Community Seed Bank
Diversity is one of the main features of the nature and is the very basis of ecological stability. Diverse ecosystems give rise to diverse life forms and diverse cultures which are the basis of sustainability.
Communities all over the globe have cultivated knowledge and found ways to derive their livelihood from nature's bounty of diversity in both wild and domesticated forms.
India is home to an incredible diversity of both wild and cultivated crops. During and after the introduction of Green Revolution, the emphasis largely shifted to increase the grain yield - as a consequence, for e.g. only certain paddy and wheat varieties, those who were capable of giving high yields in response to the application of agrochemicals were selected and promoted. As a result genetic base narrowed down considerably and several traditional varieties are now at the verse of extinction.
To conserve the agro-biodiversity Navdanya started establishing community seed banks and identifying seed keepers / Seed producers in different agro-ecological zones of India. These community seed banks are a step towards the identification and conservation of important traditional seed varieties. These also help in orienting the agricultural community towards conserving and cultivating the important, highly nutritive traditional crops and varieties.
In the recent past Community seed banks in Navdanya working areas have helped conserve the traditional agro-biodiversity. These seed banks are being managed by the farming community itself.
Till date Navdanya has set up 120 community seed banks in 17 states of India in the last 26 years. Many seed banks are now running independent of Navdanya's support. Navdanya has also trained and created awareness amongst about 750,000 farmers in seed sovereignty, food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture over the past two decades, and helped setup the largest direct marketing, fair trade organic network in the country. We have also established a conservation and training center at village Ramgarh in Doon Valley, in Siquanderabad in U.P. and Balasore in Orissa.
More than 4000 rice varieties have been collected, saved and conserved by Navdanya in last 26 years. Forgotten food crops such as millets, pseudo-cereals and pulses have been conserved and promoted by Navdanya which were pushed out by the green revolution and expanding monocultures.
How Community Seed Bank functions
Group of farmers (mostly women) is organized to collect, multiply and exchange traditional seeds and indigenous knowledge based on them. Members of the community seed bank are responsible for conservation of indigenous crop varieties. Each farmer conserving Seeds is called as Seed Keeper.
The farmer members collect the seeds available in their village. The seed bank is provided with the initial supply of seeds by Navdanya, either from the farmers who are already cultivating them in surrounding villages or from the existing seed banks or farmers of similar agro-climatic regions.
Farmers who are interested in growing indigenous varieties are also given technical know-how on cultivation of these crops, raising seeds and pest management organically.
At the end of the season farmers return the seed with some additional amount (25%) that they borrowed from the seed bank.
These seeds are then given to other farmers in the next season to multiply and also to increase the number of member farmers.
Initially Navdanya helps community in running the seed bank, but with time the community takes over the management.