Farmers and Community Seed Projects
Gene banks working with farmers and community seed projects can access resources through this page and learn about how Kew's 'Difficult' Seeds Project aims to support on-farm activities and address problems in seed handling and storage.
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) recognizes the importance of supporting the efforts of farmers and local and indigenous communities in the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.
The ‘Difficult’ Seeds Project Stakeholder Workshops found that countries varied in the extent to which gene banks were engaging with farmers: some were actively involving farmers in participatory evaluation of germplasm, and were providing training to farmer groups; others had no involvement at all. Workshop participants suggested ways in which gene banks could best support on-farm conservation activities:
- Provide training for farmer seed producers, key farmers, influential community members and/or extension staff about the processes that contribute to loss of seed viability. Gene banks should take on a monitoring approach after trainees are “sent back with knowledge”.
- Invite farmers to come to gene banks for planning meetings, training, etc.
- Reintroduce germplasm.
- Carry out participatory research with farmers on seed storage methods etc.
- Involve farmers in participatory variety selection and acknowledge their contribution.
- Implement public awareness campaigns on the importance of conserving agricultural biodiversity, e.g. focusing on cultural value, nutritional value, medicinal value, adaptation to low fertility, drought etc.
The Training Workshops of this project were designed to support and facilitate gene banks to engage with farmers. Each workshop included a 2-day mini-course for local farmers/community representatives of the host countries. Farmers benefited from the opportunity to meet other farmers and international gene bank technicians, and exchange seed handling experiences. They were able to discuss a broad range of problems affecting their ability to produce and save seeds, including at times of flooding and drought. International participants described to local farmers how farmers in their own countries dealt with particular seed handling issues.
Several gene bank participants mentioned that they would provide training and advice to farmers as a result of what they had learnt during the course. They suggested the development of simple visual templates that could be adapted for different countries/languages to educate/raise awareness about seed handling for farmers.
The following resources are a good starting point for developing locally-appropriate training materials for farmers, to help them address problems in seed handling and storage.
David, S. (1998). Producing Bean Seed: handbooks for small-scale bean producers. Network on Bean Research in Africa Occasional Publications Series No. 29, Handbook 1. CIAT, Kampala, Uganda.
Developed by CIAT for small-scale farmers interested in producing bean seed, this publication covers the whole process from the field to the seed store. The sections on drying, storage, measuring moisture content and storage are applicable to a wide range of species. The publication includes many nice line drawings, which are available on request from CIAT. This is also available in French, Chichewa (Malawi), Malagasy (Madagascar), Portuguese and Swahili.
Gregg, B.R. and van Gastel, A.J.G. (2000). Seed Production Manual for the Informal Sector (pdf). West African Seed Development Unit, Publication No. 4. GTZ/IITA.
This manual was produced by the GTZ/IITA West African Seed Development project to provide farmers/seed growers and extension workers with information about how to produce good quality seed without requiring great increases in production cost, or expensive or sophisticated equipment. It contains practical information on all aspects of seed production from planning a seed crop through to seed storage and germination testing, and includes a useful glossary of seed technology terms. Also available in French (pdf).
Sukprakarn, S., Juntakool, S., Huang, R., and Kalb, T. (2005). Saving Your Own Vegetable Seeds: a guide for farmers (pdf). AVRDC Publication No. 05-647. World Vegetable Center (AVRDC), Shanhua, Taiwan.
Developed by the World Vegetable Center to assist extension workers and farmers, this includes a short overview of seed production, drying and storage followed by guidelines for individual species. It has good colour photos including images of mature fruits.
Kindt, R., Lillesø, J.P.B., Mbora, A., Muriuki, J., Wambugu, C., Frost, W., Beniest, J., Aithal, A., Awimbo, J., Rao, S. and Holding-Anyonge, C. (2006). Tree Seeds for Farmers: a toolkit and reference source(pdf). World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Nairobi.
The Toolkit was developed by ICRAF to provide resources for extension and training activities about the sustainable production and distribution of agroforestry seed and seedlings. It is structured around a list of questions covering strategic, technical and business aspects of tree seeds, with short summary answers leading to more detailed information. There are some nice colour images. Also available in Spanish.
Cambodian Department of Forestry and Wildlife (English translation by Y. Phirom with editing by S. Burgess ) (2003). Farmers Tree Planting Manual (pdf). Supported by: Danida-Cambodia Tree Seed Project (CTSP), DFW, and GTZ-CGFP.
The chapter on tree planting techniques covers seed collection, drying and storage. There are many nice line drawings in this publication. Also available in Khmer (pdf).
Bjoernsen Gurung, A. (2003). Experiments in Store: participatory action research with women farmers of Nepal (pdf). BeraterInnen News 1/2003. AGRIDEA, Switzerland.
This is an account of participatory action research on seed storage methods with women farmers in Nepal.
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