Major cereal crops and vegetables currently have low yields, but there are significant prospects for increases through improved seed and soil fertility management practices. A large part of this yield gap results from a lack of knowledge, inadequate access to affordable improved technologies, extension services and markets due to weak public and private sector capacity to provide support services needed by small scale farmers.
The Nepal Seed and Fertilizer (NSAF) project facilitates sustainable increases in Nepal’s national crop productivity, income and household-level food and nutrition security, across 20 districts, including five earthquake-affected districts.
Nepal’s agriculture is mostly small-scale and subsistence-oriented, characterized by a mix of crop and livestock farming. The agriculture sector represents about one-third of the country’s gross domestic product and employs 75 percent of the labor force.
Over half of Nepal’s farms operate on less than half a hectare, with the majority unable to produce enough to meet their household food requirements for the whole year. Combined with an increasing urban population, it will not be possible for the country to meet future food demand without increased agricultural productivity and competitiveness of domestic production.
NSAF promotes the use of improved seeds and integrated soil fertility management technologies along with effective and efficient extension, including the use of digital and information and communications technologies. The project will specifically increase availability of technologies to improve productivity in cauliflower, lentils, maize, onions, rice and tomatoes. It will also build competitive seed and fertilizer systems that significantly expand seed production, marketing and distribution by enhancing the capacity of public and private sectors in seed and fertilizer value chains.
Challenges to seed access
“As the main host of this system, the platform is well designed and perfectly applicable to the needs of SQCC,” said Madan Thapa, Chief of SQCC, during the initial user tests held at his office. Thapa also expressed the potential of the platform to adapt to future needs.
Over 2,500 seed entrepreneurs engaged in production, processing and marketing of seeds in Nepal rely on public research centers to get early generation seeds of various crops, especially cereals, for subsequent seed multiplication.
“The contribution of community seed banks for conserving local varieties cannot be compared with any other work; agriculture research will be incomplete if we do not have local varieties.” – Dr. Krishna Kumar Mishra, Chief of the National Genebank
Community seed banks empower communities to manage their resources in sustainable ways, increasing food sovereignty and seed autonomy, while alleviating poverty. Women often play key roles in community seed banks as managers, entrepreneurs, and seed custodians — keeping seed diversity alive. Maintaining crop diversity on-farm not only supports their households in terms of food supply but also gives them satisfaction and community status. In some cases, it also allows them to earn incomes from selling seeds.
“The people had forgotten about many local varieties but thanks to our community seed banks, these seeds are available once again. People have learned the importance of cultivating these varieties. Knowledge and skills of seed production and seed handling have been increased and practices such as vermicompost and farmyard manure improvement technologies, which use less chemicals, have been promoted, leading to producing healthier food.” – Naramaya Karki, a member of the Shivagunj Community Seed Bank, Nepal
Nepali seed banks have joined forces to learn, share, and support each other beyond the community level. The recently formed and legally registered Community Seed Banks Association of Nepal (CSBAN) represents, promotes and defends the interests of all community seed banks in the country. It supports the production and marketing of local farmers’ varieties and facilitates access to seed technologies, equipment, and tools. With a growing realization among local and provincial governments of the importance of community seed banks, CSBAN is receiving national recognition for their contribution to promote conservation and use of agricultural biodiversity. This is based on the complementary functionality of community seed banks, which, together with the National Genebank, could constitute a national crop conservation system.
CSBAN has developed an online seed catalogue of local varieties available from its members and accessible through a novel mobile app called “Our Seed.” It has also developed a novel method to categorize community seed banks using a five-star classification system, which aims to value, reward and encourage community seed banks to develop their capacities.
CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security CCAFS
The research on seed commons in Nepal contributes to the CGIAR Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM), led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
“As the global community is called to re-examine its relationship to the natural world, one thing is certain: despite all our technological advances we are completely dependent on healthy and vibrant ecosystems for our water, food, medicines, clothes, fuel, shelter and energy, just to name a few.” — Convention on Biological Diversity on the occasion of the International Day for Biological Diversity