Community Seed Bank: Ensuring farmers’ seed sovereignty

Community Seed Bank: Ensuring farmers’ seed sovereignty

Farmers in Bangladesh used to produce and preserve seeds. However, the current situation has changed. Farmers are losing control over the seeds. Nowadays, more than 90% of vegetable seeds and even rice seeds are controlled and supplied by private companies.

MTCP2 Bangladesh is trying to regain the control of seeds by forming groups of farmers and providing them training on quality seed production and preservation, supporting them to establish a Community Seed Bank, supporting them in their campaign and helping them in marketing their products locally. The seed bank will help the group members and the community to be self-reliant in seeds and it can be a source of additional income as well.

What MTCP2 Bangladesh is doing

MTCP2 Bangladesh has been working to ensure seed security for farmers by promoting an eco-friendly rice seeds production and preservation technology called Maria Model. Through MTCP2, 14 seed-producing groups have been formed and were given training and technical support, which is part of the value chain development. These groups are now producing seeds, and are ensuring income by selling seeds to other farmers while ensuring their own seeds security.

Seed Bank

But just the production of seeds does not guarantee seed security. A systemic preservation is needed. A system where farmers can get seed in any emergency situation needs to be developed. Considering this, MTCP2 is giving training to selected groups on establishing seed bank. So far, 6 seed banks have been established through these efforts. Farmers are now able to preserve the seeds they produce in these seed banks, and other farmers can purchase from them as well.

The seed bank has an executive committee elected among the members. The members deposit good seeds which they can borrow whenever they need. Those that are not members can also borrow seeds without fees or charges. Farmers can borrow seeds for free on one condition–they will have to return the same amount of seeds.

Best Practices

Training and Orientation: Before establishing the Community Seed Bank, MTCP2 Bangladesh organized a series of training, orientation and campaign. To motivate farmers to use local seeds instead of foreign, hybrid or GMO seeds, an awareness campaign and orientation for farmers at the village, sub-district, and district level were launched. As a result, there was a huge demand for quality local seeds among the farmers. When the demand is created, MTCP2 arranged the training on local seed production and preservation.

Establishing Value Chain: To ensure the sustainability of the efforts, MTCP2 Bangladesh has incorporated a value chain mechanism. To increase farmers’ income and to ensure marketing of the seeds, MTCP2 arranged a meeting with local shop owners’ association, created a poster for campaign and an advertisement is also published in local newspapers. Now, the farmers can meet their own demand for seed, and they can also earn additional income from selling seeds to others.

Technical and Financial support in establishing Seed Bank: To ensure seed security for the farmers, and to ensure a selling centre for their production, MTCP2 provided training on establishing and managing a Community Seed Bank. The plan is to establish 20 seed banks, and so far, there are 6 that have been established. The seed banks also serve as an information centre for farmers.

Synergies with other projects: MTCP2 Bangladesh believes that initiative or implementation of development activities is not enough to ensure the changes. We have to ensure its sustainability mechanism. To ensure the sustainability of the Community Seed Bank, MTCP2 is establishing linkages with other development projects. For example, the members of Cox’s Bazar seed bank are members of the Self-Reliant Group (SRG) of another development program named SEEDS. They are also getting various training, technical, and financial support for their livelihood from SEEDS. The major thing that SEEDS is doing is developing SRGs who are involved in group income-generating activities, savings, and community mobilization. As a part of the SRG, the members of the Cox’s Bazar Seed Bank are also involved in COAST efforts towards developing Community Managed Micro Finance (CMMF) program. Traditional micro finance or micro-credit program is run and managed by some NGOs. The surplus of that program goes to that organization. But with CMMF savings and loan will be managed by the community, surplus of the CMMF will benefit the community itself. Our seed bank members are also part of that effort.

To minimize the cost of the operation of the seed bank, it has been established in a room where a Maktab based pre-primary school is going on, which is also run by community with the felicitation of COAST.  Maktab is an Islam religion learning center. Children from poor families who attend this centre usually go to other religious centres as well. Most of them don’t attend other mainstream education. COAST is providing some technical and financial support to run the pre-school centre Maktab. Along with religion learning, children are getting lessons on Bangla, English, and Math. Some meetings are also organized in Maktab to motivate parents towards mainstream education. Now the situation has been changed. More than 94% of the children graduated from the Maktab based pre-primary schools are going to mainstream schools. And the cost of the Makrab centre is also met by the community.

Impacts of the effort

  • Secured selling point for seed producer farmers
  • The idea of cooperative is being popularized
  • Seed security for farmers

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