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Community-based Seed Production in Nepal: Securing Rice Seeds for Tomorrow

  • 8 years ago

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Although rice is a staple food in Nepal, the supply of good seeds is limited. The country needs almost 80,000 tons of seed annually but only 9% is supplied by private seed companies and national agencies and these seeds are usually from the farmers' produce. Farmers therefore risk poor harvests because of low-quality seeds, often combined with a lack of inputs and inappropriate crop management practices.

Only 70% of the farming communities usually achieve food security for more than half of the year. If environmental conditions turn unfavorable, only 30% of the communities have enough rice on the table. Ensuring good-quality seeds for a more stable and sustainable supply is therefore a challenge.

In 2005, a participatory research project (IFAD-TAG 706) began to tackle food security and environmental sustainability in marginal uplands. It was funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in partnership with the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science (IAAS). The project selected the Sundarbazar Village Development Committee (VDC) in Lamjung District in midhills (900--1,500 meters above sea level) as a key research site.

Farmer field trials, farmer acceptance tests, varietal demonstrations, and minikit programs allowed farmers to test promising rice varieties obtained from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI; ) and the National Rice Research Program (NRRP). The farmers were interested in varieties that produce high yield, resist drought, have good cooking and eating quality, tolerate pests and diseases, and command a better price in the market.

Within a short time, four upland rice varieties (Radha-32, Ghaiya-2, IR55435-5, and Pakhejhinuwa) and six for lowland rice (Radha-4, Ram Dhan, Barkhe-3017, Sunaulo sugandha, Barkhe-2024, and NR-1824-21-1-1) were identified as superior to local lines. These were ready for dissemination during the third year of the project in six more villages with similar agroclimatic conditions in Lamjung, Tanahun, and Gorkha districts.

The community has the answer: Word went around that new varieties were available, and requests from farmers came pouring in. What was needed, however, was a viable seed system that could provide a timely and adequate seed supply of good-quality and suitable varieties.

With no private seed companies or a government program to provide the much-needed seeds, the project team embarked on a community-based seed production program to meet this challenge.

The team could not have chosen a better time: the farmers were very receptive to the idea of forming their own seed production system. Years of lack of seed supplies became a driving force for farmers to act together. As a result, the Sundar Seed Cooperative, Ltd., became the first seed producers' group (SPG) in Sundarbazar, Lamjung, in 2007.

"Our dream is to produce enough quality seeds to ensure good harvests and sufficient food on the table," said Krishna Prasad Siluwal, first chairperson of Sundar Seed Cooperative. And, more importantly, the program allows farmers to preserve their time-honored and socioeconomically significant varieties in the villages.

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