For both farmers and researchers in the tropics, seed saving can be very frustrating. In Mondulkiri province, farmers are rarely able to keep seed for more than the six months between harvest and the new planting season. Seeds stored longer than this tend to either pick up moisture from the extra humid air during the wet season and lose viability, or suffer from insect pests that proliferate and destroy the seed. At our resource center, we had wanted to build up a seed inventory of many useful plant species without having to grow out each variety every year. However, similar to the farmers, our seed had often quickly lost viability or was destroyed by pests while stored.
Refrigeration and freezing of most orthodox seeds are well known methods for extending seed life, (See ECHO Asia Note 14 “Vacuum Sealing versus Refrigeration”), but don’t offer an appropriate solution in areas like Mondulkiri province, where electricity, if available, is unreliable and expensive. In partnership with ECHO Asia and with funding from the Presbyterian Hunger Program, staff members at Ntuk Nti have been conducting research over the past year to design and test appropriate options for seed saving. In this article we share some of our findings - useful methods to improve seed storage without electricity that even the poorest and most isolated farmers can use.