Pitambar Shrestha

Community Seed Banks in the Celebration of the International Year of Family Farming 2014


Posted on: 11/27/2014

By Pitambar Shrestha, Programme Officer of LI-BIRD based in Nawalparasi.

'Feeding the world, caring for the earth' is the slogan of the 2014 International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) declared by the United Nations General Assembly. The aim of the IYFF is to stimulate active policies for sustainable development of agricultural systems based on farming families, communal units, indigenous groups, cooperatives, pastoralists and fishing families. The IYFF is being celebrated around the world throughout 2014, and Planet Nepal 3, the festival of art and environment was one such event. Organized by Alliance François and the French Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal from 31 October to 1 November 2014, the festival was an eclectic mix of art exhibition, acrobatic show, concert, film screening, farmers’ market and community seed bank (http://www.planetnepal.org.np).

The community seed bank stall exhibited 365 local varieties, including 162 of rice alone. Fittingly, the top of the display was occupied by Jumli Marshi rice from Jumla, a red-grained rice variety famous for growing in the highest elevations in the world at 3000 masl. On the bottom were 30 aromatic local rice varieties from different parts of Nepal. Local varieties of maize, finger millet, wheat, barley, buckwheat, legumes, oil seeds, etc.  rounded out rest of the display.

The Honorable Minister for Agriculture Development Mr. Hari Prasad Parajuli observing community seed bank stall at Tundikhel, Kathmandu at Planet Nepal 3 Festival

The Honorable Minister for Agriculture Development Mr. Hari Prasad Parajuli observing community seed bank stall at Tundikhel, Kathmandu at the Planet Nepal 3 Festival. Photo: Pitambar Shrestha.

Traditional seed storage structures used in various community seed banks were also displayed. The community seed bank stall of Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD) was one of the centre of attraction for visitors till the last hour of festival. It was unbelievable to many visitors to see the diversity of local varieties and the work being carried out in Nepal by LI-BIRD and its partners. 

It was my pleasure visiting LIBIRD's stall yesterday at Planet Nepal 3 exhibition. Thank you very much for the wonderful information and time you had given us to talk about some interesting seed varieties including amaranth. LIBIRD is really doing such an interesting work by promoting local seeds and crops. This is the best contribution to sustainable development. Kudos to all the LIBIRD team!” says Alina Saba, one of the visitors of community seed bank stall.

We received encouraging responses from many visitors. We also received an invitation for similar exhibition for another festival to be held in December 2014 in Kathmandu. The chief of the Natural History Museum has requested us to put a set of seed samples conserved at community seed banks in the museum. The chief the National Gene Bank of Nepal has encouraged us to register local varieties and promote use formally. Some foreign visitors want to send seed from their country to us for evaluation and dissemination. 

The community seed bank stall and the related publications garnered a lot of interest, especially from students.

The community seed bank stall and the related publications garnered a lot of interest, especially from students. Photo: Pitambar Shrestha.

The first community seed bank was established in Nepal in 1995 and different organizations have been implementing and supporting community seed banks in a variety of ways and in different regions of the country. The count of community seed banks in the country currently exceeds a hundred. LI-BIRD started community seed bank intervention in 2003 and now there are 15 community seed banks in Nepal directly supported by LI-BIRD with funding support from various donor and partner agencies such as Bioversity International, The Development Fund (Norway), IDRC, UNDP/GEF and IFAD.

The Government of Nepal endorsed the concept of community seed bank through the budget speech of 2008/09 and thereafter, the Crop Development Directorate (CDD) of Department of Agriculture developed Community Seed Bank Implementation Guideline in 2009 and has started establishing community seed banks in few districts.

However, the response of the visitors of the stall tells us that it is still a new topic among the general mass. This means, we still have a long journey to disseminate the knowledge and good practices we have generated among the larger community. A journalist from a reputed TV program was also surprised for not being able to cover such wonderful work.

Related Link: Panel Discussion on The Seed Wars documentary.