Travelling seminar on Farmers Field School on Participatory Plant Breeding shows farmers’ varying preferences of crop varieties

Travelling seminar on Farmers Field School on Participatory Plant Breeding shows farmers’ varying preferences of crop varieties. Photo: Aman Bhatta, LI-BIRD.

A one-day joint monitoring and learning sharing visit (cum travelling seminar) on Farmer Field School (FFS) on Participatory Plant Breeding (PPB) was jointly organized by the LI-BIRD and Agriculture Knowledge Center (AKC), Kailali District on 4 April 2022 in Joshipur Rural Municipality, Kailali. The major objectives of the travelling seminar were to share the progress and status of ongoing FFS on PPB, demonstrate its relevance to the PPB approach and build synergies among key stakeholders for mainstreaming and scaling up of the FFS on PPB approach in Nepal. The event was organized under the project “Sowing Diversity = Harvesting Security (SD=HS)” and SIANI which is being jointly implemented by the LI-BIRD and OXFAM in Nepal. The project has accomplished more than 90 FFS in Sudurpaschim Province (Kailali, Kanchanpur, Doti and Dadeldhura districts). FFS on the PPB approach has been found to be very effective to enhance farmers’ capacity in the collective decision-making process; selecting, adapt, enhancing, and promote new crop varieties that match their needs and preferences. A few of the crop landraces such as Jorayal Basmati and Lal Anadi of Rice, Tharu Aloo of Potato and Seto Local of soybean, where farmers have set up the FFS to improve their yield and peculiar/preferred trait performance. Similarly, the project has tested more than 100 advanced lines/released crop varieties in farmer’s fields to add promising new diversity to the farming system.

More than 28 participants with representatives from the Ministry of Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoLMAC), Sudurpaschim Province, Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), Agriculture Development Directorate, Agribusiness Promotion Support and Training Center, Agriculture Knowledge Centers (AKCs), Far Western University, media representatives along with project team members participated in the event with great interest. During the event, farmers from the two ongoing FFS (Genda FFS and Sahansilata FFS, Joshipur, Kailali ) on wheat shared the current status and results.

Dr Madan Singh Dhami, Secretary, MoLMAC Sudurpaschim Province observing and interacting with farmers of Sahansilata FFS. Photo: Aakash Koirala, LI-BIRD

The participants observed the Farmer Field School trials of PVS on wheat with great interest. Members of FFS gathered to welcome all the distinguishing guests and shared their learnings and outputs from the FFS.  FFS facilitators of both FFS highlighted the objectives, process, and status of their respective FFSs with a diversity of tested wheat varieties. These wheat germplasm/varieties were identified as per the breeding objectives set by farmers during the diagnostic stage of FFS.  FFS facilitator shared the summary of FFS results and their preferences recorded through AESA by the farmers. Members of the Genda FFS shared their preference for Zinc Gahu – 2 and BL 4946 by the FFS for their high tiller capacity, panicle lengths, and disease resistance. Sahansilata FFS members had identified BL 4818 and BL 4669as their top two preferred varieties. The visiting participants were surprised by the choices made by two FFSs despite similar agro-ecological and socio-cultural conditions.

During the interaction with members of Genda FFS, Mr. Rajendra Yadav, Breeder from NARC, National Wheat Research Program (NWRP) emphasized the importance of farmers’ engagement in crop varietal research and development. He stressed PPB approach can play a great role in the selection of location-specific farmer preferred verities.

Participants of the travelling seminar observing the seed storage house of Deuna Bebari Cooperative, Ramnagar, Joshipur, Kailali. Photo: Aman Bhatta, LI-BIRD

The participants visited Deuna Bebari Cooperative (also known as Joshipur Community Seed Bank) and its initiatives and facilities. They observed the newly constructed seed storage house jointly supported by PMAMP, AKC-Kailali and LI-BIRD. Joshipur CSB also showed their varietal demonstration blocks of more than 10 varieties. The Cooperative’s chairperson Ram Prakash Dagaura briefly explained the ongoing activities and their effort in agrobiodiversity conservation. He also shared that the cooperative is actively participating and monitoring FFS on PPB and their outcomes and are planning for including FFS identified varieties in their seed production plan from next season. Further, the visiting team was served traditional Tharu cuisine as lunch prepared from local crops symbolizing conservation and promotion of local crop genetic resources.

Mr. Mathura Prasad Yadav, Director, Directorate of Agriculture Research, Nepal Agriculture Research Council, Bhagedanda, Doti, Sudurpaschim province, interacting with LI-BIRD’s Plant Breeder and farmers during the travelling seminar. Photo: Aakash Koirala

Furthermore, participants visited another FFS named Shahanshilata FFS which was piloted by AKC, Kailali with technical support from LI-BIRD. The team was welcomed by the members of the FFS as that day, they were also celebrating their Farmer Field School Day. Tika Thapa, Chief of Agriculture training center, Sundarpur, enthusiastically shared that he will initiate to develop of a curriculum and conduct ToT of FFS on PPB for the technical staff of AKC and municipalities and farmers such that can facilitate and establish FFS in Sudurpaschim province. Prof. Dr Lal Prasad Amgain, Dean, Far Western University, expressed his acknowledgement to the farmers as they are directly involved in the selection of varieties of wheat through FFS. He further announced that he will make another visit to the FFS with his agriculture graduate students for learning farmers’ field-level experiences on PPB and PVS.

The joint monitoring and learning sharing visit concluded with a general understanding of adequate relevance of FFS on PPB modality in Nepal, and MoLMAC, Training center, and Agriculture Knowledge center will further work to build synergies among the stakeholders to scale up the approach in Nepal. Dr Madan Singh Dhami, Secretary, MoLMAC, Sudarpaschim Province, expressed that this approach needs to be replicated in other regions and other crops and his ministry will prioritize the approach in scaling in other districts in the coming year.

Overall, the event was effective in demonstrating the relevance of the FFS approach to crop research and development with convincing on-ground results. Province level as well district level governmental agencies expressed their positive remarks on the scope and importance of mainstreaming this FFS approach in development plans in future.