Community Seed Banks – A seed delivery approach for under-invested crops

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For reduced market barriers, diversified enterprise, livelihood opportunities, and increased availability of nutrient-rich foods

What are Community Seed Banks (CSBs)?

Smallholder agriculture is often characterized by low productivity and production, driven mostly by limited access to agri-innovations such as improved seed varieties. Seed is critical, being a simple mechanism to package the scientific innovations for wider use in unlocking productivity. Thus, development and strengthening of farmer managed institutions/platforms can be effective and efficient technology dissemination mechanisms.

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has leveraged on the power of social networks among farming communities to implement innovative Community Seed Banks. Community Seed Banks (CSBs) are village-based institutions managed by smallholder farmers for guaranteed quality seed production and sharing within the community. It is an informal and open system with smaller populations inhabiting agro-ecological niches connected by migration and colonization of seed by households.

These CSBs are in fact farmer’ social networks designed to produce store and deliver seed, especially to marginalized farming communities. This is based on the principles of retail banking where a borrower, in this case a farmer takes a loan and repays it with interest (twice the volume of seed taken) out on loan.  This has been implemented in Malawi and scaled-out to Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia.

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