella of Hoima community seed bank. However, given the relatively large distance between the two sites, establishment of a new producer unit was deemed suitable to enable good access to genetic resources by the Masindi farmers. About 200 farmers in Budongo have already come together, contributed some funds and are planning to establish a seed bank known as the Budongo farmers community seed bank. This is the second seed multiplication unit. The Budongo community seed bank will be a well-equipped seed bank plus production unit after finalizing registration in 2021.

Some of the members of the Hoima community seed bank during seed and product value chain training in February 2021. Credit: T.Recha/Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT

Some of the members of the Hoima community seed bank during seed and product value chain training in February 2021. Credit: T.Recha/Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT

ZADRI donated a total of 14 acres of land were donated to the Hoima community seed bank, which are used for seed multiplication (6 acres for finger millet and 8 acres for common bean) (photo 1). The first cycle of multiplication resulted in 2700 kg bean, and 2600 kg finger millet seed in the first season of 2021. These were disseminated to over 2000 farmers in Hoima and Masindi districts for production and distribution for nutritional benefits and income generation. ZARDI and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT are engaging the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, which is responsible for promoting farmers varieties, to enable the two community seed banks to start producing Quality Declared Seeds. This is being done through a series of on-going policy dialogues about the registration of farmers’ varieties and recognition of contribution of community seed banks to seed system development. In particular, the goal is to strengthen community seed banks to act as seed producers especially for farmers varieties.

Development of seed and product value chains for bean and finger millet

The two producer associations/units under the umbrella body of the Hoima community seed bank cooperative have received training on various aspects of seed business development (photo 2). The training modules included creating group and individual visions, value addition, seed production and certification. PELUM Uganda, a local NGO, provided training in value addition for finger millet targeting products such as fermented porridge (Busheera), millet bread, and local brew (malwa). Participants mapped the local key seed business and actors along the bean and finger millet value chains. They made some agreements to start supplying finger millet grains to some actors. However, the Hoima community seed bank wishes to start value addition for finger millet in order to obtain better revenues. This training was accompanied with an organoleptic testing activity where farmers got an opportunity to taste the different products locally made from the selected varieties.

Some of the members of the Hoima community seed bank during seed and product value chain training in February 2021. Credit: T.Recha/Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT

Some of the members of the Hoima community seed bank during seed and product value chain training in February 2021. Credit: T.Recha/Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT

Further nutritional evaluation of the selected varieties was done in order to share the benefits that can be obtained from consuming these varieties. This information was also used to attract private sector interest in specific crops/varieties with specific nutrients. This information was published and can be found at:

From 9-12 February2021, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT together with PELUM Uganda and BUZARDI organized and conducted a one week training named “Training and seed exhibition for climate change adaptation: Increasing production, improving quality and establishing markets for bean and finger millet for smallholder farmers in Hoima Uganda”. The seed exhibition event was attended by the Africa’s managing director of the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT, who shared her wish for increased use of diverse climate resilient varieties for improved food production.

The training strengthened the capacity of seed bank members in value chain assessment and business planning for farmer seed enterprise development. Participatory methods, such as group work, presentations and discussions were used with reference made from the Pesa agro enterprise-marketing model-training guide and the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) methodology. The training was attended by 56 women and 78 men from Hoima and the neighboring Masindi districts.

This was followed by training in farmer seed business enterprise development from 24-25 May 2021. The purpose of this activity was to further strengthen the technical capacity ofbthe Hoima community seed Bank to develop and manage a successful farmer seed enterprise for more diversified and sustainable agricultural development in the target communities. The farmers acquired skills for better management of their seed business and for market assessment, to be used in the near future. Enhanced opportunities for networking and market development of seed enterprises within the communities through a market survey were created, including development of three business model canvases (two for millet and one for bean). These activities will directly and indirectly contribute to the continuation of project impacts even after the end of the project cycle.

Engagement of the private sector in seed and product value chains    

On 25 October 2019, Hoima community seed bank members were supported to participate in the Indigenous food fair in Kampala Uganda’s Umma grounds (photo 3). The event was organised by PELUM Uganda and aimed at promoting nutritional diversity from indigenous food. The farmers displayed their diversity to attract the bigger local market for their produce. This also provided them with an opportunity to connect with local seed business actors.

On 16 October 2019, BUZARDI was given the opportunity to host the national celebrations for World Food Day. The Vice president of the Republic of Uganda with senior government officials and politicians, research institutes and private actors in seed business, attended the session. Hoima community seed bank leaders and farmers were given an opportunity to display their varieties and their seed bank. This event provided an opportunity and a platform to raise the awareness of farmers, researchers, government and local seed businesses about the extent of crop varieties held in the local seed bank and to interact on how they could promote local seed businesses and enhance food security in the area and the country at large. This further provided the Hoima community seed bank with an opportunity to attract investment from the private sector.

Hoima community seed bank showcasing bean diversity during the Indigenous food and seed fair in Kampala Uganda. Credit: T.Recha/Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT

Hoima community seed bank showcasing bean diversity during the Indigenous food and seed fair in Kampala Uganda. Credit: T.Recha/Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT

During the training in February 2021, participants were made aware on how market for seeds is quite distinctive from other commodities. They were clustered into three groups and guided to conduct a rapid market assessment on bean and millet in a nearby farming community. While in the field for market assessment, emphasis was on demanded varieties, acreage of land and yield to determine the quality and quantity of seed needed, prices, specific buyers and contacts, packaging and potential competitors. During this engagement, other private sectors entities, including village seed bulkers and grain dealers for the commodities, were identified as outlets for seed and produce. At the end of the training, the participants developed a farmer-friendly business plan that could guide them in management and implementation of the seed business.

Feature image: Bean seed diversity from the Hoima community seed bank.  Credit: T.Recha/Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT

Author(s): Tobias Recha¹, Gloria Otieno¹, Ronnie Vernooy², Ahumuza Jasper³, Ronald Kakeeto³, Sylvester Dickson Baguma³, Joshua Aijuka⁴

Collaborating Partner(s): Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT¹, Uganda, Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, the Netherlands², Bulindi Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute of National Agricultural Research Organization of Uganda³, Participatory Ecological and Land Use Management (PELUM) Uganda⁴

Acknowledgment: This work was undertaken as part of, and funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (CRP-GLDC) and supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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