Highlight: Community seed banking and farmer-led agrobiodiversity management in Timor-Leste

November 26, 2019

Community seed banks in Timor-Leste - this photo is an image of a basket full of multicoloured maize.


Local, or informal, seed systems in Timor-Leste are meeting 90 per cent of farmers’ seed needs by saving, growing and exchanging seeds within communities. However, this crucial seed system is in danger of breaking down, preventing farmers from accessing quality seeds. Community Seed Banks (CSBs) in villages in Timor-Leste serve to conserve local genetic resources and enhance access to diverse local crops and by extension support stronger food security.

Through CSBs, farming communities participate in the documentation and assessment of local crop varieties; produce quality local seeds; and conserve local varieties. Uncultivated, wild plants are also important to the CSB processes. Uncultivated wild plants hold great nutritive and economic value which can improve health and income conditions at the community level. Learn about the community seed banks in Timor-Leste that we support with our local partner organization, RAEBIA, in this program highlight.


Community seed banks are an important way to protect/conserve and support local seeds. They are also a key adaptation strategy in the face of climate chaos since crop failures may become more common and weather becomes more uncertain. The Timor-Leste – National Seed Policy (2013) and a Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF-TL) commissioned study in 2014, recommended establishing and supporting community seed banking systems to enhance the seed and food security of farming communities in Timor-Leste. 

CSBs under the RAEBIA program with financial and technical assistance from SeedChange have developed a process of systematic documentation and assessment of local cultivated crops and uncultivated foods. The CSBs are contributing to on-farm seed conservation and sustainable use of agrobiodiversity resources: field crops, vegetables and wild-forest collected foods. In the long-term, it is hoped that a network of community level CSBs would contribute to establishing a national seed system in Timor-Leste that integrates the informal farmer seed system into the formal system leading to enhanced seed security of smallholder farmers supported by a community seed banking system designed from the bottom up and based on community needs.

Program undertaken with the financial support of the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation.