12/12/2016 17:16 SAST | Updated 13/12/2016 10:50 SAST

Small Farmers Who Value Seed Diversity Need Urgent Help From Researchers

“Currently laws criminalise small farmers, the government gives them no support, and they’re in danger of becoming obsolete."

In August the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation said at least $100 million would be required to help farmers in 10 Southern African countries produce sufficient food for at least 20 million people annually. The organisation urged regional governments to invest in new technologies to produce drought-tolerant seed varieties.

The director of the African Centre for Biodiversity (AcBio), Mariam Mayet, told the Oxpeckers Centre for Environmental Investigative Journalism that the South African government has granted approval for development of a "climate smart" solution to drought — in the form of genetically modified (GM) drought-tolerant maize, also known as MON87460.

However, smallholder farmers will be forced to buy new seed each year. In contrast, some of the ancient varieties have evolved drought resistance and can be saved from year to year. Watch the above video in which Mayet explains more about diversity and resilience among seed systems.

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