by Elaine Corets
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
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: email@example.com
. 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.