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local seed banks

NEW: Report on Community Seed Banks

In September 2017, two workshop aimed at stimulating an in-depth exchange and discussion on different aspects of Community Seed Banks worldwide – in a dialogue between CSB initiatives from all over the world, partners from the research sector and international institutions and civil society.

The report comprises presentations and discussions as well as the results of a survey on CSBs in Europe and a SWOT analysis.

NEW: Report on Community Seed Banks In September 2017, two workshop aimed at stimulating an in-depth exchange and discussion on different aspects of Community Seed Banks worldwide – in a

Community seedbanks

Challenge

All around the world, farmers and their communities are struggling to maintain crop diversity, in particular of farmer varieties.

Diversity is disappearing or under pressure due to the commercialization of agriculture, expansion of the industrial food sector, monopolization of seed production and/or recurring natural disasters, most notably droughts, floods and hurricanes. Farmers also face the impact of climate change.

Solution

Crop diversity plays a key role in farmers’ livelihoods: a source of food and nutrition, a buffer to environmental disturbances, a cultural or spiritual treasure. Community seedbanks are forms of collective action to withstand and counter crop diversity loss.

Bioversity International’s research approach

We recognize and support the multiple functions of community seedbanks. As locally government institutions to conserve and share seeds of crop varieties important to farmers, they are concrete examples of on-farm management of agrobiodiversity.

Community Seedbanks

  • Allow the processes of both natural and human selection to continue as part of the agricultural production system
  • Are repositories of local genetic diversity that is often adapted to prevailing climate conditions including biotic stresses, such as crop pests.
  • Contribute to community-based strategies for adaptation to climate change.

They can do so by

  • Securing improved access to and availability of diverse, locally adapted crops and varieties through the use of multiple germplasm sources
  • Enhancing related local knowledge and skills in plant management including seed selection, treatment, storage, multiplication and distribution.

Community seedbanks are platforms that can also ensure effective implementation of farmers’ rights. They can grow into centres for experimentation and innovation around seeds to secure their rights and interests in production that is affordable, productive and respectful of the integrity of their landscapes and plant genetic resources. Women play active roles and make important contributions to the day-to-day operations of community seedbanks, as custodians and caretakers of seeds in many countries.

We work in three thematic areas:

Technical and organizational issues

Those who wish to operate community seedbanks must adhere to a a minimum set of technical criteria. Technical issues emerge throughout the cycle of seed management, from the early stage of selecting which crop species and varieties to keep (and that selection may change over time) to the documentation of the collection and its use. In addition, community seedbanks must find ways to benefit from the latest technologies and management innovations. Considerable variety exists in terms of exactly how community seedbanks are governed and managed. We examine what can be done to increase the rigor and regularity of their execution.

Useful reads:

  • How to develop and manage your own community seedbank – Farmers’ Handbook
    The Farmer’s Handbook consists of a series of three short booklets specifically written and designed to be used by community members involved in, or wanting to be involved in, a community seedbank. Each booklet focuses on a theme presented by the members of a community seedbank in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
    Booklet 1: Establishing a community seedbank
    – Booklet 2: Technical issues
    – Booklet 3: Management, networking, policies and a final checklist
    – Blog – How to develop and manage your own community seedbank
  • Community seed banks: concept and practice. Facilitator handbook: This practical guide, updated in 2020, advances research and capacity development regarding community seed banks. It is for those who work with farmers and their organizations on issues of seed conservation and sustainable use.
  • Community seedbanks and Resilient seed systems in Bioversity International. Celebrating 45 years of agrobiodiversity research.
  • Green shoots. Community seed banking in South Africa: Endeavours and Outcomes 2016-2019.
  • Rice Diversity and the Joy of Eid.

Policy and legal support

A wide array of policies and laws affect community seedbanks, both positively and negatively. Promising changes have been taking place in a number of countries. we investigate what can be done to further mobilize and support the (untapped) potential of community seedbanks through policies, laws, strategies and programmes.

Useful reads

Capacity development and networking

Community seedbanks can have a multiplier effect if they cultivate partnerships and engage in networking and sharing of information and seeds with other seed system actors. Small community seedbanks can, thus, sometimes become large ones, or a network of small community seedbanks with considerable scope and depth can emerge. We investigate how networking capacities can be strengthened and a strong regional, national and international movement created to scale the work of community seedbanks.

Community seedbanks are forms of collective action to withstand and counter crop diversity loss.