Community seed banks: concept and practice. Facilitator handbook.

Over three decades, a number of international and national organizations have provided technical and financial support to community seed banks around the world. To our knowledge, only a few of these organizations have developed and published a practical guide about how they have offered this support. LI-BIRD is one such organization, but their community seed bank guide is in the Nepali language. To fill this gap, we offer this handbook, which is based on our own experience, but also takes into consideration what other colleagues have accomplished to advance research and capacity development regarding community seed banks. The handbook is organized as a guide for facilitators — people who work in the field with farmers and their organizations on issues of seed conservation and sustainable use.

The methodological approach that we promote is based on participatory learning, where facilitators and learners interact actively, make use of their experience, and learn together. Lecturing is kept to a minimum. Most of the learning takes place through dynamic exercises in which learners are invited to use and reflect on their own experience and/or on the experience of others (captured in practical case studies, for example). These experiences can cover any aspect of agricultural and rural development that involves farmers. You can find the handbook here:

The handbook is organized in nine modules, as follows: Continue reading


Access and benefit sharing of genetic resources: special issue of Farming Matters

A new special issue of Farming Matters, produced in collaboration with Bioversity International, focuses on how access and benefit sharing of plant genetic resources can work for family farmers.Cover_access and benefit sharing

Crop diversity is essential for family farmers. It provides a cost-effective way to improve productivity, manage crop pests and diseases and adapt to climatic and other shocks. It also provides diverse, healthy and nutritious diets. Farmers have safeguarded this rich biodiversity through saving, using, exchanging and selling seed and planting material.

The rights of farmers to continue to do so are at the core of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources, an international agreement designed to facilitate the exchange of plant genetic resources. The Treaty also focuses on the right of farmers to participate in decision-making and in the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of plant genetic resources and the need to protect traditional knowledge relevant to these resources. The effective implementation of the Treaty and other access and benefit-sharing agreements, however, represents challenges.

This special issue of Farming Matters, produced in collaboration with Bioversity International, provides examples of formal and informal access and benefit-sharing systems from Costa Rica, Brazil, Iran, China, Rwanda, Uganda and many more countries. The issue also explores the interface between the formal and the informal systems and highlights creative access and benefit-sharing arrangements that are effective for family farmers.

You can download the special issue or one or more articles from the following sites:

Ronnie Vernooy



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


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, <>.