Six farmer's varieties of neglected and underutilized crop species officially registered in Nepal


Posted on: 6/1/2021

By: Niranjan Pudasaini, LI-BIRD, Pokhara

The National Seed Board (NSB) approved the registration of six unique landraces on 24th March 2021 under the Schedule D provision of Seed Regulation 2013. Registration of landraces will come into force soon with the formal notice in the national gazette of Nepal. Persistent and collective effort from farmer's organizations, LI-BIRD, NARC-Gene Bank and concerned governmental agencies with the support of Bioversity International have led to this remarkable achievement of mainstreaming six promising landraces into the formal seed system. These six landraces are Dudhe Chino of Humla, Bariyo Kaguno of Lamjung; Rato Latte and Rato Kodo from Jumla and Khairo and Pahenlo Simi from Dolakha representing five neglected and underutilized species (NUS) of proso millet (Panicum miliaceum), foxtail millet (Setaria italica L. Beauv), amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus), finger millet (Eleusine coracana), and common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) respectively . Neglected and underutilized species are crops that have historically received relatively little research focus compared to major crops such as rice, maize, and wheat in Nepal. These landraces represent the first ever registered varieties for proso millet and foxtail millet and only the second variety ever to be registered for amaranth in Nepal.

These varieties take advantage of the relaxed provision of Schedule D in the Seed Regulation (2013) designed to bring historical and promising local varieties into the formal seed system by recognizing them legally. Schedule D provides a pathway for farmers and their organization to register their local crop landraces through a simpler format with reduced scientific information requirements. Through registration of their preferred landraces under Schedule D, farmers and their organizations such as community seed banks and community-based seed producers groups can exercise farmer's rights to benefit from legal and commercial seed production and sale of these registered varieties.

A farmer from Ghanpokhara, Lamjung presenting varietal registration proposal of Bariyo Kaguno to the Variety Release and Registration Committee (VRRC) at SQCC, Lalitpur.

Local Crop Project (LCP) had worked extensively to identify, characterize and promote these six landraces in active participation of local farmers, community seed banks and national level stakeholders. The project had set all of the necessary upbringing work including proposal submission to SQCC in active participation of local farmer's organization from the respective sites. After phase out of the LCP in Sept 2019, the registration process was further rolled out and being technically facilitated by Nepal System Project (DADS II) . Respective site farmers have been capacitated on source seed maintenance, quality seed production and marketing locally.

In order to ensure the seed system sustainability of the registered landraces, Community Seed Bank (CSB) approach has been adopted in respective sites. Though CSB deals with many other local varieties, registered landraces are linked as an iconic landrace to the respective CSB. All registered farmer's varieties will be maintained and managed by the respective farmer's organizations (CSBs) in the technical facilitation of nearest governmental agriculture research and extension service centers. Local government (Municipalities) have also taken ownership of the process and have already started supporting concerned farmer's organization financially for quality seed production, conservation and promotion of registered varieties. Since LI-BIRD along with relevant stakeholders was advocating this participatory mechanism of mainstreaming crop landrace, this achievement has set a ground level evidence to leap further. All of these were possible with the collective efforts from local to national level line agencies and development partners. This collective effort is expected to resolve all of the remaining technical and managerial disputes of farmer managed seed system especially in source seed maintenance and quality assurance processes. This achievement will definitely energize and show concerned agencies to develop more enabling environment by eliminating all of the misunderstandings and shortcomings related to management and ownership of farmer's varieties.

Overview of the registered varieties:

Dudhe Chino (Proso Millet, Panicum miliaceum): Dudhe Chino is the commonly cultivated landrace of Chhipra village of Kharpunaath Rural Municipality in Humla and surrounding areas. It is relatively higher yielding (2.2-2.3 ton/ha) than other local varieties, easier to thresh and de-husk and has larger grain size. It is well adapted to dry marginal uplands and has a short crop cycle of only 85-90 days. Chino is commonly consumed as a staple food (bhaat and roti) or used in desserts (kheer and laddu). It holds socio-cultural importance to the local community. Dudhe Chino has been registered with the leadership of Chhipra Community Seed Bank (CSB) managed by the Karnali Agriculture Cooperative Ltd. Chhipra, Humla holding community level ownership of the variety. Chhipra CSB is maintaining the source seed of Dudhe Chino and making it available to local people regularly. Chino is slowly gaining popularity among urban consumers as a gluten free, micro nutrient rich healthy diet and generally considered as a by-default organic food.

Bariyo Kaguno (Foxtail Millet, Setaria italica L. Beauv): Bariyo Kaguno which was nearly extinct in 2014 is now the most preferred and commonly cultivated Kaguno landrace in Marshyangdi-2, Ghanpokhara, Lamjung. It is relatively higher yielding (1.9-2.3 ton/ha)has larger grain size, and good cooking quality. It is well adapted to marginal high lands with a crop cycle of 115-125 days. It is commonly consumed as kheer, bhaat and roti and locally considered as food of famine. Bariyo Kaguno has been registered in the leadership of Ghanpokhara Community Seed Bank (CSB) managed by the Ghapokhara Agriculture Cooperative Ltd. Ghanpokhara, Lamjung holding community level ownership of the variety. Ghanpokhara CSB maintains source seed of Bariyo Kaguno and provides it to locals and outsiders. Kaguno is slowly gaining popularity among urban consumers as a low glycemic, low cholesterol, gluten free and phosphorus rich nutritious food. Farmers do not use agrochemicals to grow it hence it is by default an organic grain. 

Rato Kodo (Finger Millet, Eleusine coracana): Rato Kodo is the most preferred and commonly cultivated finger millet landrace in Jumla district and surrounding areas. It is relatively higher yielding (2.5-2.6 ton/ha) and has larger grain size. It is well adapted to marginal high lands and has a crop cycle of 160-170 days. It is commonly consumed as dhindo, roti, puwa and khole. It is preferred for its pleasing red colored grain. Rato Kodo has been registered in the leadership of Hanku Community Seed Bank (CSB) managed by the Dhauligadh Agriculture Cooperative Ltd. Hanku, Jumla holding community level ownership of the variety. Hanku CSB maintains source seed of Rato Kodo and make it available to local as well as to outsider regularly. Kodo (finger millet) is gaining popularity among urban consumers as gluten free, iron and calcium rich nutritious food.

Rato Latte (Amaranths, Amaranthus hypochondriacus): Rato Latte is the preferred amaranth landrace for grain production in the Karnali Province. Locally, it is commonly known as "Lal Marshe". This landrace is usually found in Jumla and nearby districts in western part of the country. Amaranth is generally cultivated in land counter bunds (khet-bari ko aali) as a barrier crop, sometimes as a mix crop with finger millet and foxtail millet and sometimes as a sole crop. It is relatively higher yielding (2.9-3.1 ton/ha), easy to thresh and has larger grain size. It is well adapted to marginal high lands and has a crop cycle of 170-180 days. It is commonly consumed as leafy vegetable at vegetative stage, toasted grain is consumed as snacks and Laddu. It holds socio-cultural importance to the local community as a sacred grain. Rato Latte has been registered in the leadership of Hanku Community Seed Bank (CSB) managed by the Dhauligadh Agriculture Cooperative Ltd. Hanku, Jumla holding community level ownership of the variety. Hanku CSB is maintaining source seed of Rato Latte and making it available to local people on regularly basis. Amaranth grain is gaining popularity among urban consumers as gluten free, iron and calcium rich food and is generally considered as a by-default organic food.

Pahenlo Simi and Khairo Simi (Common Bean, Phaseolus vulgaris L.): Both Pahenlo and Khairo Simi are the most preferred and commonly cultivated bean landraces in Jungu, Dolakha and surrounding areas. Khairo Simi was nearly extinct due to poor seed management practices and was revitalized by the Local Crops Project since 2015. Both bean landraces can be grown in two seasons (summer and winter planting) and are appropriate for both grain and fresh pod production. Pahenlo and Khairo Simi are relatively higher yielding (2.5-2.9 ton/ha grain and 15.6-19.6 ton/ha fresh pod), have good cooking quality, and attractive grain colors. Khairo Simi is especially preferred for fresh pod consumption because of its fleshy pods. Both landraces are well adapted to wide range of mid hill areas and especially suitable for home gardening. Since both landraces have wide range of adaptability, they are becoming popular in neighboring districts as well as urban areas in home gardens. Both landraces are registered under the leadership of Jungu Community Seed Bank (CSB) managed by the Himchuli Multi-purpose Cooperative Ltd. Jungu, Dolakha holding community level ownership of the variety. Jungu CSB is maintaining source seed and producing quality seeds of Pahenlo and Khairo Simi and making them available to farmers on regularly basis.

Nepal Seed System Project (DADS II) is funded by Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) and being implemented (2019-2021) in Nepal jointly by NAGRC of NARC, LI-BIRD and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.

Local Crop Project (LCP) was funded by the Global Environment Facility through United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and jointly executed (2014-2019 )by the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, Nepal Agriculture Research Council (NARC), the Department of Agriculture (DoA) and Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD) in Nepal.

This article is reviewed by Sajal Ratna Sthapit, Pitambar Shrestha and Santosh Shrestha, LI-BIRD and Devendra Gauchan, Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.