The Seed Midden
Autumn, 2001 #58


Which Seeds to Save

Seed Conference

Seeds to Ghana

Living at the Farm


Archive Newsletters

Spring 2001
Summer 2001
Autumn 2001
Spring 2002
Summer/Autumn 2002

Seeds to Ghana
by Elaine Corets

The tropical flowers and wildlife stamps posted on aerograms from Ghana, West Africa, have become familiar site in the Abundant Life inbox this spring and summer. The World Seed Fund (WSF) has received more than 40 requests for seeds, mostly from the town of Hohoe, in Volta Region, near the great Lake Volta. With each letter, our thoughts drift to tropical landscapes and a mysterious Africa of which we know little agriculturally. How did all these folks find out about the WSF, and what type of seed would be most appropriate to send them? As with many developing countries throughout the world, a request to send seeds starts a journey of discovery, an investigation into the geography, climate culture, and, of course, agriculture of a people.

The former British colony Ghana, slightly smaller than Oregon, lies on the Atlantic Ocean, between Cote d' Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Togo. Burkina Faso is to the north. At only a few degrees north of the equator, the climate is tropical. The man-made Lake Volta extends from the Akosombo Dam in southeastern Ghana to the town of Yapei, 325 miles to the north. Volta Region lies to the east of the lake. This region is warm/hot and comparatively dry. Half of the country lies less than 500 ft. above sea level, and the highest point is 2900 ft.

Given the above information, we could easily send to Ghana a selection of seeds suited for the tropics, add the postage, and go back to enjoying the sun in Port Townsend. Of course, the process of fulfilling a seed request involves much more. In order to use our resources effectively, we carefully choose the appropriate types and varieties to send, based on a knowledge of the requesters' lifestyles and growing conditions. For example, it would not be appropriate to send teff, a grain integral to Ethiopian culture to Ghana, where it is little known.

Growers would be unfamiliar with its cultivation, and food preparers would have little idea of how to serve it to their families. Instead we must send seeds that farmers are, first, interested in planting, and second, will eat, or else be able to sell to a preexisting market.

In the case of Ghana, most of the requests that we have received have been from either farmers, or students studying agriculture. Information about WSF has traveled word-of-mouth, and many of the requesters know each other or study together. Previous recipients of our seeds have shared them with their colleagues, and they all agree that they are "better" than their local seeds. Unfortunately, it appears that the farmers of Hohoe are not familiar with open-pollinated seeds and seed saving. They all lament the unavailability of seeds, or the lack of funds to purchase them. By sending them our non-hybrid varieties, along with instructions on seed saving, they will be able to collect seed to plant next year, as well as share seeds with their friends.

Many of the farmers and students have an interest in "exotic" or "foreign" seeds so we know that they are open to trying something different. For example, Mr. Alhassan Mukaila wrote on May 29. 2001: "I am teaching agric (agriculture) about two years now in the lower school (junior high). Now we have planted some of local seed such as local maize, local beans, local tomatoes, local okra, and others. So we need some exotic seeds to plant. I told the students that we are going to plant outside country seeds. After I told them they are all very, very happy because they have not seen it before.

Frequent requests have been for: tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, okra, beans and eggplant. They are interested in planting seeds which will "assist to feed people in their vicinity, but the seeds are not available."

In order to manage all of the requests, we decided to send off some seed that we received as a donation from Horse Creek Seed Sanctuary in California. We chose types and varieties that we considered appropriate to the climate and culture of Ghana, such as: tomatoes (Pusa Ruby and Stupice), peppers (Jimmy Nardello), eggplant (Morden Midget), and dry bush beans (Black Turtle). In addition, we varied the selection of seeds that we sent to each requester, suggesting that they share seeds and experiences with their fellow town folk.

There is always the concern that mailings of seeds will not arrive intact. We have sent many small envelopes, staggered over several weeks, in order to increase the probability of everything arriving safely. In general, we prefer to send seeds with a "courier", someone who is traveling to the country where our seeds are destined. In this way, we know our seeds will arrive.

We are patiently awaiting feedback from Ghana and information regarding successes and failures of WSF seed recipients. We intend to continue to follow the lives of these simple farmers and assess how our contribution has impacted, and hopefully improved, their lives and increased their self-sufficiency.

If you are interested in learning more about the World Seed Fund, would like to order seeds, or are available to serve as a courier, contact Elsa Golts at: . We also encourage you to support this program by making a donation to the World Seed Fund. A $30 donation supplies 60 packets of seed to people in need.


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