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


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

Crop diversification strategies for Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam

Presenting group work during workshop in Lao. Credit: Bioversity International/RVernooy

Presenting group work during workshop in Lao. Credit: Bioversity International/RVernooy

Ronnie Vernooy, Bioversity International and Vongvilay Vongkhamsao, National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute of Laos write about crop diversification strategies for Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, following a workshop held in Vientiane, Lao PDR, 2-3 October 2014.

The governments of Cambodia and Lao PDR have made strong commitments to integrate climate change mitigation and adaptation into their national and sectorial development policies and action plans. Vietnam has also started to address climate change adaptation at national and sub-national levels.

Governments in all three countries have identified a series of agriculture-based interventions as priorities to strengthen the resilience of smallholder farmers, most notably, crop diversification. How to practically implement effective policy measures that benefit smallholder farmers, however, remains a challenge. Research could help develop a number of pilot experiences at sub-national scale to test and assess promising measures.

Continue reading on the Bioversity website.


GRPI2 mid-term review workshop report available

GRPI2 mid term review workshop report

Report of the GRPI2 mid-term review workshop

The project “strengthening national capacities to implement the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture” (ITPGRFA) or GRPI2 recently underwent an external mid-term review. A workshop with the external evaluators and project partners from Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Uganda, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Bhutan, Nepal and University of Illinois at Chicago, was held at Bioversity International headquarters, Rome, 16-19 July 2013.

The report of the workshop is available from Bioversity International. It summarizes progress made by Bioversity and partners and proposes next steps in project implementation.

Some photos from the workshop (credit: E. Clancy/Bioversity International):

GRPI2 mid term review meeting GRPI2 mid term review meeting GRPI2 mid term review meeting GRPI2 mid term review meeting

Embracing diversity

Embracing diversity: inputs for a strategy to support community seedbanks in South Africa’s smallholder farming areas Report of field visits to Limpopo and Eastern Cape, is the result of the field mission carried out by Ronnie Vernooy and Bhuwon Sthapit of Bioversity International and Thabo Tjikana, Angeline Dibiloane, Nkat Maluleke and Tovhowani Mukoma of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Republic of South Africa in fulfillment of a grant provided by South Africa to Bioversity International to assist with the development of a policy strategy to support community seed banks. The announcement about the report can be found on the Bioversity International home page and at this link:

At the seedfair in Limpopo (photo: R. Vernooy)

At the seedfair in Limpopo (photo: R. Vernooy)

The International Treaty in the classroom

“Now, after the course, I feel like I know a lot about agricultural policies and laws. That will be very useful for me in my work back home.” (A course participant during the evaluation session on May 3, 2013)

Photo: Ronnie Vernooy

Photo: Ronnie Vernooy

From April 15-May 3, 2013, 27 professionals from 21 countries took part in the international course Contemporary approaches to genetic resources conservation and use organized by the Centre for Development Innovation of Wageningen University and Research Centre. During three weeks, they learned about and debated the merits of in situ and ex situ conservation strategies, conventional and participatory plant breeding approaches, practices of sustainable use and, notably, the relevance and impact of policies on conservation and use of plant genetic resources. Continue reading

New book – national experiences implementing the multilateral system of access and benefit sharing

The multilateral system of access and benefit sharing: case studies on implementation in Kenya, Morocco, Philippines and Peru.

The multilateral system of access and benefit sharing: case studies on implementation in Kenya, Morocco, Philippines and Peru.

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture entered into force in 2004. While a number of member countries have made considerable progress implementing its multilateral system of access and benefit sharing, others have clearly experienced challenges and delays. In this new book, experts from Kenya, Morocco, Philippines and Peru share their countries’ experiences in the ratification and implementation of the Treaty. The incentives to implement the multilateral system are numerous but so are the challenges. The book illustrates common challenges and identifies measures that could be adopted to advance implementation. We hope this is of value in the design of implementation strategies to benefit all users of plant genetic resources.

Read more and download the PDF.

New Paper – Malaysia’s Implementation of the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing

malaysia coverBioversity International and the Malaysian Agriculture Research and Development Institute are pleased to announce their co-publication of a paper by Professor Gurdial Singh Nijar, Executive Director of the Centre of Excellence for Biodiversity Law, Faculty of Law, University of Malaya.

Click here to access and download the paper. 

The paper analyzes issues related to the implementation of the multilateral system of access and benefit-sharing in Malaysia. One of the main issues considered in the paper is whether PGRFA collections held by parastatal organizations are ‘under the management and control’ of the Malaysian national government ‘and in the public domain’ and therefore automatically included in the multilateral system. The paper offers a framework for analysis that can be used in other countries in situations where the ‘under the management and control’ status of PGRFA is not clear.

The paper also analyzes the relationship of Malaysia’s approach to implementing the multilateral system of access and benefit-sharing under the ITPGRFA to other access and benefit sharing rules that are being considered pursuant to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Ultimately the paper suggests means by which the future CBD-ABS draft law can exempt the ongoing operation of the multilateral system from its scope.

For more information, you may visit a blog post from earlier this year about the national consultative workshop that was held in Kuala Lumpur as part of the process of developing this paper.

New book – Crop Genetic Resources as a Global Commons

Crop Genetic Resources as a Global Commons

Crop Genetic Resources as a Global Commons

We are very pleased to announce the publication of Crop Genetic Resources as a Global Commons: Challenges in International Law and Governance.

The book investigates how the collective pooling and management of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture can be supported through access and benefit sharing laws. Since the most important recent development in the field has been the creation of the multilateral system of access and benefit-sharing under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, many of the chapters in this book focus on that system.

The book analyzes a range of relevant background factors, including the impact of climate change on countries’ interdependence on plant genetic resources, germplasm flows in and out of international genebanks, crops specfic research programs, and countries as a whole. It considers the historical development and mechanics of the multilateral system of access and benefit sharing.  It provides space for leaders in the field to reflect on what has worked well, and where challenges remain in terms of the multilateral system’s performance as a central feature in a global system of collective action to conserve, and sustainably use plant genetic diversity, and equitably share benefits derived from that use. Finally, it identifies options for policy initiatives to further strengthen the support which the multilateral system provides the global crop commons.

Here is what some reviewers have said about the book so far.

“A rigorous, in-depth analysis of successful commons governance on a global scale has long been an under-researched, often overlooked and poorly understood area of study. Yet the critical importance collaborative management of global resources requires urgent attention. In this groundbreaking volume, Halewood, Noriega, and Louafi have assembled an international group of leading scholars and practitioners to systematically guide us through the complex terrain of crop genetic resources and agricultural biodiversity as global commons. The thoroughness of the analysis along with the lessons learned from practical applications will serve as indispensable tools for students of all types of global-commons resources.” – Charlotte Hess, co-editor with Elinor Ostrom of ‘Understanding Knowledge as a Commons’ and Associate Dean for Research, Collections, and Scholarly Communication for Syracuse University Library

“The preservation and enhancement of agrobiodiversity is of huge importance in a world that shall witness more disruptive climate shocks in the future, and in which food-deficit regions shall be increasingly dependent on food-surplus regions. This volume makes a strong case for governing plant genetic resources in ways that promote the evolution and conservation of agrobiodiversity, and to ensure that they are available to be used by all regions to adapt better to a changing environment. Yet, it is more than just another book about the governance of natural resources by the best experts in the field: it is also an indispensable tool to understand the future of agriculture in a world of dwindling resources and biodiversity loss.” – Olivier de Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food 

“These meticulous studies of the FAO Treaty are of major theoretical and empirical importance to scholars and practitioners seeking a workable, transnational regime to govern all genetic resources for research and benefit sharing under the evolving international legal framework.” – Jerome H. Reichman, Bunyan S. Womble Professor of Law, Duke Law School, USA

Over forty academics and practioners working in the field of agricultural biodiversity have contributed to 19 chapters.

More details about the book are available from Routledge.

This title is the fourth in the ‘Issues in Agricultural Biodiversity’ series co-published by Routledge and Bioversity International.

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

Fellowship on Practice and Policy on Commons

If you are interested in attending the forthcoming IASC2013 14th Global Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons on the “Commoners and the Changing Commons: Livelihoods, Environmental Security, and Shared Knowledge” (see our recent post) you may also be interested in the Prof. Elinor Ostrom International Fellowship on Practice and Policy on Commons which could cover your participation and presentation at the conference.

Deadline for application is 31 October 2012.  Apologies for the short notice.