Empowering Communities: Annapurna's Community Seed Bank Transforms Agriculture and Lives

by LI-BIRD | 20 February 2024
catégories : nepal, programme2

Image Empowering Communities: Annapurna's Community Seed Bank Transforms Agriculture and Lives

The concept of Community Seed Banks (CSB) has been globally developed to address on-farm conservation and utilization of local plant genetic resources, along with associated traditional knowledge. This initiative aims to counteract the rapid loss of genetic resources within local production systems. CSBs are designed to conserve, restore, revitalize, strengthen, and enhance plant genetic resources, with a primary emphasis on local crop varieties (Vernooy et al., 2020). These banks actively engage with both major and minor crops, as well as neglected and underused species. Worldwide, CSBs play a crucial role in assisting farmers and communities in regaining, maintaining, and expanding their control over the seeds they utilize. In Nepal, the CSB approach has been successful for on-farm conservation of crop varieties and as a means to provide easy access to quality seed and planting materials (Shrestha et al., 2013).

Pragatishil Agriculture Producer Cooperative (Est. on 2007) of Annapurna-3, Kaski, Nepal was initially a seed producing cooperative doing saving and credit and seed business of improved rice varieties. Total of 107 member farmers are associated with the cooperative. Realizing the need of collective effort for agrobiodiversity conservation, the cooperative integrated the CSB approach within the cooperative in 2020 in the name of “Annapurna Community Seed Bank”. At present, Annapurna CSB conserves 75 varieties of 30 different local crop species. Major crop species conserved by the CSB includes cold tolerant rice, beans, millets, yam, taro and vegetable crops. CSB is doing on-farm conservation of these varieties by mobilizing their member farmers. It is also coordinating and collaborating with the national gene bank for ex-situ conservation. The CSB maintains diversity blocks of rare and unique crop varieties for regular seed regeneration. It also does commercial scale seed multiplication improved varieties and made available to the local communities. By making quality seeds available to smallholder farmers, the CSB has empowered them with options to choose seeds that are well-suited to their specific agro-ecological conditions. This not only enhances crop productivity but also promotes resilience against climate induced stress. Furthermore, the Annapurna CSB has taken a proactive step in varietal registration of two landraces of local rice (Kalo Patale) and a cucumber (Madale Kankro) in technical support of LI-BIRD[1] and National Gene Bank. The varietal registration proposals of two potential local landraces has been submitted to Seed Quality Control Center (SQCC). This not only elevates the status of these local landraces but also contributes to the broader goal of safeguarding agricultural biodiversity at the national level. It is also evident that running the CSB has enhanced community leadership.

Annapurna CSB commercially produces 3 to 4 tons seed of 3 cold tolerant rice varieties (Machapuchhre 3, Lumle 2 and Chomrong Local) making them a resource center for high altitude rice seeds. The three cold tolerant rice varieties namely Machhapuchhre 3, Chomrong Local and Lumle 2 are the improved varieties through participatory plant breeding method, while Machhapuchhre 3, Chomrong Local are released through the national system. Additionally, the CSB has initiated seed production of Mustard (Lumle Tori) and Oat (Jai). This has helped members of the cooperative to earn extra income by selling their harvest. Each year, 49 farmers access quality seeds from the CSBs and 15 farmers are able to secure income from seed business.

The cooperative has established their own fund generation mechanism to self-finance their regular activities and operations. The cooperative has maintained a Community Biodiversity Management (CBM) Fund of NPR. 500,000 which is further used to provide loans to the members of the cooperative at subsidized interest rates. It has helped many resources poor farmers by improving access to soft loans, enabling them to increase income opportunities at the local level. At the same time, the members accessing the loan from CBM Fund are provided with the seed of local varieties to replenish the seed in next season. Moreover, the members of the Annapurna CSB are gradually stepping towards an agroecological farming system. The members of the CSB are utilizing the loan provided through CBM Fund for safe food production. They are now engaged in fresh vegetable cultivation following agroecological farming practices which has contributed significantly towards family nutrition and the surplus are sold to the markets of Pokhara city. On average, the members of the CSB make annual income of NPR. 20,000 by selling safe products.

Local government is also joining hands by providing financial supports. Annapurna CSB has been able to tap resources from local and provincial government authorities. In the year 2023, Annapurna CSB has been able to leverage NPR. 800,000 (6015 USD) which have been utilized to further strengthen infrastructural facilities of the CSB. With remarkable ground level evidences, cooperative has been able to influence local planning process ensuring governmental investment of conservation and promotion of local agrobiodiversity. Annapurna CSB has become an example of cooperative managed CSB contributing agrobiodiversity conservation through its use. Additionally,

Rebati Adhikari, farmer of Maramche villages states " Since the establishment of the Community Seed Bank, accessibility to seeds of local crops has significantly improved for me and other female members of the village. Previously, obtaining these seeds meant relying on neighbors and relatives, resulting in a time-consuming process. Now, with a single visit to the Community Seed Bank, we have a range of choices readily available, eliminating the need for extensive time and effort in seed collection from various sources."


According to Maya Adhikari, member of Annapurna CSB "the CBM fund maintained by Annapurna CSB has contributed towards women's access to financial resources as they can now easily apply for loans without any collateral at minimal interest rates. The loan amount is utilized by the women in income generating activities such as vegetable farming, livestock farming, seed production etc. The income generated from such activities are managed by the women. They spend the money on household expenses, children's education and nutrition. Additionally, selling the seeds to the CSB has resulted in additional income sources for us".

Further Reading

Shrestha, P., Vernooy, R., & Chaudhary, P. (2013). Community Seed Banks in Nepal: Past, Present, Future. Proceedings of a National Workshop. 14-15 June 2012. Pokhara, Nepal.

Vernooy, R., Mulesa, T. H., Gupta, A., Jony, J. A., Koffi, K. E., Mbozi, H., Singh, P., Shrestha, P., Tjikana, T. T., & Wakkumbure, C. (2020). The role of community seed banks in achieving farmers’ rights. Development in Practice, 30(5), 561–574. https://doi.org/10.1080/09614524.2020.1727415

[1] [1] IRHA partner NGO in Nepal: LI-BIRD - Local initiatives for biodiversity, research and development https://libird.org/

catégories : nepal, programme2

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