Ensuring seed sovereignty of local farmers
August 2009; The country's first ever Community Seed Bank (CSB) was established in 2004 in Kachorwa village of Bara district with the support of the Agricultural Development and Conservation Society (ADCS) and the Loca l Initiatives for Biodiversity Research and Development (LI BIRD).
Managed and owned by the community, the seed bank was started with 54 locally endangered variety of seeds . In 2006, the UNDP Global Environment Facility (GEF)/ Small Grants Programme supported the construction of the 'seed bank building' which further helped the community to expand their business.
At present there are 80 varieties of seeds (rice, beans, lentil and barley) conserved and stored in the seed bank . Improved rice varieties have been developed with technical inputs from LI-BIRD. The seeds are stored under different earthen structures which are designed locally.
'Maintaining seeds in the seed bank is highly technical. Under traditional seed storage system, any seed cannot be stored for more than one year so for higher yield, every year the seeds need to be regenerated,' says Ramadhar Yadav, secretary of the ADCS.
Since its establishment, the seed bank has sold 23 tonnes of seeds of 13 varieties and earned a net profit of over Rs 140,000. The demand of seeds from neighbouring districts and neighbouring Indian villages is ever increasing.
The community has established a trust fund, also known as 'diversity fund' to strengthen diversity conservation in the private farms as well. The condition set for the farmers is that each member taking loan has to grow seeds of any one of the rare or endangered traditional variety. Till date a total amount of Rs. 414,000 has been disbursed to 150 members including 128 women members to run micro-enterprises. The project has ensured that small scale and marginalized farmers relying on traditional farming are given top priority while disbursing the loan without any collateral. However, after the harvest, the farmers are required to return 1.5 times of the seed volume they had originally borrowed from the seed bank. A participatory survey revealed that the return rate was 100% successful.
'The diversity fund has served dual purpose as it has provided livelihood to the local poor farmers and also helped to regenerate the local seed varieties, thus ensuring seed sovereignty of the local farmers', says Mr. Rup Narayan Prasad Yadav, President of the ADCS.