South Africa implements a national strategy to support community seed banks

community-seedbanks-outcome-note-sept-2016Key facts

  • Traditional practices of maintaining indigenous biodiversity are in danger as a result of stresses caused by climate change and human activities.
  • South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, in collaboration with Bioversity International, implements a national community seed bank strategy to support smallholders in preservation and multiplication practices for seeds of local importance.
  • Women farmers are playing a key role in the management of the pilot community seed banks.

Farmers have traditionally maintained local seeds, and through them biodiversity, using indigenous knowledge passed through generations. Farmers select, plant, harvest, clean, and store seeds to feed their families today and in the future. They also exchange and share seeds with their neighbors, friends, and relatives. However, these traditional practices are eroding as a result of increased commercialization of agriculture and, in many areas, urban migration of the younger generation. Heat, drought, and poverty threaten crops, especially in marginal areas important to many smallholder farmers. Due to prolonged periods of drought, many households have lost their stocks of traditional seeds.

In response, South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, with technical assistance from Bioversity International provided under the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets, has begun to support community seed banks. The objective is to help local smallholder communities revive and improve their traditional seed-saving practices for the sake of food security, sustainable agriculture, and conservation of the country’s agricultural biodiversity.

Download the note to learn more (pdf, 184 KB)