Bioversity International's Seeds for Needs approach provides an effective and cost-efficient way improve and diversify smallholder seed systems through better information and access to a portfolio of adapted crops and varieties.
In 14 countries across Africa, Asia and Central America, more than 40,000 farmers have become citizen scientists evaluating and selecting varieties, providing critical feedback on the seeds that meet their needs.
Here are some highlights showing how the Seeds for Needs approach creates lasting solutions for resilience and climate change adaptation for smallholder farming communities at a global scale.
Partnerships and word-of-mouth have helped increase participation in the crowdsourcing trials from 30 to 15,000 farmers in just three years.
Using this information, Biodiversity International provided 31 varieties of seeds that performed better than farmers’ hybrids. This success was passed through word-of-mouth to other farmers, and from 2012 to 2015, the number of farmers participating in the trials increased from 30 to 15,000. To broaden the base of crops away from rice and wheat, Bioversity International also introduced varieties of pigeon pea, mustard seed, and other crops. Several community seedbanks have also been established in India, providing a platform for women’s empowerment as a number of the seedbanks are entirely run by local women.
Durum wheat is a very important crop in Ethiopia where 80% of the population works in agriculture. With increasing threats to durum wheat production from changes in the environment, breeders and scientists are turning back to Ethiopia's rich reservoir of durum wheat genetic diversity.
Through Seeds for Needs, hundreds of Ethiopian durum wheat landraces and several Ethiopian improved lines underwent extensive molecular and phenotypic characterization and in crowdsourcing trials, more than 20% of traditional Ethiopian wheat varieties performed better than commercially released varieties under marginal conditions. One farmer variety yielded 60 % more than the best commercial variety. Farmers have since increased their durum wheat yields and sustained yields, even in a drought year like 2016.
Results showed that Ethiopian durum wheat represents an important and mostly unexplored source of durum wheat diversity. As a result of crowdsourcing trials, in 2017, the Ethiopian government approved two new wheat varieties for distribution as officially approved seeds.
In Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, Bioversity International is working with local farmers to find local varieties of beans that can survive changing climatic conditions, following a severe drought in 2014.
In Nicaragua, Bioversity International tested a number of improved bean varieties from a national genebank. Crowdsourcing trials to propagate these beans jumped started with just 62 households in 2015 to 818 households just three months later. So far, 33 Farmer Field Schools have been implemented, in which leaders were trained in variety selection of beans. Nicaraguan farmers, many of whom are women, have learned about crop-breeding techniques with varieties of beans and how the growth of the beans correlates to changes in the environment. Through a successful crowdsourcing technique, Seeds for Needs has spread across Nicaragua.
In Honduras, scientists are encouraging farmers to play a local card game adapted to help them decided priorities when it comes to preferred traits for plant breeding.
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Farmers in Papua New Guinea have little or no access to improved varieties of important staples like taro and sweet potato.
Through the initiative, farmers have been exposed to at least 30 varieties, including those sourced from their own farms, and 850 taro and 1,300 sweet potato accessions (plant samples) characterized and evaluated for climate suitability