Seed is at the heart of restoring food security for farmers and their families in Nepal. Seed is fundamental to broadscale plant restoration when the goal is to re-establish species and ecosystems. We need to develop a range of flexible strategies to ensure that sufficient volumes of viable seed are available to the farmers on time to take advantage of planting opportunities under novel environmental scenarios. Traditionally, quality control for seed refers to a guaranteed germination rate and purity that increases the plant production which automatically fulfill the demand of growing populations. Many local plant species, including those used for seed storage, are characterized by having easily dispersed seed, narrow collection windows, small seed crops of mixed maturity, etc. which affects the quality of seed.A system for quality control has been organized in two ways:
• Government-regulated system, where seed sources, seed harvesters and nurseries must all be certified in order to be able to sell material. The consumer can thus identify regulated material easily.
• Consumer-driven system, where the supply chain auto-regulates itself because of the demand from farmers for the seed. It can work for species with established markets where the buyers pay a higher price for better quality, and for some features such as seed purity there can also be a positive feedback where people are willing to pay for quality material.
Research in various places suggests that it is important to preserve the quality of locally adapted seeds as the local populations often show a home-site advantage and non-local genotypes may be maladapted to local environmental conditions. There is a need to strengthen seed and plant supply systems at the national, regional and local level to ensure that appropriate material of a diverse range of suitable species, adapted both to local conditions, and capable of persisting over generations under a changing climate, should be available for each restoration project being carried out. The seed collection or harvested seeds and associated materials should be typically dried, processed or cleaned, and packaged for immediate use in short-term storage or long-term conservation banking. Practices of seed storage used immediately after harvest and during cleaning impact seed viability, longevity, and dormancy status. Specific recommendations for post-harvest storage of seed should be provided in rural and remote hills and mountains which have high dependence on food security from self-saved and locally exchanged seeds and biodiversity of traditional crops. Consultation meeting and interaction programs should be conducted with researchers, conservationists and local government offices (eg, Agricultural Development Offices and District Natural Disaster Committee) including local NGOs and communities involved in seed relief operations for planning rescue mission and field survey to discuss the practices and principles involved in strengthening the quality seed so that the planning and programming for maintaining seed quality can be done accordingly and the malpractices should be abolished and new practices should be adopted. Participatory rural appraisals focusing on key informant interviews, transect walks, focus group discussion (FGD), data filling from selected farmers (men and women) would help to know the problem for maintaining seed quality in farmer’s level. FGD should be carried out in selected affected local communities to identify rare native crops and landraces that need rescue collection and repatriation in local communities. The integrated registration system should be established that covers in-situ seed sources, seed collection and nurseries and allows for traceability of seed origin for strengthening seed collection and quality maintenance of native crops. The diversity Kits of promising locally adapted materials, from gene bank and those from other research stations and local sources should be prepared and distributed to sample farmers from whom seeds have been rescued and collected. The objectives are to provide immediate access to locally available seed, reintroduce /repatriate some promising local crop seeds to sample farm households, and back up community seed bank collections. The seed banks help to store seed until planting conditions are suitable, take advantage of years when seed is plentiful, and rapidly respond following natural disasters.
A certification system should be developed for seed material quality that includes germination success, type of source material, plant health and origin. The methods to enforce registration and certification through independent auditing as well as requirements of recipients of grants and incentives, conservation certificates or those selling timber and non-timber products to use material from registered sources should be considered. The local government, farmers and the national as well as international organizations working for seed-welfare should work together to strengthen the quality of seed in local level if we want to succeed in building self-sufficient and secured Nepal in terms of food.
writer :Ichchha Neupane