Fellow Since 2009
Seeding Food Security, Sovereignty and Culture
This profile was prepared when Munyaradzi Saruchera was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
When Munyaradzi was working with community seed banks in rural South Africa in 2005, he discovered that communities kept significant quantities of seed in their homes, including 100 percent of the varieties that were no longer being planted for commercial purposes. Despite the fact that families held onto these seeds, Munyaradzi came to realize that knowledge of certain seed varieties existence was no longer shared. The so-called “heirloom seeds” were viewed as irrelevant to current farming and belonging to an old and rural generation. Munyaradzi believes that not only is valuable traditional knowledge embedded and embodied in these seeds, but great economic potential as well. He is, therefore, reintroducing the cultural practice of seed saving and knowledge, and using the network he has built to address issues of food security and education in South Africa’s urban and peri-urban areas.Since, in many cases, seeds were being stored and the only thing missing was a record of their existence, the first step in the development of his idea was to create a database of the number and variety of seeds in various townships in the area. He made this information available to urban farmers in the Cape Town area and received an overwhelming number of inquiries about where to procure these seeds and how to cultivate them. Demand outpaced availability and availability was limited because of the very premature state of saving heirloom seeds. Munyaradzi went to India to research household seed saving and storage.Munyaradzi’s rule of thumb for sharing is based on replacing the seed borrowed by one and a half times more seed at their next harvest. This ensures that the seed bank continues to grow and is a reoccurring sign of the commitment of the seed banks contributors and users. Munyaradzi’s approach has interested Ikamva Labantu, TCOE, the City of Cape Town, the Provincial Department of Agriculture and Abalimi. He explains the idea at seed security awareness workshops where he is a regular speaker. His work in teaching heirloom seed storage and planting has caught the attention of early childhood development centers across the Western Cape which are observing the importance of integrating food culture education and social identity in children. It is important for children and youth to grow an awareness and knowledge of food systems, right from the seed, crops, dishes, and various food products.