Savouring diversity: supporting community seedbanks in South Africa’s smallholder farming areas


by Evgeniya Anisimova

For ages, rural farmers have maintained local seeds, and through them crop biodiversity, using indigenous knowledge passed to them by their ancestors. Farmers select, plant, harvest, clean and store their seeds to feed their families and keep some for the next planting season. They also exchange and share seeds with their neighbors, friends, extended families.

However, write the authors of the new report released by Bioversity International, these traditional practices are in danger. Presenting the findings from a field mission to Limpopo and Eastern Cape provinces of the Republic of South Africa, they acknowledge that South Africa, like many other countries, is experiencing a decline in crop diversity as a result of stresses caused by climate changes and human activities. Heat, drought, and poverty continue to deteriorate food crop production, especially in marginal areas mainly populated by smallholder farmers. In addition, the young generation is loosing interest in agriculture and maintaining the local seed systems.

The SA's Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) in collaboration with Bioversity International, has initiated a community seedbank strategy to support local smallholder communities to revive and improve their traditional seed-saving practices for the sake of food security and sustainable agriculture at the local level and conservation of the country’s agricultural biodiversity at the local and national levels.

The report discusses findings and observations from the project's pilot sites and suggests that community seedbanks can make important contributions to local seed security if they are managed effectively and efficiently; they are responsive to local needs; there is a continuous flow of seeds and information between community seedbanks and other stakeholders; and there is an enabling policy/legal environment.

This research was undertaken as part of and with support from the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets. 

Savouring_diversity_first_steps_in_implementing_a_strategy_to_support_community_seedbanks_1873Download the report in pdf

Citation: Maluleke, N., Moila, P., Phora, G., Dibiloane, A., Vernooy, R. and Sthapit, B. 2015. Savouring diversity: first steps in implementing a strategy to support community seedbanks in South Africa’s smallholder farming areas. Report of follow up field visits to Limpopo and Eastern Cape. Bioversity International, Rome, Italy and Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Pretoria, Republic of South Africa.