Community seed banks were established in Akole in January 2015 with the major objectives of collection and conservation of crop germplasm by establishing in-situ conservation centers, participatory varietal selection and community-level seed production of crop cultivars.
The objectives include marketing of seeds and grains of rice, hyacinth bean, local vegetables, besides training farmers for seed production, storage of seeds, and production of organic inputs. The area’s major crops are rice, hyacinth bean, finger millet, little millet and local vegetables. The seed banks were started with the support of Maharashtra Gene Bank Project.
The community seed banks are being operated through Kalsubai Parisar Biyane Samvardhan Samajik Sanstha, Akole in Ahmednagar district. It is an organization for conservation and management of crop cultivar diversity, registered in Akole administrative block of Ahmednagar district, under the Trust Act and having a 11-member committee.
A total of 2,250 active members including 2,000 women and 250 men, are involved in seed bank activities and out of that 615 members – 460 women and 45 men – are engaged in seed production of selected crop landraces.
The seed banks have 118 accessions of 40 crops, including 13 rice accessions, four horse gram, five cowpea, 18 hyacinth bean besides other pulses, oil seeds and local vegetables. Conservation of all this crop diversity is done by establishing 10 in-situ conservation centers spread across 20 villages and kitchen gardens.
Blending community knowledge and scientific approach has provided scope for selecting and promoting unique, worthy crop cultivars among the collected accessions. Seed production of selected crop cultivars was initiated under the technical guidance of experts from BAIF Development Research Foundation (BAIF).
The purification of collected germplasm is done with the active involvement of farmers. Unique crop cultivars are identified for promotion through participatory varietal selection by knowledgeable farmers, men, women and elderly persons. Since women are custodians of agrobiodiversity, the whole program is led by women seed savers.
Every year Kalsubai Sanstha organizes seed exhibitions, wild food festivals and exposure visits to conservation centers and seed banks, which have created a demand for seeds of crop cultivars. Demand for climate-resilient varieties like stress-tolerant and deep-water rice varieties, cultivars of hyacinth bean – like goadwal, kaduwal and horse gram, lentil as residual moisture crop is increasing over the years.
Community seed banks have been established at Kombhalne, Ekdare and Devgaon villages to ensure easy access to local farmers. Farmers interested in growing landraces in their fields can easily obtain quality seed from these seed banks.
Seed saver committee
A seed saver committee of 11 members has been formed by Kalsubai Biyane Samvardhan Samajik Sanstha to ensure quality seed production, management of seed exchange, establishing market linkages, in addition to organizing field trainings and exposure visits.
The seed saver committee has the authority to monitor seed plots for quality seed production. It is capable of managing in-situ conservation centers. Documents like accession register, seed procurement, seed sale and grain production records are maintained at the community seed bank by the seed saver committee.
Seed production is undertaken on farmers’ fields trained for seed production of specific crop and involved in a seed conservation program for a long time. The good quality seeds are supplied to farmers by Kalsubai Sanstha. The seed growers have to undertake all operations like sowing, inter cultivation, harvesting, threshing and storage.
Initially, BAIF supported the project and now the seed saver committee is helping farmers with seed production. BAIF has provided field training to farmers for quality seed production of different crops. Seed producer farmers are involved in participatory seed selection, seed exhibitions and exposure visits to in-situ conservation centers and seed plots.
Seed production and sale
Innovative crop cultivation practices like soil fertility, pest and disease management practices, System of Rice Intensification (SRI) improved cultivation methods, ridge and furrow method for millet, line sowing practice in pulses, organic input production techniques, etc. are adopted by farmers for enhancement of seed yield.
The produced seeds are deposited in community seed banks for further supply to farmers. After crop harvest and threshing, the seed samples are drawn from seed lots of individual farmers for quality assessment like seed germination and physical purity.
The seed saver committee self-certifies the quality of the produced seed. The quality seed of different crop cultivars are made available to farmers and the seed banks generate good income for seed producer farmers.
Seed procurement and sale prices are decided at Kalsubai Sanstha based on production, cleaning, marketing, promotion and transportation expenses. Before seed sowing season, seed melas are organized for the sale of seeds at the village level.
Marketing of seeds is done within the district through exhibitions, workshops, seed fairs and direct sale from the community seed bank and BAIF centers. Posters, video documentaries, presentations and BAIF website are used to spread information on the importance of indigenous crop cultivars, unique traits, grain yield, etc. which helps to develop market linkages for seeds and grains.
Vitthal Kauthale and Sanjay Patil are associated with BAIF. Views are personal.
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