Exchange of Local Seed Among Terai-based Community Seed Banks in Nepal

Community seed banks (CSBs) in Nepal are key actor for promoting of on-farm conservation of Nepal’s rich agricultural biodiversity.  There are more than three dozen active CSBs in Nepal out of which two dozen were established with technical and financial support from LI-BIRD in collaboration with various national and international organizations including the government of Nepal. Many local varieties could have been disappeared from the farmers’ field and community in the absence of these CSBs. In Nepal, the number of CSBs are increasing and they are also broadening their scope of work by being organized as ‘Community Seed Banks Association of Nepal’ (CSBAN).

On 15th May 2019, the CSBAN organized a seed exchange festival at Agyauli CSB, Kawasoti Municipality, Nawalparasi among Terai-based CSBs located from Jhapa to Kanchanpur districts. The CSBAN has received a small grant for its strengthening from ‘New Field Foundation’ through Bioversity International including organizing such events. Altogether, eleven CSBs who participated in the event came up with 381 different local varieties of seeds and planting materials of 43 crop species for exchange. After the preparation of stall by the organizing committee, separate space was allocated to each CSBs for the display and exchange of seeds.

Photo:  Inaugural of the seed exchange event by exchanging unique local seeds.

For tracking the details of exchange, monitoring progress after the exchange; simple formats were provided to each CSB. The exchange was conducted only after the submission of demand form following the completion of the documentation. The total counts of demand were 353 of 27 crop species and each CSB donated seed to other CSBs ranging from 13 to 73 samples. The major crops of the exchange includes rice, cowpea, and cucumber. The CSBs participating in seed exchange programme includes Shivagunj CSB, Jhapa; Charpate CSB, Morang; Kachorwa CSB, Bara; Agyauli CSB, Nawalparasi; Sunaulo CSB, Rampur, Dang; Belawa CSB, Bardiya; Mohammadpur CSB, Bardiya; Masuriya CSB, Kailali; Gadariya CSB, Kailali, Joshipur CSB, Kailali and Shankarpur CSB, Kanchanpur.

Photo: Participants observing stalls and recording their seed demand.

The exchange started with the stall observation and sharing information of local varieties along with associated traditional knowledge. The chief guest of the seed exchange event Dr. Krishna Kumar Mishra, special guests and invitees including vice chairperson of the Kawasoti Municipality Mr. Prem Shankar Mardaniya and Dr. Ronnie Vernooy and Dr. Devendra Gauchan from Bioversity International observed the diversity display stalls with curiosity. Dr. Mishra appreciated the contribution of CSBs for the conservation and promotion of local crops and varieties. He expressed that the National Genebank will provide programmatic support to the CSBs and to the CSBAN to the extent possible. Dr. Ronnie Vernooy expressed, ‘Nepal is a pioneer on CSBs, and the experiences gained here are useful for many other countries.

The exchange of seeds and planting materials among farmers, friends and relatives is not new in Nepal. CSBs are also already practicing exchange of seeds and planting materials to some extent, but this event was more organized and systematic including documentation, monitoring and follow up plan. Similar event will be organized for CSBs located in the hilly and mountain areas of Nepal in early 2020 targeting the main planting season. Though the exchange is a one-day event, farming and CSBs are forever. So to keep farming alive and the seeds in the hands of farmers, there is a greater need to support farmers, custodians, CSBs and the CSBAN continuously.