Official opening and handing over of the Gumbu community seed bank, South Africa

On March 17, 20016, K.A. Tshikolomo (PhD, Pr. Sci. Nat), Director: Crop Production, Limpopo Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, South Africa, addressed the more than 100 visitors to Gumbu village on the special occasion of the inauguration of the local community seed bank. His words in English and Venda were:

“Today’s Programme Director, Ms Noluthando Netnou-Nkoana- Director: Genetic Resources at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; Dr Ronnie Vernooy- Genetic Resource Policy Specialist, Bioversity International, Rome, Italy; Dr Bhuwon Sthapit- Senior Scientist, Bioversity International- Nepal Office; Vhafuwi vha vhathu, Muhali Vho-Gumbu….Ndaa!; Distinguished guests; Farmers; Colleagues; Ladies and gentlemen… Greetings from the Limpopo Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and best wishes for this important event!

handover 1

Any meaningful talk on Community Seed Banks requires that they first be properly defined. Definition: ‘A Community Seed Bank (CSB) is much more than a bank for money, it is a bank for life-food’ – Woman farmer from Zimbabwe.

Kani-ha ri nga tou ri ndi bannga ya mbeu… kana ri ri ndi tshisiku tsha mbeu? …Aiwa, vha ri ndi tshisiku tsha zwiliwa zwa vhutshilo. Musi ri na tshisiku itshi vhutshilo vhu tea u leluwa.

A CSB is a seed saving initiative designed and implemented to conserve, restore, revitalize, strengthen and improve local seed systems, especially, but not solely focussed on local varieties. Seed saving initiatives have taken various forms and names: community gene bank, farmer seed house, seed hut, seed wealth centre, seed-savers group (association or network), community seed reserve, and seed library.

As the Limpopo Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, we would like to express our gratitude to Bioversity International for the funding of the Gumbu Community Seed Bank and for all the support provided. Also, we wish to express our appreciation to our mother department, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for identifying our Province, specifically the Mutale Municipality as a host for the initiative.

Gumbu collection 2015 and 2016

Important considerations for success of the Gumbu community seed bank

Considerations for the community seed bank itself:

-CSBs are local level institutions that contribute to seed conservation, in particular of local or farmer varieties, countering erosion of crop diversity or its loss following natural disasters and societal pressures (commercialisation, monopolisation of seed production).

-Though many CSBs were initially set up for the purpose of (1) conservation, additional functions were added over time: (2) providing access to and availability of seeds, operating as a platform for community development, and (3) contributing to seed and food sovereignty.

-CSBs provide an opportunity for interaction and integration of informal and formal seed systems, for the promotion of in-situ and ex-situ links to back up genetic resources locally as building blocks of crop improvement, food security and sustainable community development.

-CSBs should be competent and function well in terms of collection, documentation (information and traditional knowledge), regeneration, storage, distribution, and marketing of seeds of diverse local and improved varieties. Also important is introduction of latest technologies and management innovations.

-CSBs should cultivate partnerships and engage in networking and sharing of information and seeds with other informal and formal seed system actors. Some CSBs interact with researchers, extension and other development agents.

Ndi ngoho, u bvelela ha tshisiku itshi tsha Ha-Gumbu tsha vhutshilo zwi thoga uri:

Tshiimiswa itshi tshapo tshi shume zwavhudi kha u vhulunga mbeu uri ra sa xelelwe nga ifa ili lashu. Musi mbeu iyi yo vhulungwa, i a kona u wanala musi ri tshi i toda, nahone i ri fha vhudilangi ha ndisedzo ya zwiliwa;

Sa tshisiku, ri shumisane na zwinwe zwiimiswa uri mushumo washu u kone u vhonala, ri amba mushumo u ngaho u kuvhanganya na u vhulunga mbeu na lupfumo lwa ndivho-yapo, khathihi na u kovhekana na u rengisa mbeu iyi. Itali vhe’ munwe muthihi a u tusi mathuthu;

-Also, there is need for exploration of options for financial viability (funding, income generating activities), and equipping members with adequate technical knowledge. In some cases, research organisations, NGOs and developmental agents do provide technical and financial support.

-A CSB should develop niche outlets for local land races and farmer improved cultivars and strengthen the marketing of locally produced varieties.

-Successful CSBs must have effective governance and management structures, and these are formed by members of the seed banks.

A hu na inwe ndila, ri tea uri:

Ri vhe na ndila dza u kuvhanganya masheleni uri ri kone u ya phanda. Naho ri tshi nga lambedzwa zwashu nga zwinwe zwiimiswa, na rine vhane kha ri vhe na zwine ra ita, itali vhe’ hu vuswa I divusaho. Ri tea-ha u vha na mimaraga ine ra kona u isa mbeu yashu.

Ri pfumbudze mirado ya tshisiku itshi i vhe na ndivho na vhutsila ha u ita mishumo ine tshisiku itshi tsha tea u i swikela… i tshi nga vha mishumo ya zwa thekiniki kana ya vhuvhusi na vhulangi.

Women group of Gumbu CSB.jpg

Considerations for other players

-Success of CSBs is also influenced by such issues as infrastructure (roads, communication, etc), local culture, politics, occurrence of natural disasters, and civil unrests. Support to CSBs is therefore very necessary, be it from government, traditional authorities, political and other community structures.

-Well operational CSBs need recognition, and this can be in the form of: visits by officials, awards for special efforts and achievements, and invitations to important (policy) events. Recognition may include funding and other support by government and donor agencies.

Kha ri shumisane zwavhudi na muvhuso washu, mahosi…Muhali washu Vho-Gumbu vha re vhukati hashu, zwinwe zwisiku zwi re kha lashu, zwiimiswa zwa u sedzulusa (research) na zwa pfunzo, na mazhendedzi a mveledziso uri ri kone u bvelela.

Maintaining the spirit of hard work, commitment and discipline, keeping clear strategies for governance, management, and income generation, and establishing networks and linkages with all relevant stakeholders, Gumbu Community Seed Bank is bound to succeed… I declare the Gumbu Community Seed Bank officially opened, and I accordingly hand over this important facility to the community… I thank you.”

dance 2

Photos: Ronnie Vernooy/Bioversity International.

Climate change adaptation and mutually supportive implementation of access and benefit sharing policies in Uganda

By Gloria Otieno, John Wasswa Mulumba and Francis Ogwal

Climate change is likely to increase average temperatures in Uganda by 1.5 ºC in the next 20 years and 4.3 ºC by the 2080s. Changes in annual rainfall patterns and total amount of annual rainfall are also expected. Uganda may become wetter on average. The increase in rainfall may be unevenly distributed in space and time influenced by more extreme or more frequent periods of intense rainfall. Besides changes in rainfall, changes in temperature are likely to have significant implications for agriculture, water resources, food security, and natural resource management.  Agriculture is likely to be one of the most affected sectors with repercussions on livelihoods of farmers, food security and the environment. The effects of climate change could threaten the survival of crop genetic resources and affect future adaptive capacity. If properly maintained, crop genetic resources will be essential to climate change adaptation in farmer’s fields and for breeding programs. A strategy for climate change adaptation is to ensure facilitated access to genetic resources at national and international levels through agreements such as the multilateral system of Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) and the CBD Nagoya protocol. The problem of the current germplasm exchange system is the potential limit on the amount of germplasm that farmers and plant breeders may access from both farmers fields and international and national centres that have ex situ collections due to the prevailing national and international policy and regulatory framework.

A strategy for adaptation to climate change using crop diversity and GIS modelling

Research by Bioversity international and the National Agricultural Research Organization’s Plant Genetic Resources center (NARO-PGRC) reveals that the diversity of genetic traits of crops represents our most important resource for adapting agriculture to the 21st century climate change. The high diversity within common bean in Uganda and East Africa can be used to adapt local farmers’ systems to climate change. Indeed, an important means for small-scale farmers to adapt to climate change is by shifting their crop varieties to those better suited to future environmental conditions. GIS-based selection of varieties is potentially a rapid and cost-effective way to find new and better adapted varieties. GIS tools can be used to search for varieties that have been collected in climatic conditions that are similar to the present and future climate conditions in a particular site.

Two communities, Hoima and Mbarara –Sheema district in Uganda, were identified by national partners as predominantly bean growing areas that are facing climate related stresses of increased temperature, shifting seasons and high erratic rainfall. Beans are the most important source of protein in the country. The projected climate in 2050 indicates that temperature and rainfall would increase on average by 1 to 1.5 degrees and 200mm per annum respectively. This means that new bean varieties would be required to allow communities to adapt successfully.

Based on simulations for these two communities, potentially adaptable bean varieties were identified in regional collections of beans held by CIAT and held by local communities in Uganda and Rwanda. Hoima at present has higher temperatures of between 23-27 degrees and precipitation of 700-1000 mm per annum. Nine potentially suitable accessions were identified from Ethiopia and Tanzania in the regional collections held by CIAT. 2050’s climatic conditions indicate increased temperatures and precipitation and using GIS based modeling, 29 accessions were identified from other parts of Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, the Democratic republic of Congo and Ethiopia.

Local community seed bank’s roles in adapting to climate change

In addition, through an exchange visit between two community seed banks in Uganda and Rwanda, local farmers in both countries were able to identify potentially suitable local varieties. Through participatory varietal ranking of the local varieties they are currently growing and conserving these varieties in the community seed banks based on traits such as yield, drought tolerance, heat tolerance, water logging, taste and cookability. The Kiziba community seed bank in Sheema Mbarara district in Uganda holding a repository of the community’s 47 varieties of beans provided about 10 potentially suitable varieties identified by farmers. These were requested by farmers in Hoima and in Rwanda. Farmers in Bugesera and Gicumbi districts in Rwanda identified 10 varieties of beans that are potentially suitable for climate related stresses. An exchange of these varieties was organized between the two communities by national institutions.

Implications for agricultural and mutually supportive implementation of access and benefit sharing policies

Given that the potentially adapted materials from the regional collections held by CIAT are automatically included in the multilateral system of access and benefit sharing of the ITPGRFA, the exchange of varieties was facilitated through the use of SMTA. The varieties have been made available to the communities for testing on farm and on station, activities currently underway. This demonstrates and reiterates the importance of having facilitated access under the multilateral system. The varieties held by community seed banks are not automatically in the multilateral system of access and benefit sharing. They could only be exchanged through negotiation with relevant institutions in consideration of the current Ugandan 2007 ABS law and regulations. These require that negotiations concerning prior informed consent and transfer of material take place between the two countries and their relevant institutions, in practice the Uganda national gene bank which is in charge of PGRFA for food and agriculture and is the focal point for the ITPGRFA; the Uganda national council for Science and Technology (UNCST) which is the competent Authority for both the ITPGRFA and the CBD/Nagoya protocol and the National Environmental Management Agency (NEMA) of Uganda which is the focal point for CBD/Nagoya protocol.

This required a lengthy process in which institutions had to discuss who has the mandate to provide the requested germplasm under which conditions. Unfortunately, the existing policies and guidelines on ABS did not provide clear roles and mandates for institutions. Alternatively, the relevant institutions could have provided incentives for voluntary inclusion of these materials by communities in the multilateral system so that farmers in communities in Rwanda would be able to access them. Under the 2007 ABS law and regulations it seemed very difficult to realize this. Institutions in Uganda therefore decided to review the existing ABS regulations.

A need for mutually supportive implementation of ABS and recent policy developments

Uganda is a Party to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). Having deposited instruments of accession on 25 March 2003, Uganda is obliged to provide facilitated access to genetic resources of 64 crops and forages that are under the management and control of the national government, and in the public domain. In return, Ugandan organizations and individuals are entitled to facilitated access to PGRFA of the same 64 crops held by the other 133 Treaty member states as part of the multilateral system of access and benefit sharing. The process of national level Treaty implementation and domestication in Uganda has been going on since 2003, necessitating both institutional and collaborative efforts to meet Treaty obligations. Some of the key measures for a country’s implementation of the Treaty include: (i) creating legal space for its implementation; (ii) notifying the Treaty secretariat of materials which are held by public institutions and therefore in the MLS; (iii) providing a clear process for access to PGRFA in Annex1 and non-Annex 1 PGRFA; and (iv) promoting farmers’ rights and incentives for voluntary inclusions of materials not in the MLS and held by natural and legal persons. The process of treaty implementation has seen Uganda notify the Treaty secretariat of all of its collection under management and control of public institutions in 2014. About 700 collections of annex 1 crops were notified to the Treaty secretariat, of which more than 100 are bean accessions. In 2015, Uganda also became signatory to the Nagoya Protocol of the CBD, which governs access and benefit sharing (ABS) of all genetic resources.

Uganda has developed a national policy on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, but this has not yet been passed into law and awaits tabling through parliament. The country is also in the process of developing guidelines for ABS under the ITPGRFA in harmony with the provisions of the CBD and the Nagoya Protocol. A ministerial order was issued and a committee set up to provide modalities for harmonizing ABS laws under the Nagoya Protocol and the ITPGRFA and for strengthening institutional arrangements for their mutually supportive implementation. A memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was developed between the lead institutions, namely UNCST, NARO-PGRC and NEMA. The committee was requested to come up with interim measures for accessing plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (Statutory Instrument) in Uganda while the review of the ABS law is underway. The temporary procedure provides that all PGRFA be accessed through NARO-PGRC and be notified to the competent authority UNCST, that any PGRFA that is not in the MLS will be accessed through NARO in consultation with NEMA. UNCST provides clearance for all PGRFA. This has made it easier and clearer for all parties to have access to PGRFA which is important for climate change adaptation and ultimately for the country’s food security.

Launch of the Resilient Seed Systems resource box

Women of the community seed bank of Gumbu, South Africa. Photo: R.Vernooy

Women of the community seed bank of Gumbu, South Africa. Photo: R.Vernooy

Farmers from around the world are telling us that better access to crop and varietal diversity might help them to adapt to climate change. Under supportive policy and socioeconomic conditions, such strengthened adaptive capacity could contribute to greater food availability throughout the year, the production of more nutritious and healthy crops, and income generation.

Researchers are increasingly using climate and crop modeling tools to predict the adaptive capacity of a given crop to expected changes in climate. The results of these modeling exercises can be used to design strategies to access and use crops and crop varieties that are expected to be better adapted to future climate changes in specific locations. Researchers, gene bank managers, extension agents, and farmers could then gain access to these potentially useful plant genetic resources through the multilateral system of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture or other means. Once obtained, these “new” plant genetic resources can be evaluated in target environments through on-farm experimentation over one or more cycles.

To assist countries design and implement a comprehensive capacity-building strategy to access and use plant genetic resources more effectively in the context of climate change adaptation a team of Bioversity International researchers developed a resilient seed systems resource box. This resource box is an on-line tool containing eight modules that represent the steps of a dynamic research cycle: 1. Situational analysis and planning; 2. Data preparation and selection of software; 3. Climate change analysis and identification of germplasm; 4. Germplasm acquisition; 5. Field experimentation; 6. Germplasm conservation; 7. Participatory evaluation; 8. Knowledge sharing and communication.

The resource box is intended for plant breeders, researchers, gene bank managers, and policymakers with an interest in plant genetic resources, university lecturers and advanced students with an interest in agricultural development, adaptation to climate change, and seed systems, and others involved in the strengthening of farmers’ seed systems and their capacity to adapt to climate change.

Access the resourc box at:

We look forward to receiving feedback on the content and practical use of the resource box.

Ronnie Vernooy, on behalf of the contributors


Participatory research and capacity building: climate resilience and seeds in Zambia

Identifying suitable germplasm for the future

By Gloria Otieno, Bioversity International and Charles Nkhoma, Community Technology Development Trust

Photo by: Annie Chikanji, Biodiversity Conservation Network

Maize varieties at the community seed fair in Chikankata, Zambia

Maize varieties at the community seed fair in Chikankata, Zambia. Photo credit: A Chikanji.

Farmers in most parts of Zambia report changes in climate and weather patterns including unpredictable rains; shifting and shortening of the growing season; increases in temperatures; and longer dry spells. According to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) What’s in it for Africa? southern Africa has experienced an increase in annual average, maximum and minimum temperatures since the early 1990s with the most significant warming occurring during the last two decades.  Minimum temperatures have risen more rapidly compared to maximum temperatures over inland southern Africa (IPCC AR5). In Zambia where maize is the staple food crop, production of maize is predicted to decrease by up to 20% in some places by 2050 under such temperature and precipitation scenarios (Schlenker & Lobell, 2010, Robust negative impacts of climate change on African agriculture. Environmental Research Letters, Vol 5, No 1).  One adaptation strategy is to identify varieties of maize that can withstand these temperature and precipitation changes as well as the shortening of the growing season. Another strategy is to switch to more resilient crops such as millets and sorghum.

To build capacity, Bioversity International, in collaboration with Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT), Zambia, organized a five day training workshop in Lusaka, Zambia, 24th-28th August 2015, on resilience of seed systems and adaptation to climate change, bringing together scientists, breeders, Geographic information system (GIS) specialists, climate change specialists and extension workers. Two communities, Chikankata and Rufunsa, were identified by CTDT, based on their vulnerability to climate change and reduction in productivity over the last couple of years. An analysis of their weather and climate was done using meteorological data and predictions of 2050s climate. According to the analysis, the two communities are already experiencing shorter growing seasons, unpredictable rainfall and longer dry spells. Predictions for the 2050s indicate a general increase in mean temperatures by 1 degree Celsius, a relatively shorter growing season and a slight increase in precipitation. GIS and climate modelling techniques were used to identify climate challenges in the two communities and identify suitable maize and sorghum varieties from the national genebank as well as the international collections already in the multilateral system of the Plant Treaty.

Through participatory exercises and a visit to a community seed fair in Chikankata (see photo), local diversity within the community was assessed to determine whether these meet the community’s needs. Traits that are required and preferred for present and future climate change adaptation were also identified. An assessment of local diversity of maize reveals that there are three local maize varieties that have promising traits in terms of early maturity, taste, high yielding and resistance to pests and diseases. Sources for accessions of sorghum and maize were found by searching through national genebank accessions and international sources such as GENESYS (global portal to information about Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture). These can now be tested with farmers to compare their performance with local promising varieties.  See map below showing areas with similar temperatures (minimum and maximum) in 2050s and the selected accessions from those areas.

Maps showing areas with similar temperatures (minimum and maximum) in 2050’s and the selected accessions from those areas.

Maps showing areas with similar temperatures (minimum and maximum) in 2050’s and the selected accessions from those areas.








For further information about capacity building for resilient seed systems visit

2016 Course on genetic resources conservation and use

You can now apply for fellowships for the training programme ‘Contemporary approaches to genetic resources conservation and use:  Plant genetic resources strategies and policies’, Wageningen, the Netherlands (04  – 22 April 2016). Deadline for fellowship application from the Netherlands Fellowship Programme is: October 20, 2015.

In many parts of the world a relatively small number of high-yielding uniform crop varieties have replaced the many farmers’ varieties. Various participatory programmes have been developed to support farmers in maintaining genetic diversity in their fields. Gene banks have been established to conserve genetic diversity, and to study and use the properties contained in their collections. Building on these components, this course is devoted to analysing plant genetic resources management strategies and policies and their impact on conservation and use. It further aims to support policymakers and other stakeholders in the implementation of International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (IT-PGRFA).

The training focuses on the following major three blocks:

  • Contemporary concepts and strategies regarding the conservation and use of plant genetic resources; , participatory plant breeding methods, the role of documentation, and the opportunities for biotechnology applications.
  • Genetic resource policy and management strategies. The history and contents of international agreements, in particular the CBD, IT-PGRFA, the WTO-TRIPS and UPOV, and the new Nagoya Protocol.
  • Implementation of International Treaty with emphasis on Multilateral System, the interpretations and role of the Standard Material Transfer Agreement, the Funding Strategy and aspects of Farmers Rights.

Deadline for fellowship application from the Netherlands Fellowship Programme is: October 20, 2015 through Fellowships for Short Courses in the ATLAS register. Please take note of the changed procedure (you no longer have to visit the nearest Netherlands Embassy to apply), which is now done online. The online registration may take some time; please consult the CDI application procedures, and visit the FAQs section. Simultaneously apply online at CDI; the procedure is explained in the links above.

For more information: Abishkar Subedi, PhD, Course coordinator, Senior advisor, Genetic Resources and Seed Systems, Centre for Development Innovation, Wageningen UR, the Netherlands. E-mail


Making access and benefit sharing work for family farmers and agroecology


In a forthcoming special issue of the magazine “Farming Matters,” ILEIA in collaboration with Bioversity will explore if and how access and benefit sharing related to plant genetic resources can work for family farmers and agroecology. The publication will primarily be based on experiences of family farmers from around the world and aims to inform farmers and practitioners, researchers, civil society, and policy makers. It will be published in collaboration with Bioversity International. Topics of interest include: linking ABS issues with  in-situ agricultural diversity  conservation and use, dynamic partnerships and projects linking in situ and ex situ conservation and sustainable use,  promotion of  farmers’ and indigenous peoples’ access to genetic resources and know-how, use of community protocols for ABS, management of biocultural landscapes, biopiracy prevention, promotion and recognition of farmers and indigenous peoples in natural resource management decision-making, climate change adaptation, poverty alleviation, training of farmers to take advantage of the ITPGRFA, and participatory plant breeding.

For the full text of the call, see the web announcement here or at

We encourage you to submit an article together with research partners!

Participatory research and capacity building: climate resilience and seeds in Zimbabwe

By Gloria Otieno, Bioversity International and Patrick Kasasa, Community Technology Development Trust

Photos by:  Tinashe Sithole, Community Technology Development Trust

Assessing local diversity in the Chibika Community seedbank, Zimbabwe

Assessing local diversity in the Chibika Community seedbank, Zimbabwe

Global climate change raises major concerns for developing countries. According to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) What’s in it for Africa? Africa’s climate is changing and the impacts are already being felt. Southern Africa has experienced an increase in annual average, maximum and minimum temperatures. The most significant warming has been during the last two decades. Minimum temperatures have risen more rapidly compared to maximum temperatures over inland southern Africa. In Zimbabwe and Zambia there have been modest decreases in rainfall. Seasonal rainfall patterns, such as the onset and duration of rains, frequency of dry spells and intensity of rainfall have changed. More frequent dry spells, coupled with more intense daily rainfall, over a shorter period of time have seen a shortening of the growing season. For example in some districts of Zimbabwe, research and meteorological reports indicate that the rainy days have reduced from 32 days to 28 days in a span of two years. The impact of this will be largely felt in the agricultural sector where climate change is likely to affect agricultural output leading to food insecurity and loss of livelihoods for rural farmers. One of the longer term adaptation strategies is to identify germplasm that is suited and adaptable to the changing climate both at present and in the future.

Participatory exercise in the Uzumba-Maranga–Pfumbwe district of Zimbabwe.

Participatory exercise in the Uzumba-Maranga–Pfumbwe district of Zimbabwe.

In view of this, Bioversity International, in collaboration with the Community Technology Development Trust of Zimbabwe (CTDT), organized a training workshop, in Harare, 11-15 May 2015, on resilience seed systems and adaptation to climate change, bringing together more than 20 scientists, breeders, GIS specialists, climate change specialists and extension workers. At the workshop, participants learned GIS and climate modelling techniques to identify climate challenges in selected communities in the Uzumba-Maranga–Pfumbwe (UMP) and Tsholotsho districts in Zimbabwe and further identify germplasm that could be used in the future. Participants also visited a community seedbank in UMP and conducted participatory exercises to identify climate challenges; assess local diversity within the community and determine whether these meet their needs; and identify traits that they need for present and future climate change adaptation.

Figure 2: Map showing areas with similar temperatures (minimum and maximum) in 2050 and the selected accessions from those areas (using DIVA-GIS crop suitability modelling).

Figure 2: Map showing areas with similar temperatures (minimum and maximum) in 2050 and the selected accessions from those areas (using DIVA-GIS crop suitability modelling).

Results from the exercises reveal that these communities are facing increased minimum and maximum temperatures and shorter rainy days. An analysis of 2050 climate using one climate model – DIVA-GIS crop suitability modelling – also reveals that mean, minimum and maximum temperatures will increase and although rainfall will increase slightly, it is likely to be more erratic with shorter rainy days (see Figure 2). Farmers identified the following traits, in order of importance, as some of the characteristics that they would want to see in a variety being bred for future climates: 1) early maturing; 2) high yielding and 3) resistant to pests and diseases.
By looking at accessions from national genebanks and international sources such as GENESYS (global portal to information about Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture), the group identified accessions of finger millet, sorghum and pearl millet which will now be tested with farmers.

Participants in the training workshop on resilience seed systems and adaptation to climate change, 11-15 May 2015, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Participants in the training workshop on resilience seed systems and adaptation to climate change, 11-15 May 2015, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Community seedbank secrets revealed in a new book

New publication: Community Seed Banks – Origins, Evolution and Prospects.

Community Seed Banks - Origins, Evolution and Prospects

Community Seed Banks – Origins, Evolution and Prospects

We are pleased to announce the publication of a new book by Earthscan/Routledge in association with Bioversity International  Community Seed Banks – Origins, Evolution and Prospects which provides for the first time a global review of the development of community seedbanks, including a wide range of case studies.

Found all around the world, from Guatemala to Uganda and Nepal, community seedbanks play an important role in maintaining seeds and making them available to local communities.

The story of their establishment, their evolution and sustainability in almost 30 years of existence is varied and fascinating. Some seedbanks were established to face the loss of local seed supplies after a famine, drought or flood. Others were established because farmers did not have any reliable source of good quality seed. Some others were initiated to maintain and use healthy and pure seed lines resulting from participatory crop improvement efforts.

Read more on the Bioversity web site and blog by Ronnie Vernooy on the Earthscan/Routledge web site.

We have some copies available, for free, for libraries, research and farmers’ organziations and community seed banks in developing countries. Please contact bio-policy[at] to request a copy. Remember to provide a full mailing address.

Farmers’ seed systems -report of an experts meeting organized by GIZ

On June 4, 2014, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) organized an expert talk about farmers’ seed systems in Bonn, Germany. A number of researchers presented their views on current trends and challenges of farmers’ seed systems. One of the topics presented was community seed banks. A report of the meeting is now available:

This publication aims to contribute to the ongoing discussion in Germany about the role of seeds in agrobiodiversity conservation and food security. For more information, contact: Alberto Camacho-Henriquez at GIZ, <>.




Primer for national focal points of the Treaty and Nagoya Protocol

New publication: Mutually supportive implementation of the Plant Treaty and the Nagoya Protocol. A primer for national focal points and other stakeholders.

This discussion draft is based upon a structured set of interactions – a survey, a workshop, held 3-6 June 2014 and follow-up analysis – involving ‘tandems’ (the national focal points for the Nagoya Protocol (NP) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) from a single country working together as a team) and independent experts and stakeholders whose daily activities are effected by access and benefit-sharing (ABS) regulations.  We hope this document will provide national policy actors with a tool to increase their ability and confidence to implement the CBD/NP and ITPGRFA/multilateral system of access and benefit-sharing in mutually supportive ways.

The final version will be published later in 2015.  We invite you to send comments to Michael Halewood, corresponding editor (

The publication is now available from Bioversity International. Presentations made at the tandem workshop are available here. Continue reading