THE UTILITY OF A SEEDBANK
Community seedbanks can empower farmers to use, exchange and conserve plant varieties. This helps to improve livelihoods and food security for the local population.
This article will cover the six key steps to setting up a seedbank for your local community.
STEP 1: COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT GROUP
A community management committee should be established. It is important that the committee includes local farmers as well as other community members to ensure that there is a diverse set of skills to support the project.
Each member of the committee should be given specific responsibilities related to their skill set where possible. For example, one member can be responsible for budgeting, another responsible for record keeping, and so on.
STEP 2: CORE OBJECTIVES
The community management committee should establish the main objectives of the seedbank through discussions with the wider community.
They should agree on the primary purpose of the seedbank; for example, the main aim could be to provide seed supply in times of crisis, preserve local seed varieties or to earn income through seed sales to other communities.
During this stage, the community should decide what seeds, and how many, they want to store.
It is also important for the committee to decide who should receive seeds if there is a crisis, and how many seeds each farmer/family is entitled to. For example, it might be decided that only farmers/families who deposit seeds are entitled to receive seeds.
Ensuring these questions are answered in advance will reduce conflict and risk in times of emergency.
STEP 3: SEED COLLECTION
Seeds should have a good physical appearance as well as strong genetic qualities. It is best to select them as soon as they are mature.
It is important to show care when handling the seed to reduce risk of damage. Make sure they are not exposed to high temperatures or humid conditions.
Finally, it is useful to document where the seeds have been harvested.
STEP 4: PREPARING THE SEEDS
The seeds will need to be cleaned and dried before being stored.
There are many methods to clean seeds including shaking, threshing and soaking. The method used will depend on the type of seed. For example, the seeds of fleshy fruits are better cleaned through soaking but the seeds of beans and peas can be threshed.
STEP 5: STORING SEEDS
The choice of storage is important to the success of the seedbank. Proper storage is vital for keeping the seeds healthy and protecting them from diseases and insects.
Seeds must be kept in a dry, cool, clean and well ventilated space. Temperature and other conditions may vary depending on the seed. When choosing storage containers, it is important to consider the size, shape, material and type. In addition, cost and durability must be taken into account.
Seeds can be stored for short, medium and long periods of time, depending on the type of seed. For example, corn can be only stored for short periods whereas beans can be kept up to three years (medium time period) and tomatoes for five years or more (long time period). When storing seeds, these three time periods can be used to separate and organise seeds.
STEP 6: MAINTAINING THE SEEDBANK
Regular inspection and maintenance of the storage unit and seeds must be carried out to ensure that the seeds are in good health.
To ensure the sustainability of the seedbank, the seed stock must be monitored and restocked when necessary.
Processes for maintaining stock should be established by the community management committee. They might also think of ways to increase the number of seed varieties in the bank, for example through seed exchanges and purchase from other communities.