Answer: It sounds like your father's seedlings are suffering from "damping off," a disease caused by a number of different fungi. My guess is that the problem lies in the soil he is obtaining from the forest. While rich in nutrients, it is probably also rich in assorted fungal diseases. For optimum results, seed starting medium should be sterile.
Suggest he use a commercial seed-starting mix. Also, before he tries again, he should sterilize the pots or flats with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water, and rinse them well before using. Once the seedlings are up and going strong, he can tranplant them to an enriched soil if he likes. Also, he should try to keep the lights closer to the seedlings -- just 1 or 2 inches from the tops of the plants.
Give this a try... your family should enjoy an herb harvest soon!
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