This speech was given by Mrs. Majory Jeke at the opening ceremony of the Seventh Governing Body Meeting of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Marjory Jeke is lead farmer in one of the SD=HS Farmer Field Schools.

Your Excellency the Minister of Agriculture of the Government of Rwanda, Chairperson of the Bureau of this 7th Governing Body meeting of the International Treaty, Secretary of the International Treaty, Heads of Government delegations, Distinguished Delegates, fellow farmers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to thank you for inviting me to represent my fellow farmers from Zimbabwe and deliver a short speech during this Opening Ceremony of the Seventh Governing Body Meeting of the International Treaty.

My country Zimbabwe and indeed Africa is proud of the honour that has been bestowed upon our sister country Rwanda to host this 7th Governing Body Meeting.

Mr Chairman, the theme of the 7th Governing Body of “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the role of PGRFA” is pertinent, appropriate and timely. It is relevant particularly now when we as farmers in developing countries are experiencing extreme weather events caused by climate change which is leading to extreme hunger and poverty.

[Since] January 2016, we have observed an increase in the number of crops grown at household level from an average of 3 to 5 as a result of the introduction of new crop varieties and advanced breeding lines from the Crop Breeding Institute of Zimbabwe and ICRISAT. I am one of the over 2000 smallholder farmers in the project sites who has participated in seed and food fairs where we as farmers exchanged different seeds and knowledge. In a few instances we sold small quantities of seed to each other.

I have gained knowledge on what is happening to temperatures and rainfall in our villages. Temperatures are generally warmer now and on average we are receiving less rainfall compared to what was happening 35 years ago when I first came to my village as a young mother. We are informed that this is CLIMATE CHANGE.

Since two years ago, we as smallholder farmers are growing other cereal crops such as sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet besides maize.

Mr Chairman, we have been trained on how to conserve moisture by leaving mulch on our fields. These different strategies such as conservation agriculture, growing of different short season varieties and will help us overcome the changing climatic conditions and stay above the climate change curve.

We conducted food fairs where we shared knowledge on how to prepare nutritious dishes from the diverse range of crops that we are now growing.

The Farmer Field School approach made it easy to implement the project activities. In the Farmer Field Schools we work with breeders from Crop Breeding Institutes, lecturers from universities and the gene bankers. Farmers are involved in Participatory Variety Selection Variety Enhancement. This has enabled farmers to select varieties that are better suited to our farming environment.

Farmers in my district have opened a “satellite community seed bank”. Staff from the National Gene Bank of Zimbabwe trained us on seed banking.  We jointly collected seeds and stored them in our satellite seed bank. Some of our seeds are now stored in the National Seed Bank. We have asked the National Gene Bank to bring back some of the seeds that have been lost from our communities. Since the Gene bank only gives us very small quantities, we have started multiplying these seeds and we hope to share it among ourselves as the project progresses. If the project gets more funding in the coming years we hope to construct a small seed bank as we have seen that farmers in other communities are benefiting from this practice.

Mr Chairman, let me thank you for establishing the Benefit Sharing-Fund. With such financial support, small farmers like ourselves are now able to grow a diverse range of crops, learn about what educated professors from academic institutions are calling climate change,

My plea to you Mr Chairman is to make this fund bigger so that more people especially those living in countries like Zimbabwe will be assisted to keep the rich crop diversity in their hands. We have managed to look after these crops before you were all born but the increased marketing of uniform hybrids the majority of which are not suitable for the poor environments is threatening our crop diversity. We need your support in maintaining these crops for ourselves and for the rest of the world now and in future.

I thank you.