Community seed banks (CSB) contain collections of seeds maintained by local communities and managed with their traditional knowledge. Their primary function is to conserve and make available seeds for local use. See link to the video on community seed banks in Zambia.
Community seed banks fulfill several functions, but the major focus is on the conservation of local varieties, restoration of lost varieties, and crop and variety management in response to disaster. The focus is also on improvement of availability and accessibility of seeds and sharing knowledge and expertise on the different seed types. In Zambia, Community seed banks form the center of planning for seed multiplication and participatory plant breeding activities.
CSB have been seen to be an important instrument for the enhancement of farmer seed systems and climate change adaptation strategies; the community seed banks have become a copying tool in the fight against climate change impacts, which include erosion of agrobiodiversity, increased food insecurity, poor nutrition, low incomes, and lack of access to climate suitable varieties.
CSB play a significant role in increasing seed diversity in farmers’ hands through various activities that take place at and around the community seed banks. These activities include seed and food fairs, germplasm collection, seed production and marketing of climate resilient crops. The germplasm stored at the various community seed banks include varieties of different crops including cowpea, Bambara nut, groundnuts, maize, millet, sorghum, and beans including varieties of local vegetables.
Community seed banks have also been seen to be important in promoting the utilization of Neglected and Underutilized Species (NUS). Farmers have been collecting germplasm of indigenous vegetables and fruits; both wild and domesticated ones. The main objective of this is to promote the utilization of NUS to reduce the period of food scarcity to enhance food and nutrition security throughout the year.
Based on different farmers own experiences, the communities have come to a realization that community seed banks can enhance their resilience by securing access to, and availability of, diverse, locally adapted crops and varieties. The farmers benefit from the seed bank because it preserves their seeds well especially in instances where the crop is lost due to poor storage management, drought or pest infestation. The seed bank keeps the seed safe.
Farmers have shared that community seed banks have been beneficial to them especially in seed access which they had been having challenges with. Vivian Simuchinga from Chimbanga Village in Shibuyunji district is one of the community members who has benefitted from the community seed bank. Mrs. Vivian is not a member of the community seed bank; she is a beneficiary who heard about the community seed bank through her fellow farmers.
“When I heard about the seed bank, I right away decided to visit, when we reached there, the officers welcomed us and showed us around. There were different seeds that do not even require the use of fertilizer; I collected some seeds like sorghum and maize. At the time I was collecting the seed, government had not yet given us the inputs and this came in to save us. From my experience with these seeds so far, they are very good because they are very strong and not easily attacked by pest plus the yields are good.” Vivian, farmer in Shibuyunji.