Community managed seed system sowed seed of success in SAFBIN

Although community level seed-saving initiatives are not new, the Smallholder Adaptive Farming initiative (SAFBIN) considered this as one of the most vital elements to address the availability of good quality seed at their arm length. Community managed seed banks established in all program villages have enhanced the resilience of smallholder farmers of communities and households most affected by climate change by securing improved access and availability of diverse, locally adapted crops and varieties. This helps smallholder to restore related indigenous knowledge and skills in plant management including seed selection, treatment, storage, multiplication, and distribution.

Community seed banks are the source of local genetic diversity that is often adapted to prevailing climate conditions, including biotic stresses. They are very useful to contribute to community-based strategies for adaptation to climate change. However, community seed banks have received little attention in the literature related to climate change adaptation.

As climate change has a significant impact on agricultural production, growing local varieties, which have a high degree of genetic diversity is highly important because these varieties have the ability to better withstand and adapt to environmental stresses and changes. Community seed banks helped to preserve local seeds of the most adapted varieties for the region. The selection of the most suited varieties for a region was mutually done by the smallholder farmers collectives and district farmers forums flowed by trials with necessary technical support, but after the identification of best varieties, the community seed bank plays a very important role in maintaining the availability of good quality local seeds. Smallholder diversify their crops and varieties to reduces the risk of total production failures and contributes to strengthening family resilience.

Until now, SAFBIN has helped to establish 25 community seed banks and involved over 1374 most marginalised small farm families in all 25 villages of Mandla, Sagar & Vidisha districts of Madhya Pradesh. While conducting vulnerability assessment with all 72 smallholder farmers collectives, nearly 79 traditional crop varieties (inclusive of cereal, pulses, millets, oil seeds, vegetables etc.) were identified are restored through the community-managed seed banks.

Communities use their local knowledge to meet their communities’ food security, nutritional, medicinal, cultural and spiritual needs. The selection of the seeds as well as seed saving, storage and exchange are often based on knowledge, which have been tried and tested by them and allowed for continued innovation in plant breeding. Traditionally, it has been the role of women to preserve seed, as they were involved in the selection and deciding upon the quantity and variety of seeds to be stored. In this regard, our smallholder collective (SHFC) women members are playing a major role in the conservation of diversity at the farm level. Women SHFC members are more dependent on local systems, whereas men, in general are more involved in cultivation practices.

Community seed bank provides an opportunity for interaction and integration of traditional seed into an informal system for the promotion of linkages to back up genetic resources locally and as building blocks of crop improvement, food security and sustainable community development. Thanks to SAFBIN for enabling us as Seed Keeper. Says, Ramesh Bhallah, Smallholder farmer, Sagar

SAFBIN in line with SDG2, aims at sustainable local food production by implementing integrated farming system (IFS) to ensure farm production, Income, Nutrition, Resilience and Smallholder control and strengthening capacity of the targeted small farm families for adaptation to climate change.