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REFRESHER TRAINING ON COMMUNITY SEED BANKING



Facilitators: Abishkar Subedi (WUR-WCDI), Arnab Gupta (WUR-WCDI), Ronnie Vernooy (Alliance)


Participants: 17 trainees of the TMT+ Seeds and ICP Horti Seeds courses

Under the umbrella of the Food and Nutrition Security Resilience Programme (FNS-REPRO), and based on demand from trainees, the following activities were organized.


ACTIVITY 1: Group consultation about community seed banks in protracted crisis situations.

27 April: 9.30-11.00 am Central European Time / South Sudan and Sudan Time. Somaliland Time: 10.30-12.00.


Based on the insights gained from the capacity-building project in the Horn of Africa supported by NUFFIC, it has become evident that establishing and supporting community seed banks in the Horn of Africa is not the same as elsewhere. This is due to the conflict situation that is causing insecurity, stress, distrust, and, at times, aggressivity.

In this session, participants working with community seed banks shared their experiences by answering the following questions: What has been achieved? What proved difficult? How did the process of establishment and initial support go? What did you or will you do to manage risks in the process? Do you think that a community seed bank be instrumental in reducing conflict? Insights were documented and the group worked on a brief about this topic, addressing the following: Site selection: where to establish a community seed bank? Membership and decision-making: whom to invite? How many? How to create a group that functions well and in harmony? Infrastructure and equipment: what is needed and how it will be managed? Seed management: which crops to focus on? Are you familiar with drought cycle management? Quantities: what are manageable amounts of seed? Technical support, collaboration and networking: what is needed and who can offer it? At what costs? Policy and legal context: favorable or hindering? Sustainability: how to maintain the community seed bank over time?


Citation: Vernooy, R., Gupta, A., Subedi, A., Ali Awed, D., Hassan Abdi, A., Saleban Jama, M., Eldie, Y., Jubarah, S., Swaka, S. 2023. Community seedbanks in protracted crisis situations: potential and challenges. Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation, Wageningen, the Netherlands; Bioversity International, Rome, Italy.





ACTIVITY 2: Refresher training in community seed banking

June 15: Seminar 1: Functions and services of a community seed bank in protracted crisis situations

  • Why a community seed bank?

  • What function(s) could it play? What service(s) could it deliver?

  • What is needed to operate a community seed bank effectively?


The seminar discussed two models of community seed banks - one managed by farmers in the communities and the other managed by universities or public research institutes the premises of the institution, either on behalf of farmers or as a kind of demonstration seed bank. The participants were divided in groups to discuss the purpose, decision-making process, main users, functions and services, opportunities, and challenges of each model.


Participants opinioned that community seed banks can play a crucial role in crisis situations. They have proven their capacity to respond to crises, improve household seed security, and contribute to peace-building efforts at the local level.


The seminar discussed the challenges and opportunities associated with community seed banks. Challenges include loss of genetic material, limited skills and knowledge of farmers, lack of machinery and other materials, and lack of income generation sources. Opportunities include restoring genetic material, improving local seed systems, protecting seeds from natural disasters, providing seed material for research, and preserving crop diversity.


The seminar concluded with a discussion on the need to establish linkages between the two models of community seed banks and how to do so. It was concluded that this topic will remain of high priority on the agenda of future community seed bank activities.


June 20: Seminar 2: Technical Management of a community seed bank

  • How best to select, prepare and store seeds? What are the challenges?

  • What kind of storage facility can be used?

  • What practices, tools and equipment can be used?

  • How to document activities and the seeds conserved, distributed, and multiplied?


The seminar offered a detailed explanation of seed storage practices and the importance of meticulous documentation. The primary focus was on the process of drying seeds and maintaining their dry state, a critical aspect of seed preservation.


Desiccants, substances that induce or sustain a state of dryness in their vicinity, play a crucial role in this process. They are placed in airtight containers with the seeds, where they absorb all the moisture. Once the desiccants have fulfilled their purpose, they are removed, and the containers are resealed. The desiccants are then regenerated, typically using an oven, ready for the next cycle of drying. The versatility of this process was also highlighted, demonstrating that it is not confined to small containers. Larger containers, such as drums, can also be utilized for bulk seed storage. Seeds are stored in mesh or cloth bags within these containers. After a week or so, these bags are removed and regenerated, having absorbed the moisture from the seeds, resulting in drier seeds ready for long-term storage.





Several types of containers are suitable for seed storage. Emphasis was placed on the use of locally available airtight containers, including large storage containers, plastic containers, and even repurposed Coca-Cola or Pepsi bottles. A crucial aspect of this storage method is the absence of an air gap, which restricts oxygen and maintains low moisture content, both critical factors in seed preservation.


Also discussed were the efficacies and economics of different types of seed storage facilities. These ranged from non-desiccated cold storages, which control temperature but not moisture, to high-end germplasm storages in gene banks, which control both temperature and relative humidity. However, the most optimal method for community seed banks was identified as dry or desiccated storage, which controls seed moisture content but not temperature. There are various types of desiccants including zeolite beads, silica gel, baked rice, and brick dust. The Zeolite desiccants can absorb around 20 to 30% of their dry weight in water, making them highly effective in the drying process.


The seminar concluded with a discussion on the importance of documentation in community seed banks. This includes maintaining a registration book, management book or cards, an accession appointment diary, and a movement book or duplicate book. These documents contain detailed information about each seed sample (or accessions) including the date of entry, type of material, crop, variety, source farmer, locality, known attributes, and location of safety duplicates. This meticulous documentation process ensures the traceability and accountability of every seed sample, contributing to the overall effectiveness and success of community seed banks.


June 22: Seminar 3: Organizational Management and Networking of a community seed bank

  • Who can be a member of a community seed bank? What are the principles, rules and regulations?

  • How to manage the daily operations of a community seed bank? Who should be involved and how?

  • Should the community seed bank build links with others? With whom, why and how?





The session elaborated on five key elements to manage a community seed bank effectively: good governance, (daily) management, members, storage facility, and enabling (policy, legal and institutional) environment. No prescriptions were given, but key questions to ask, which community seed bank members and the supporters should discuss and decide about. For example, the key questions for good governance are:


• Who are the members?

• Who are the leaders?

• What are the functions of the community seed bank?

• What needs to be organized?

• Who defines rules and regulations?

• Who monitors their implementation?

• Who intervenes if rules and regulations are not respected?

• How to keep the community seed bank up and running over time?


The topic of enabling environment was discussed through a review of relevant policies impacting on community seed bank and through a reflection on what could be beneficial forms of collaboration with government and non-government organizations, such as the national genebank, research and extension, and NGOs. In the last part of the session, factors that influence sustainability were briefly elaborated on. Participants working with community seed banks were asked to reflect on the question of beneficial relationships. Below are three responses.



 





Nimo Abdirahman and Bashir Ahmed, Somaliland


Three organizations to collaborate with:


· Agricultural Development Organization (local NGO): They train the farmers on seed storage, multiplication, sharing, and quality; build community seed banks and support the ongoing construction of other community seed banks.

· HAVOYOCO (local NGO): Works and supports to building community seed banks in Somaliland.

· Nugaal and Buroa Universities: Support the training of farmers and how to make their own seed bank.


Activities that could be organized together: awareness training of farmers and mobilization working together; train local farmers to establish a community seed bank in a simple way; promoting how to collect and store seeds.

Expected benefits: Group of farmers are working and producing different varieties of crop to be used as seed banks; minimize the cost that their spent to buying for seeds; short time to obtain seeds that they needed to cultivate; promoting and producing different crops to be used for the seed bank.


Solomon Swaka Kamilo, South Sudan


Organizations to collaborate:

· World Vision South Sudan: Training farmers in seed multiplication and linking farmers to buyers. Adaptive trial sites for improving local seeds.

· VSF-G and AAH-I: Construction of community seed bank in 5 counties. Training of the groups in seed multiplication.

Activities that could be organized together: Organizing meetings and mobilization of the farmers; training of the groups on community seed bank establishment; collection of the seeds to the community seed bank, and seed maintenance.

Expected benefits: Monitoring of the activities for community seed bank; construction of community seed bank; building the capacity of the groups for community seed bank; financial support to the community seed banks to buy containers for seed storage.


Yahia Eldie, Sudan


Three organizations to collaborate with:

· Ministry of Agriculture throughout its departments like agricultural services, seed administration, El Fasher Research Station, given their responsibility in seed production and certification for providing good quality seed to farmers.

· Ministry of Higher Education within their international work in breeding and seed research for new varieties that are suitable for prevailing conditions considering farmer needs.

· NGOs include international and national organizations working in the agricultural sectors and they could provide financial support for researchers for the development of required genetic materials.

Activities that could be organized together: We collectively could organize training and support for agricultural bodies or institutions as well as farmer communities to adopt the idea of engaging in collaborations and the formation of community seed banks.

Expected benefits: Safe time and money; enhance the farmers to aggregate into groups and make cooperative bodies; try to change farmers minds to participate in one way or another to reform our production systems; protect farmers’ rights.



Photo 1. Yahia Eldie presents his answers to the questions raised. Credit: Bioversity International/R. Vernooy


Acknowledgments


We acknowledge the support of the Food and Nutrition Security Resilience Programme (FNS-REPRO) South Sudan for the refresher training sessions. We thank Mustafe Abdillahi Abdi, ILSA project manager, Agricultural Development Organization (ADO), Burao, Somaliland, for feedback on the report.

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