Bioversity International: research for development in agricultural and tree biodiversity

Community seedbanks: securing diversity for climate change adaptation

25 May 2017

Bioversity International’s policy scientist Ronnie Vernooy explains to Degrees of Latitude why community seedbanks are important for farming systems’ resilience, and how they can be supported.

Community seedbanks are an invaluable tool to maintain local crop diversity, and can enhance farming systems’ resilience by securing access to, and availability of, diverse, locally adapted crops and varieties. 

In a recent article on Degrees of Latitude, Bioversity International’s policy scientist Ronnie Vernooy points out that community seedbanks are not only conservation facilities: they also distribute seeds to farmers, who plant them in the field and then select the best ones – those more adapted to changing conditions, for example. A part of those seeds goes back to the community seedbanks and the next year the cycle continues. Compared to genebanks – which focus mainly on major food crops – community seedbanks tend to conserve all the diversity farmers have in their fields, including minor crops, neglected varieties, medicinal plants, wild relatives and even trees. These species are particularly important in marginal areas, where conditions are harsh and there are no options for expensive external inputs.

Strengthening community seedbanks requires not only technical and financial support but also an enabling policy and legal environment. In many countries, apart from a few like Bhutan, Nepal, Uganda, South Africa and Brazil, “there is no or little recognition of and support for community seedbanks …, [and] farmers are not allowed to sell farm-saved seed. In others, legislation to protect farmers’ genetic resources is lacking,” says Vernooy.  

To find out more about the role of community seedbanks and how they can be strengthened and supported, read the full article ‘Community seedbanks: securing diversity for climate change adaptation’ on Degrees of Latitude.


Photo: Seeds of pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan). Credit: Bioversity International/S.Landersz