The Tanzania Times
Eastern Africa News Network

Tanzania is setting up the first seed bank in Africa, capable of preserving crop kernels for over 100 years

Banks are usually used to keep money, but Tanzania is working to establish a special bank to store all types of agricultural seeds and seedlings.

The international kernel banking facility, likely to be the first in Africa, will be capable of preserving seeds in raw, pristine and stabilized condition for more than 100 years.

The African Seed Bank is being constructed in Arusha through the World Vegetable Research Center operating from Tengeru Ward of Meru District.

According to the Director General of the World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg) Dr Gabriel Rugalema it takes special technology in conserving seeds, seedlings and other kernels for future use.

So far the only Eastern African country with advanced seed storage technology is Kenya but it is yet to establish own the kernel bank. Tanzania should therefore be the first in the Sub-Saharan Region to host such facility.

Meanwhile the World Vegetable Center has started to breed 360 types of Amaranthus also known as pigweed, a popular green food on the African Continent which botanists warn could be on the verge of extinction.

The Amaranthus, known locally as ‘Mchicha,’ previously taken for granted in Tanzania, is said to be facing threats as negative effects of climate change hits the country as well as the entire continent, therefore scientists are launching efforts to preserve and produce the pigweeds in ample varieties.

“We are researching, producing and preserving all types of traditional vegetables that are endemic in Africa,” explained Omary Mbwambo, the researching scientist from the World Vegetable Center, who is also the Farm Operations Associate.

Apart from Pigweeds, other types of vegetables that the World Vegetable Center of Arusha is working on include Okre, Eggplant and Green Tomatoes.

Amaranthus or Mchicha may be endemic to Africa but currently seems to be flourishing in Eastern Europe, with Ukraine now becoming the major grower of edible pigweed, according to agricultural experts. Now Tanzania is producing 360 varieties of the vegetable plant.

“We are breeding three types of Pigweeds including Amaranthus seeds for breeding, green leafed pigweeds, red leafed plants and the ones specifically meant for food,” explained Mbwambo.

The World Vegetable Center in association with the Tanzania Plant Health and Pesticide Authority (TPHPA) has managed to collect 900 types of endangered agricultural seeds from both the mainland and isles, kernels that will be kept in special storage.

Golden Jubilee of Seeds and Meeting Needs

The World Vegetable Center, which was established in 1973 is celebrating its 50 years anniversary this November 2023.

The WorldVeg Golden Jubilee milestone runs under the theme of ‘Sowing Seeds and Meeting Needs.’

As the organization hits five decades of operation, the Agriculture Sector in the country and around the world is also facing a serious predicament because most of the seeds currently used to grow food and cash crops are disappearing at an alarming rate.

The World Vegetable Center is therefore working to address this challenge, including setting up the facility to ensure that all important seeds will be available now and in the future.

The World Vegetable Center, a non-profit international research and development institute, committed to alleviating poverty and malnutrition in the developing world through the increased production and consumption of nutritious and health-promoting vegetables.

The Center mobilizes resources from the public and private sectors to disseminate improved varieties and production methods in developing countries.

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