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Pass it On: Seeds for the Future

October 25, 2012

By Simon Chambers

Farmers in 21 villages in Tanzania can teach us what it means to pass it on.  PWRDF is working with the Diocese of Masasi and the Canadian International Development Agency to fund food security work in the villages, which are located in the Nachingwea and Masasi districts of southeastern Tanzania.  This program is vital in the region as most households only have enough food for four to eight months each year.  At the end of the five-year program, households will have enough to eat ten months every year.

In each village, twenty farmers have been chosen to grow maize, twenty to grow cassava, and fifteen to grow ground nuts.  These 55 farmers will raise their crops under the oversight of the Tanzanian government’s Official Seed Certification Agency (TOSCA) who will ensure that the seeds produced meet standards to be certified as foundation seeds which can then be sold to other farmers in the region for next season’s planting.  TOSCA will also certify the farmers as seed growers, enabling them to continue to grow and sell seeds in the community.

Each of the farmers will donate 20% of their crop to their village’s seed banks, where they will be distributed to other farmers in the community to use next year””with the requirement that 20% of their crops be given back to “pass it on” to their neighbours.  The number of farmers benefited by this program will triple each year: from 1155 in the first year to over 90,000 in the fifth year of the program!

Farmers are chosen for the program by applying to their village program committees, who make a short list of potential families to join the program.  All the families then gather together to decide which ones will be part of the program in the first year, and which will join in future years.  According to the Rev. Geoffrey Monjesa, the program’s coordinator, the farmers want to make sure that at least half the farmers in the program are women.  The farmers are also looking out for the most vulnerable in the community.  “They try to reach youth, people with disabilities, and widows,” Monjesa said.

The Pass-it-On program is funded at a 1:3 ratio by PWRDF and the Canadian International Development Agency.  Each dollar donated to PWRDF for this program is matched by $3 from CIDA, allowing PWRDF to do more for less.

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