Earlier this fall, community seedbank representatives from around the world took centre stage at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO).
Community seedbanks serve to safeguard local crop varieties and secure the supply of seeds for local communities and play a critical role in food security everywhere, be it Italy, Ethiopia or Nepal. As he welcomed International Workshop on Community Seedbanks participants to FAO, René Castro-Salazar, Assistant Director-General for Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water Department of the FAO, rightly introduced them as "the treasure and repository of tradition knowledge, research and novelty in agriculture".
The event attracted a truly international and diverse crowd: almost 100 farmers, experts, academics, plant breeders and scientists from around the world gathered to exchange differing experiences between community seedbanks in 'the global South' and those in 'the global West'. Bioversity International's Genetic Resources Policy Specialist, Ronnie Vernooy, spoke at the event.
Conserving agricultural biodiversity, using it in a sustainable manner and protecting the rights of smallholder farmers were clear commonalities amongst the community seedbank representatives gathered at the workshop. All three of these topics are also key issues covered by the Plant Treaty under its Articles 5, 6 and 9, respectively.
The participants did, however, note a difference: seedbanks from the West were discovered to be more defined by their geographic location, whereas those from the global South are often more ‘communities of practice’ without necessarily sharing national identities.
The International Workshop on Community Seedbanks took place in Rome, Italy on September 22, 2017, and was co-organized by FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resource for Food and Agriculture, Bioversity International and the Italian Seeds Network Rete Semi Rurali. The outcomes of this workshop were presented during the Seventh Governing Body of the ITPGRFA in Kigali, Rwanda, in late October 2017, and will feed into a report to be published by the DIVERSIFOOD Project in 2018.
Photo: ©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto