Skip to main content

In mid-2006, the National Seed Board of Nepal approved a rice variety called ‘Pokhareli Jethobudho’, improved through participatory plant breeding.

For the first time in Nepal’s history, farmers were given intellectual ownership of a traditional variety. “Getting to this point was the result of a great collaborative effort involving farmers, NGOs, NARS, extension workers and the private sector, with support from Bioversity,” says Bhuwon Sthapit, a Bioversity scientist and one of the coordinators of the project.

In 1999, various stakeholders started a participatory selection process in the Pokhara valley in Nepal with the objective of improving a local rice variety known as ‘Jethobudho’. Many farmers cultivate ‘Jethobudho’ on relatively large plots as its quality traits, such as aroma, taste, softness and other cooking properties are highly valued despite the variety’s susceptibility to lodging, diseases and its low yield. In addition, production of ‘Jethobudho’ does not meet demand, which pushes up its price. In many areas of the valley, the crop is sold even before harvest.

The project started by collecting 338 samples of ‘Jethobudho’ from farmers in the area. These were grown side by side for 3 years and assessed by the farmers and other team members. That whittled the number down to 46.

These were assessed again for so-called post-harvest traits, most notably: did they smell, taste and feel right? Six lines were chosen as the ’authentic’ ‘Jethobudho’. A mixture of the six lines constitutes the new variety, ‘Pokhareli Jethobudho’.

Seed producers sow a mixture of the six as their foundation stock, the harvest of which is sold to others farmers to grow for food. As Sthapit explains, “This approach maintains the diversity within the ‘Jethobudho’ population and helps in coping with the vulnerability created by crop uniformity.” Most importantly, the selected ‘Pokhareli Jethobudho’ meets the farmers’ expressed needs: they recorded grain yields of up to 3.35 tonnes per hectare, as against 2.4 tonnes per hectare in 1999 before the selection started.

That’s the research side of the story: farmers and scientists joining forces to improve an old landrace. Commercializing it brings in the policy experts. Nepalese seed law is complex. While the Nepalese Seed Act allows anyone to apply for variety registration and release, the National Seed Board requires the applicant to have at least an MSc degree and to have a breeding infrastructure that meets a number of stringent criteria. That makes it effectively impossible for farmers to apply for registration for their varieties.

The project set up Fewa Seed Producers Group, a community-based seed production system to supply farming communities throughout the Pokhara valley. They also named the farmers who had maintained the six chosen lines as custodian farmers. The application for ‘Pokhareli Jethobudho’ was therefore submitted by the project in the name of all the stakeholders and specifically included the Fewa Seed Producers Group and the six named custodian farmers. It was approved in June 2006, recognizing farmers as co-owners of a new variety for the first time in Nepal’s history. 

News

Going against nature

In his latest blog, Juan Lucas Restrepo talks about the importance of identifying collective solutions to diversify our agriculture and thus fight...

Read more

New Index outlines agrobiodiversity’s role in food system sustainability

The Agrobiodiversity Index is an innovative tool to calculate how well countries are conserving and using their agricultural biodiversity. The first...

Read more

Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Production Landscapes

The recently released 'Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Production Landscapes' features Bioversity International's contributions to supporting...

Read more

Finger millet is one of the crops covered under the Plant Treaty’s Multilateral System for Access and Benefit Sharing. Credit: Bioversity International/Y.Wachira

A decision-making tool for countries to implement the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit Sharing

Many countries seek assistance in developing the necessary institutional, legal, policy and administrative mechanisms to implement the Plant Treaty’s...

Read more

How to develop and manage your own community seedbank

Ronnie Vernooy, Genetic Resources Policy Specialist, Bioversity International, reports on a new handbook for farmers who want to establish or...

Read more

Ann Tutwiler, Director General, Bioversity International

Looking beyond national borders to adapt farming systems to climate change

As the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP23) draws to a close in Bonn, Ann Tutwiler explains how adapting farming systems to climate change may...

Read more

Community seedbank workshop unites representatives from around the world

Earlier this fall, International Workshop on Community Seedbanks attracted a truly international and diverse crowd: almost 100 farmers, experts,...

Read more

Farmers learn about different bean and maize varieties at a seed fair in Saraguro, Ecuador. Credit: Bioversity International/J.Coronel

A fresh look at crop seeds for healthy diets

As we get ready for World Food Day, researcher Jacob van Etten reminds us that seeds are a central piece of our food systems, as the vehicles that...

Read more

Seed fair with smallholder farmers in Mutale, Limpopo Province, South Africa. This community has been earmarked by the government to set up a community seedbank. Credit: Bioversity International/R.Vernooy

Achieving complementarity between informal and formal seed systems

As a contribution to efforts towards achieving complementarity between the informal and formal seed systems, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research...

Read more

Madagascar crop. Please credit: D.Hunter/Bioversity

Mutually implementing the Nagoya Protocol and the Plant Treaty in Madagascar

A Darwin Initiative funded project coordinated by Bioversity International in Madagascar and Benin has communities devising personalized investment...

Read more