Importance of Community seed bank in Nepal
Have you ever wondered how many local varieties of crops are there in Nepal?? To give you rough idea it is estimated that there were more than 2000 local varieties of rice alone 30 years ago, but now only handful of local varieties are known and grown. So what really is the main reason for the loss of such a large number of local varieties in three decades? The main reason was the lack of knowledge about the conservation of local seeds and even if they want to there were no place to conserve .This is why the community seed bank were established to conserve seeds of local varieties. First seed bank in Nepal was established in 1989 by USC-Canada Nepal. The main role of community seed bank is to conserve and make sustainable use of local varieties and to provide quality seed to the farmers. Since farmers do not have direct access to the gene bank for seed conservation Community seed bank acts as a bridge between farmers and gene bank. CSB also perform variety development and breeding program and conduct the seed exchange fairs to circulate the different traditional varieties in different part of the country.
After the green revolution the trend of using commercialized hybrid seed came into the practice. The inclination of Nepal also grew towards the hybrid seed. As a result, the genetic base of traditional seed varieties reduced considerably. Nepal government also promoted the foreign hybrid seeds to increase the agricultural production and later different hybrid varieties were developed in Nepal. But the main problem is while the government was promoting the hybrid seeds they totally ignored the conservation of traditional local seeds. But after the formation of CSB in different parts of Nepal it has been continuously working to conserve local genetic resources and facilitating farmer to farmer seed exchange. Due to this people still have access to many local seeds. And perception of people towards local seeds is changing in a positive way.
In Nepal seed sellers are only allowed to sell only those varieties which are registered by Nepal government. But the majority of seed varieties are registered are hybrid, where minority of them are developed inside the country and majority of them are imported from other countries. So the consumers even if they want to grow the local varieties have no choice but to grow the hybrid crops. So CSB has become such a great option for consumers where they can buy quality local seeds without any restriction. For the local variety having high demand the community seed bank produces seed in large scale and low demand varieties are maintained in diversity block and seed are produced each year. In Nepal majority of community seed bank are also providing hybrid quality seed in one hand and conserving the traditional variety in other hand. In seed bank farmer deposit the traditional seed, CSB multiplies the seed and lends the farmers who don’t have any local seed.
Some time hybrid seed fails to establish in the field due to various genetic, climatic and pathological reasons. At such conditions local seed can be the best option because they can easily adopt the given agro-climatic condition and even some are insect pest resistant. Since most of the farmers are growing hybrid seed for a long time they may not have local seed available. During such condition community seed bank provide them with quality local seeds. Although seeds can be saved at farmer’s level but that may not be enough to ensure diversity in the local level. So the community seed banks can help farmer to access wide variety of local seed. In the present context of corona virus pandemic the whole supply chain of agriculture is affected in significant manner .Nepal being a agricultural country is most exposed to agro-trade crisis. In such condition community seed bank guarantee the supply and distribution of quality seeds which is one of the major agriculture input. The distribution of wide variety of quality seed ensures the good harvest quantitatively and qualitatively.
The community seed bank promotes farmers to conserve and select quality seeds that are more resilient and suitable for local needs .Hence community seed bank plays important role in achieving food safety and maintaining agro-biodiversity.
CSB also create the awareness and educate people about the local crop biodiversity, food and nutrition. It highly promotes local youths to work in it. As Most of the CSB promote on farm conservation, which is done in the regulation of local farmers it create a bond between farmers and CSB. This bond can lead the CSB to run in a sustainable way without any external help or funding. CSB also create an environment for generating income for farmers. Local farmers can produce quality local seeds of various crops and earn extra income for the family. Local youth can work in CSB and generate income while serving the local community. Nowadays locally produced products of local genetic base are high in demand and also fetch high price. So producing such products creates financial sustainability to the farmers.
In conclusion, CSB is very important for the conservation of local genetic base of traditional seed. As Nepal has diverse agro-diversity I think CSB should be opened in every district of Nepal to conserve our large number of local variety of seeds. While Nepal government is taking baby steps in the field of CSB, organization such as Li –Bird and diversity international are doing remarkable job. Since CSB is not only focus in the conservation of local seeds but also in empowering the local farmers by providing knowledge about self –sufficiency, income generation and in long run help in achieving food security and maintaining agro-diversity, government should be more focused in establishment of CSB and conservation of local seeds.
Radhika Gharti Magar