Traditional Seed And Food Festivals in Zambia

The traditional seed and food festivals are creating the sustainable livelihoods, strengthen local economies, and empower communities to take charge of their own food systems.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seed you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson. This African proverb justifies everything we grow and eat comes from a quality seed.

Seeds are undoubtedly the most important agricultural input, as without seeds there is no harvest. Therefore, protecting seed diversity, allows small-scale farmers, especially women to control their food system, protect biodiversity and build resilience against climate change.

The seed is the repository of the genetic potential of crop species and their varieties resulting from the continuous improvement and selection over time. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization: “Plant genetic diversity is….one of the central preconditions for food security. It.….provides the genetic traits required to address crop pests, diseases and changing climate conditions.”

As a traditional seed knowledge reservoir, the festivals inspires the small-scale farmers to conserve and exchange seeds, while enhancing food security for their families, as they still provide most of the nutritious food and seed varieties to the wider farming communities.

“We cannot have food security without seed security, although the importance of seed is rarely noticed. Seed diversity is threatened, yet the quality and value of the indigenous seed, which is one of the most crucial elements in the livelihoods of agricultural communities,” An Agroecology farmer, Joseph Banda observed.

The Civil Society Organisations such as: Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB), FIAN International, Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) – Zambia, Schools and Colleges Permaculture Programme (SCOPE) – Zambia, Act!onAid – Zambia, among them, share a common goal: “Inspiring farmers to conserve seed crops diversity and increase the demand of indigenous nutritious foods on the territorial markets.”

These organisations facilitates the organising of Zambian Traditional Seed and Food Festivals, which has become an effective vehicle that brings together individuals and organizations share a common passion for the promotion of local seeds and the transformative power they hold in shaping the Zambian food systems.

The purpose of the Traditional Seed and Food Festivals is to addresses two particular aspects vital to this path of transforming food and agricultural systems thus, the indigenous crop diversity available for the small-scale farmers through the seed systems; and influence the Zambian policies that regulate the seed systems.

“As we gather hear, let’s make the event about the farmers, particularly the women farmers, who have over the years preserved the diversity of traditional food and seeds towards food and nutrition security,” ZAAB National Coordinator, Mutinta Nketani, encouraged.

The 6th Zambian Seed and Food Festival’s exhibitors/farmers were honoured to have the esteemed presence of Chilanga District Commissioner, Mr. David Sheleni, and Indian High Commissioner to Zambia, Mr. Ashok Kumar.

During his speech, the esteemed Indian High Commissioner to Zambia quoted the wise words of the Republican President His Excellence Mr. Hakainde Hichilema: “People think well when they eat. As we all know, food is not only crucial element for our well-being, but also plays a pivotal role in the economic growth of our beloved country, Zambia.”

Furthermore, the Indian High Commissioner to Zambia has pledged to utilize the International Year of the Millets to further enhance the bond between India and Zambia by focusing on the sustainable cultivation of the traditional and nutritious food, aimed to strengthen the relations and achieve food sovereignty.

This year’s (2023) – 6th Zambian Seed and Food Festival attracted exhibitors as far as Zimbabwe, “To network and look at what are the opportunities available as the African region, our food strangle, our food security and food sovereignty,” the Women’s Farming Syndicate’s National Coordinator, Ms. Tsitsi Valerie Machingauta explained, “To share ideas on how we can improve and also cross pollinate ideas, share the seeds and the best practices.”

And in Lundazi, with financial support from AgroEcology Fund through the Global GreenGrants Fund, KHUMBILO AgroEcology Media Services organised the Traditional Seed and Food Tourism Festival, under the theme: “My Food Is African” to input the district level efforts into the national festival, in turn contribute to a global movement that recognizes the importance of diverse, healthy, and socially rich food systems.

Meanwhile, in Lundazi when speaking during the official opening of the District Traditional Seed and Food Tourism Festival, Lundazi District Commissioner, Majory Mupashya Banda noted, “As we come together today, let us renew our commitment to our local seeds and foods, and conserving our environment through agroecology.”
And Chief Mphamba’s representative, Abel Dickson Botha appealed to Lundazi Town Council to give the farmers a place where to create a territorial market for selling specific traditional foods; where everyone can have access to healthy and sustainable food products.

The Traditional Seed and Food Festivals are viewed as a step on the way to achieving sustainable utilization of agro-biodiversity by creating incentives from the ground. The main achievement of these festivals is increased crop genetic diversity at the community level and greater capacity among farmers to judge and select plants and thus to make informed decisions in breeding.

By Misheck Nyirongo

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