Elsa Abate is a woman of firsts. She was the first woman to chair a Community Seed Bank (CSB) in Ethiopia and she just became the first woman to fill the role of deputy chairperson (a position similar to a deputy mayor) in Segno Gebeya, Ethiopia.
In Ethiopia, CSBs are places where farmers can get loans of seeds at the beginning of the crop planting season. At the end of the season, they return a portion of their seed harvest to the CSB, so the bank is continually restocked.
Community seed banks are also the foundation of our Seeds of Survival program. They are centres of innovation, training and knowledge-sharing – part social hub, part education centre, and part genetic repository. Often, that training is explicitly about gender equality. Other times, seed banks offer training for women and youth in crop productivity and income generating activities, to make sure everyone in the community has the chance to thrive.
As Elsa takes on leadership in her local government, her daughter is following in her footsteps. Almaz Abate joined the committee that runs her local CSB, where she helps organize gender awareness training for the seed bank's members.
CSBs help keep seeds in the hands of the small-scale farmers who have nurtured them for centuries. And in times of disaster – like the recent drought in Ethiopia – they mobilize make sure farmers have seeds to replant if their crops fail.
They help keep food growing, and they help communities grow.