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Innovation Profile Published: Improved access to diversified seed systems for farmers

Joy Mugisha (Sheema, Uganda) in her diversity bean garden of 72 different varieties. Joy is a champion farmer seed saver and producer, and expert seed management trainer.(Photo: R. Vernooy/Bioversity International)

In this groundbreaking publication, CGIAR showcases its innovative efforts in East and Southern Africa, titled "Improved Access to Diversified Seed Systems for Farmers." Authors R. Vernooy, J. Adokorach, M. Fusire, A. Gupta, D. Kimani, D. Mitei, G. Munkombwe, A. Mushita, G. Otieno, and A. Subedi dive deep into the initiatives aimed at enhancing food security and farmer resilience through diverse, quality seed access. The profile highlights CGIAR's commitment to sustainable agriculture, focusing on climate-resilient seed solutions, agro-ecological farming, participatory crop selection, community seed banking, and seed policy development. The impact on crop yield, income stability, and community well-being underscores the crucial role of sustainable agriculture in addressing food insecurity and climate change challenges.

Community Seed Banks: Guardians of Diversity

At the heart of community seed banks lies a fundamental objective – the preservation of crop diversity. The seeds they house are not mere collections; they are the guardians of a rich genetic heritage that has evolved over generations to adapt to local environments. This diversity, often ignored by private sector and formal seed systems, holds the key to a resilient agricultural future.

Nature+ Initiative: Nurturing Agricultural Resilience

The Nature+ Initiative, championed by CGIAR and its contributing centers, takes a holistic approach to address the pressing challenges of climate change and food security in East and Southern Africa. Its primary goal is to enhance the impact of agricultural interventions through crop and variety diversification, agroforestry, and the utilization of minor crops and farmer varieties. However, to translate this vision into reality, the Nature+ Initiative recognizes the necessity of well-functioning seed systems.

The Imperative of Diversified Seed Systems

In a world marked by climate uncertainty and shifting agricultural landscapes, diversified seed systems are no longer a luxury but a necessity. These systems are designed to ensure that farmers have access to a broad spectrum of high-quality seeds, tailored to their specific needs and preferences. Here's how the Nature+ Initiative plans to make this happen:

  1. Agro-ecological Farming: The Nature+ Initiative advocates for farming practices that align with ecological principles, fostering sustainability and reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture. This approach supports the cultivation of diverse crops and varieties suited to local conditions.

  2. Participatory Crop Selection and Improvement: The active involvement of local communities in the selection and improvement of crops is a cornerstone of this initiative. By harnessing traditional knowledge and local expertise, farmers become key decision-makers in shaping their agricultural landscape.

  3. Community Seed Banking: A pivotal element of this innovation is the establishment and support of community seed banks. These local institutions act as reservoirs of genetic diversity, housing a wide range of seeds for various crops. Farmers can access these seeds to enhance crop resilience.

  4. Value Chain Development: The Nature+ Initiative recognizes the importance of integrating diverse crops and farmer varieties into local value chains. This not only ensures economic viability for farmers but also encourages the continued cultivation of unique varieties.

  5. Seed Policy Development: To sustain the impact of this initiative, the development of supportive seed policies is imperative. These policies should promote the free exchange of seeds, empower farmers, and protect local biodiversity.

Impact Areas and Global Targets

The Nature+ Initiative aligns with several CGIAR Impact Areas, collectively contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These include:

  • End poverty in all its forms everywhere (SDG 1)

  • Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems (SDG 15)

  • Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (SDG 13)

  • Promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth (SDG 8)

  • Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all (SDG 6)

  • Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls (SDG 5)

  • Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns (SDG 12)

The Evidence of Success: Validation in Uganda and Kenya

The readiness of the Nature+ Initiative is not mere speculation; it's rooted in tangible results. An impact study conducted in Uganda and Kenya has highlighted the substantial benefits brought to farmers through access to diverse seeds and well-functioning farmer-led seed systems. This evidence lends credence to the initiative's readiness and potential for broader implementation.

Conclusion: Crafting a Resilient Agricultural Future

As professionals and practitioners in the community seed bank field, you are at the forefront of a transformative movement. The Nature+ Initiative, with its emphasis on diversified seed systems, offers a blueprint for a resilient agricultural future. By conserving genetic diversity, empowering local communities, and embracing sustainable practices, this innovation paves the way for a more secure and sustainable food system.

The path ahead may be challenging, but the rewards are immeasurable. Together, we can nurture agricultural resilience, one seed at a time.

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