An architecture graduate has come up with a proposal to build a seed vault on the western slope of Kilimanjaro. Imagining Tanzania in a post-apocalyptic scenario, he explains how the seed vault could be crucial in maintaining Africa’s vital agricultural sector.
Architecture can take hundreds of forms, but architecture designed to save human life in an apocalyptic scenario is not the first kind that springs to mind! But Sean Cassidy has proposed just that.
While studying for a masters at KADK, the architecture and design school at the prestigious Copenhagen university, Cassidy noticed that there were no seed vaults south of the equator, so he looked into creating the first one.
Climate change is affecting the whole world, and as we experience global warming, the need to preserve and keep certain seeds becomes more important to ensure we do not lose them in the case of a manmade or natural disaster.
Cassidy explains why seeds are so important for our ecosystem, “The importance of the seed cannot be underestimated – it acts as the basis for our everyday lives, what we eat, wear, use and without them,” said Cassidy in his project statement.
The concept of the seed vault is to safeguard these seeds in case of emergency. The most famous one is the Svalbard International Seed Vault in Norway, often called the doomsday vault. It is designed to endure extreme environmental conditions, to ensure the future survival of human life.
With over half of Tanzania’s population employed in the agricultural sector, the country is extremely vulnarable to climate change and the reduction in crops. Cassidy’s suggestion to create a seed vault on Kilimanjaro is because his research has shown that Tanzania and other African countries would be badly affected in the case of a shortage and the seed vault would serve to maintain their biodiversity.
“It seems crazy to think that this offering is not present in somewhere like Africa, a continent which revolves around agriculture for its livelihood.”
“It acts as an insurance policy for the preservation of biodiversity, which at one point if called upon can revitalise and replenish areas in crisis,” he explained.
“To further this point – the first withdrawal of seeds from the Svalbard International Seed Vault was made recently by Syria, due to its ongoing devastation.”
Kilimanjaro sits on very fertile land, hence the decision to place the seed vault in the mountain. He also plans to incorporate a research and teaching facility set over the underground archive, which would be used to develop and educate on more effective farming techniques.
In his plan that he has drawn out, vaults would be embedded in the ground in 2025, and the facility would be installed in 2030. Cassidy designed the plan to allow the building to adapt to suit several purposes, such as training better farming techniques, but also potentially teaching students in classrooms.
“The structure is a trellis for growth, allowing the landscape below to expand and make a very rigid element productive, which then is furthered when you consider that the roof of the building offers the perfect environment for harvesting solar energy,” added Cassidy.
He predicts that by the year 3000, Africa will need to draw on their reserves to revitalise its biodiversity.
“At the end of time, the apocalypse if you will, when the land has changed beyond recognition after thousands of years, the seed archives still remain, keeping the items for life to start over, preserved,” he explained.
Perhaps the most daunting thing about this prospect is, although Cassidy is imagining the world in a post-apocalyptic sense, the reality is that this is not all that far away. With Mount Kilimanjaro slowly losing it’s ice cap, the effects on global warming are visible today and scientists are saying there will be no snow atop Africa’s tallest mountain by 2030.