The Seed Keepers | God's World News

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The Seed Keepers
Jet Balloon
Posted: May 01, 2024
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    Mariama Sonko and other members of We Are the Solution document different varieties of rice in the Casamance village of Niaguis, Senegal. (AP/Sylvain Cherkaoui)
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    Senegal has good land for growing rice. (AP/Sylvain Cherkaoui)
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    Mariama Sonko says she has a seed for every soil type. (AP/Sylvain Cherkaoui)
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    Countries buy—or import—goods from other countries. This map shows the main African exports by country. (Observatory of economic complexity/Statista)
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    Countries also sell—or export—goods to other countries. The top export in the continent of Africa is gas and oil. (Export Genius)
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Ms. Sonko was bold. She moved to her new husband’s town when she was just 19. She and several other women convinced a landowner to rent them a small plot. In return, they gave him part of their harvest. They planted fruit trees and started a market garden. Five years later, the trees were full of papayas and grapefruit.

Then the owner kicked them off the land. Does that sound fair to you?

It didn’t to Ms. Sonko. So she worked to change things. She’s helping solve another big problem in West Africa: the rice problem.

West African countries of Burkina Faso and Senegal have good land for growing rice. But people there aren’t growing all the rice they need. They import more than half their rice from other countries. And the imported rice isn’t even very good.

The women of We Are the Solution want people to plant the healthy, traditional rice types West Africans have grown for generations. They want to teach other women how to care for land so food and people grow healthier and stronger.

Ms. Sonko gathers 30 women rice growers. They document hundreds of local rice varieties. She bellows out the names of rice. Some are hundreds of years old, named after women farmers, passed from generation to generation. The women echo with what they call each rice type in their villages.

Ms. Sonko says she has a seed for every soil condition—too rainy, too dry, and too salty. She can grow more rice than farmers using pesticides can. “Our seeds are resilient,” she says. She uses fertilizer made from manure. She keeps pests away with ginger, garlic, and chili.