Earlier this year, Pitambar Shrestha, Ronnie Vernooy and Inger Haugsgjerd visited the east of Nepal to learn more about community seeds banks. Inger reports about the visit.
Story by Inger Haugsgjerd
In a small ward of the Village Development Committee (VDC) of Tamaphok in the eastern district of Sankhuwasabha , Nepal, we met a group of enthusiastic farmers and conservationists. A VDC is the lowest government administrative unit in Nepal. Despite new challenges constantly disturbing these farmers’ efforts to maintain and distribute seeds among the locals, they stick to the point.
In the VDC, there is already a Community Seed Bank (CSB) which was built four years ago with technical and financial support from LI-BIRD (Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development). LI-BIRD facilitated the initiation of a Biodiversity Community Development Committee (BCDC) at both ward and village level like they have done with 30 other BCDC’s in 16 of Nepal’s 75 districts. In the process of establishing the CSB, the BCDC gave each of the nine wards of Tamaphok the responsibility of conserving a certain type of crop. This work led to an unforeseen encouragement of the people in ward number five. The topography of the area and the size of the VDC hinder easy collection, management and distribution of seed in the Community Seed Bank and some community members have to walk five hours to reach it. To overcome these constraints and meet the needs of ward five, a handful of eager farmers started their own Community Seed Bank with some support from the VDC level BCDC. In the beginning, diversity kits of gourd, pea, chilly and beans were distributed to the members. The CSB preserves and distributes cereal and vegetable seeds. The Community Seed Bank is particularly important for the purpose of storing vegetables that freeze during winter in the VDC level CSB.
The CSB had to collect money from the farmers’ user groups of the ward before they received support from the BCDC. Doing this created a sense of ownership. This is probably one of the reasons why they do not just sit around, waiting for donors to drop money in their laps when difficulties appear. Due to recent road construction, the CSB lost a piece of land where they cultivated different varieties of medicinal plants and their seed storage facility. Now, one of the committee members is lending a piece of her land to the CSB for a new, temporary storage building. The community members in ward five are dedicated to find solutions not only for their own seed bank, but also for the VDC level Community Seed Bank. The District Agriculture Development Office (DADO) promised to give support and as a result, the small group of farmers received 300 jars for seed storage. Half of them were given to the VDC level Community Seed Bank. The DADO also contributed to the VDC level CSB with other inventory. LI-BIRD supported the CSB financially with a small amount of money which made it possible to construct a temporary storage facility. However, the bamboo building does not restrain the huge amounts of water this area receives during the monsoon nor does it keep the rats out.
Another reason for success in this community is thought to be the enthusiasm of the founder and previous president, Dilli Jimi. He recently handed over the leadership position to the women of the community to empower themselves. Manisha Jimi is now the president. An additional success factor is the stability of the community. The community members are all from the same ethnic group, Yakhha. This leads to very few disputes compared to communities with mixed ethnicity.