Community managed seed banks are crucial for ensuring Seed and Thus, Food Security

The Green Revolution shifted the focus of Indian agriculture away from biodiversity to increased yield. With the modernization of agriculture, agricultural practices and cropping patterns changed and genetic diversity started getting lost. As a result, the genetic base of traditional seed varieties reduced considerably and several traditional seed varieties are now facing extinction. These varieties were inherently more compatible with local farming conditions, economically practical and environmentally sustainable than the high yielding varieties being used today. They were also more resistant to pests, diseases, droughts and floods.

Seed saving is a practice that farmers and their families are engaged in since ages. It has allowed them to cultivate a large number of different local varieties, which have been able to adapt to different environmental conditions and changes, such as shortage of water, strong winds, limited soil nutrients and so on. Although seeds can be saved at their level but that may not be enough to ensure diversity at the local level. In this regard, community seed banks can help farmers to access seeds to grow crops during the next planting season or they can be used as an emergency seed supply when their crops are damaged and destroyed due to various reasons.

Smallholder Adaptive Farming and Biodiversity Network (SAFBIN) has initiated Community Managed Seed Banks (CMSB) in its operational areas. The primary purpose of the CMSB is to ensure the required seeds along with other farm inputs to smallholders during any disasters or in need. During the present COVID-19 Pandemic, these CMSB has played a crucial role in ensuring essential farm inputs by providing ten types of 874Kgs local seeds to 225 smallholders who unable to get any seeds from any other sources. Through these seed bank, SAFBIN team has enabled progressive smallholders to ensure farmers to farmers sharing on the entire concept and principles of the CMSB while maintaining all precautions and protocols like social distancing, use of mask while interacting with others.

“So happy to receive 5kgs of Black gram seeds from our community seed bank. Truly speaking, Covid-19 Pandemic has brought back the importance and role of the community seed bank in local food security”, says Gajadhar Yadav, one of the smallholders of Vanpura Shared.

Community seed banks help smallholders to preserve seed of the most adapted varieties for the region. The community seed bank plays a very important role in maintaining the availability of quality seed. Seed diversity has enhanced, and additional income is generated when seeds are exchanged or sold to neighbouring farmers/ communities. Diversification of crops and varieties is also highly important in terms of smallholder’s food security because it reduces the risk of total production failures and contributes in strengthening the communities’ resilience.

Seed banks act as farmers’ savings for future planting. Community seed banks are crucial for ensuring seed and thus food security: without seeds, farmers are not able to grow crops. Especially for resource-poor farmers, in particular women, the local seed system offers the main supply of seeds along with other farm inputs.

Ratna Adivashi, one of the smallholders of Beela shares that, “It was beyond my imagination that, we could easily get 3kgs of jowar millets (seeds) from our community seed bank. It was even not required for me to go to purchase the costly ones. Now I understand the importance of seed bank. Yes, it has helped us in many ways”.

The concept of SAFBIN form of CMSB was evolved in smallholder farmers’ collective meeting, where smallholders have been utilising this platform as an opportunity to discuss, share experiences and exchange their learnings in a regular basis. This has widely accepted by the smallholders and with their initiative 25, CMSB has been established in its operational areas. The entire management of the CMSB is maintained by the smallholder farmers collectives in coordination with the SAFBIN teams supported by Caritas India and her partner MVSS.