Safeguarding community seed diversity in Central AmericaNovember 4, 2019
“We are saving and protecting our native agrobiodiversity.”
With biodiversity declining at a tremendous rate, it will take everyone working together to safeguard what is left. For community seed banks across Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala, 2019 has been a year of breakthrough collaborations with national genebanks to do just that.
These partnerships will not only ensure the long-term protection of local seed varieties – they also recognize farmers’ crucial role in the conservation of plant genetic diversity.
Read below about the milestones the farmers and partners we work with have reached this year.
Over the course of the 2018 and 2019, our partner organization in Guatemala delivered hundreds of samples of local seeds to the country’s national genebank.
With SeedChange support, our partner, Asociación de Organizaciones de los Cuchumatanes (ASOCUCH), works with the family farmers who grew, stewarded and saved these seed samples. Now, in addition to being saved in community seed banks and grown by farmers, these seed varieties will be stored at Guatemala’s Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology (Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnología Agrícolas, ICTA).
“We are entrusting the wealth and heritage of our people – the results of generations of our seeds – to ICTA because we are saving and protecting our native agrobiodiversity,” said Feliciano Pérez, a farmer leader who works with ASOCUCH. He spoke at a ceremony celebrating the first delivery of 293 varities, including 100 maize varieties.
“Today is a special day for the farmers and leaders of the Indigenous peoples of Huehuetenango,” he added.
For ASOCUCH, this has been an “incalculable achievement and contribution to communities’ climate resilience strategies.” Keeping seed samples at ICTA gives communities a safehouse where their treasured local biodiversity will remain safe and available to them in the event of climate disasters.
This collaboration between the national genebank and the community-based, farmer-led seed banks was made possible through the hard work of countless local farmers and the united efforts of ICTA, ASOCUCH, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Fundación para la Innovación Tecnológica Agropecuaria y Forestal (FUNDIT), and others.
This July, our partner in Nicaragua, Federación de Cooperativas para el Desarrollo (Federation of Cooperatives for Development, FECODESA), delivered 166 local seed varieties to the country’s national genebank.
All these varieties will continue to be grown, shared and saved in the communities they came from. But the seeds stored in the genebank, located in the National Centre for Basic Grain Research (Centro Nacional de Investigación en Granos Básicos, CNIAB-INTA) at the Nicaraguan Institute of Agricultural Technology (Instituto Nicaragüense de Tecnología Agropecuaria, INTA), will be available to farmers’ organizations in the event of catastrophic losses due to climate change.
Saving these seeds in the national genebank is a huge milestone in FECODESA’s long-term biodiversity conservation strategy. By working with farmers, community seed banks, and national genebanks, seeds remain accessible to farmers, while also stored for safekeeping in case of disaster.
Through the seed bank at the Centre of Cooperatives of Pueblo Nuevo (Central de Cooperativas de Pueblo Nuevo), FECODESA continues to ensure renewal of these seed varieties to maintain viability and keep them adapting to changing environments. The seeds have also been shared with farmers through seed fairs, field days and community seed banks. The varieties include the broad genetic diversity essential for food security, with a range of sought-after characteristics including good taste, tolerance to climate stresses, and adaptation to low-input agriculture.
In Honduras, 2019 saw a new agreement between the community seed banks maintained by farmer research committees (CIALs), and the genebank of Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School.
This collaboration will help ensure the long-term safeguarding of legume and maize diversity held in the 13 CSBs with SeedChange support and five CSBs supported by FIPAH’s national partner Program for Rural Reconstruction (PRR).
The samples are set to be delivered in December 2019.
This work in Central America has been strengthened through collaboration and support from:
- the Mesoamerican Collaborative Participatory Plant Breeding Program (FPMA);
- the Project for sustainable use of maize, beans and under-utilized species agrobiodiversity in Indigenous communities of Central America: A strategy for food security and climate adaptation, funded by the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture Benefit-sharing Fund;
- the Norwegian Development Fund (Utviklingsfondet);
- and SeedChange (formerly USC Canada).