Community seed banks in Nepal

Community gene/seed banks first appeared toward the end of the 1980s established with the support of international and national non-government organizations. Countries that pioneered various types of community gene/seed banks include Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, Nepal, Brazil. In the North, a particular type of community gene/seed banks emerged known as seed savers network. Pioneering seed savers networks were established in the USA, Australia, Canada and the UK. Over time the number of all kinds of gene/seed banks has grown.

In Nepal, for example, there are now more than one hundred self-described community seed banks. A first national workshop on community seed banks was organized from 14 to 15 June 2012 with the aim to bring community seed bank practitioners together to develop a common understanding on the concept (and practices), elaborate a typology in the Nepalese context, and identify future activities. Other specific objectives were: to review the working modalities of community seed banks in Nepal, explore ex situ and in situ links and related policy issues; identify challenges and opportunities of community seed banks, and to promote future collaboration and networking among relevant organizations in Nepal.

The workshop brought together about 40 farmers, NGO/INGO staffs, high level government officials and scientists from Bioversity International. In the workshop, community seed bank practitioners shared their experiences and lessons learned. The workshop report summarizes the main issues discussed.



Launch of Mesoamerican PGRFA and climate change project

By Gea Galluzzi, Bioversity International, Cali, Colombia

One of the new projects approved by the ITPGRFA’s Benefit Sharing Fund aims to contribute to the formulation of a participatory and science-based strategic Action Plan to strengthen the conservation of plant genetic resources and their enhanced use in adapting to climate change in Mesoamerica. Mesoamerica is the region from the south of Mexico to Panama. It will be one of the worst affected regions by climate change (figures 1 and 2) and it is one of the cradles of crop domestication, including of globally important crops (maize, beans).

Figure 1. Top, expected percentage changes in annual rainfall by 2050. Figure 2. Below, expected changes in annual mean temperature by 2050. Maps: Bioversity International; data from Worldclim future downscaled GCM models CCCMA, HADCM3, and CSIRO under emission scenario A2.

The treasure of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) that the region holds is a potential source for adaptation for agro-ecoystems around the world (figure 3; relevant crop gene pools listed below). However, in order to realize this potential, regional PGRFA conservation and use need to be strengthened and integrated in wider policy agendas on climate change adaptation, disaster preparedness and food security.

Figure 3. Global relevance of the crops within the target genepools. Darker colours indicate areas of higher dependence on these crops. Map: Bioversity International; data from Monfreda et al., 2008.

The new project will support the design of a regional action plan for directing investments in climate relevant PGRFA research,  implementing PGRFA policies (especially those related to the ITPGRFA and its Multilateral System), and for integrating PGRFA in the wider policy agendas. It will also serve as a framework for donor investments. Proposed activities include a thorough revision and systematization of existing data on the regional in situ and ex situconservation of 10 priority crop gene pools (priority in terms of diversity and importance for food production, among others), of existing climate data and of policies and plans in place in the genetic resources, food security and disaster preparedness areas. The 10 crop gene pools are and selected crops are: Zea (Maize), Phaseolus (Beans), Manihot (Cassava), Ipomoea (Sweet potato), Cucurbita (Squash), Amaranthus (Amaranth), Capsicum (Pepper), Carica (Papaya), Persea (Avocado),Tripsacum (Gamagrass).

Extensive consultations will involve a wide range of stakeholders (from farmer groups to policy makers) in all phases, from data analyses to Plan validation and endorsement. The project will be executed by Bioversity International through its Regional Office for the Americas.

GRPI 2 research planning workshop report

From May 2-4, 2012, the 8 country teams involved in the GRPI 2 project held an international workshop to discuss and plan research agendas on: policy actors and networks, germplasm flows and interdependence, technology transfer, and farmers’ involvement (supporting community seed banks). This report summarizes the outcomes of the workshop.


National inception workshop in Nepal

Report by Devendra Gauchan and Ronnie Vernooy, photos by Ronnie Vernooy

A one day national Genetic Resource Policy Initiative (GRPI) 2 inception workshop was jointly organized by the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD) and Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD)  with the  support of  Bioversity International on 18 June, 2012 at NARI-Hall, NARC, Kathmandu, Nepal. The workshop was attended by 65 participants representing government, NGOs, INGOs, farmer organizations, and Bioversity International. Presentations covered the ITPGRFA and its relevance for Nepal, results and insights from the first phase of the Genetic Resources Policy Initiative, the progress made to date by the phase 2 of the Genetic Resources Policy Initiative, a synthesis of the first national workshop on Community Seed Banks (held in Pokhara June 14-15), an update on the Nepalese Access and Benefit Sharing and the Plant Variety Protection / Farmers’ Rights bills, and commentary on the ITPGRFA by two farmer delegates and by staff of two non-government organizations. Presentations were followed by Question & Answers. Several journalists covered the workshop. They interviewed Devendra Gauchan and Madan Bhatta (NARC), who organized and facilitated the event, about the ITPGRFA and the project activities in Nepal.

Building on the results on the inception workshop, on June 19, the GRPI 2  National Project Management Committee met for one day to review the 5 core themes of the GRPI 2 project, discuss policy development and research activities and identify teams and leaders for each theme and sub-theme. Ronnie Vernooy (Bioversity International) presented the global overview of the GRPI 2 project and provided inputs on the implementation of core themes and sub-themes of the project.