Strengthening the role of custodian farmers in the national conservation programme of Nepal

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February 2015


The workshop “Enhancing the contribution of custodian farmers to the National Plant Genetic Resources System in Nepal” took place in Pokhara, Nepal from 30 July to 1 August 2013, organized by Bioversity International, LI-BIRD and NABICNepal with the financial support of IFAD and CCAFS. The meeting brought together farmers from distant parts of Nepal who were recognized for their outstanding dedication and contribution to the conservation of agricultural biodiversity, known as custodian farmers. Joined by researchers, NGO representatives and government officials, the meeting facilitated knowledge sharing and discussion between stakeholders in plant genetic resource conservation in Nepal with regard to three objectives: 1) to define methods and tools to support the work of custodian farmers, 2) to explore policy options to enable agricultural biodiversity conservation and 3) to develop understanding of the characteristics and motivations of custodian farmers. These proceedings share the results of this experience.

The document begins by establishing the context and goals of the workshop, it then shares papers contributed by researchers and NGO representatives that were presented at the event, participating farmer profiles, and the results of breakout discussions. The workshop recommendations were derived from the group discussions on the third day of the meeting and consist of a vision and action points to strengthen the conservation of agricultural biodiversity in Nepal as proposed by a spectrum of critical stakeholders in this pursuit. The document follows the general flow of events of the meeting, ending with reflections by the workshop organizers on the outcomes, as well as observations by gender specialist Marlène Elias (Bioversity International) on how to ensure the custodian farmer approach is gender responsive.

The workshop advanced understanding of custodian farmers roles and needs in conservation of agricultural biodiversity, also considering how family and community members enable or hinder their work. Several viable approaches to leverage and strengthen the contribution of custodian farmers to plant genetic resource conservation in Nepal were identified, including network building, fostering connections and synergy with community seed banks and ex situ conservation, and incentive mechanisms.