A community seedbank to safeguard traditional varieties

Photo credit: Bioversity International

Farmers at opening of seedbank

New community seedbank to empower indigenous farmers in southern foothills of Himalayas

The southern foothills of the Himalayas are rich in agricultural biodiversity and home to the Tharu community.The Tharu are indigenous farmers who for hundreds of years have been selecting, using and safeguarding the genetic diversity of many important crops, such as rice, legumes and maize.

A new community seedbank is set to help them continue to safeguard their traditional varieties and associated knowledge for future generations in the face of threats, such as climate change, which are placing them at risk.

450 years ago, the Tharu established a community of 54 villages at Imlia Koder, close to the border of Nepal, when they first moved from Rajasthan. They live their life according to the doctrine of the historic ruler Maharana Pratap, from whom many of the community members believe they are directly descended.  Part of this doctrine is to have a great respect for the soil to which they do not add any artificial inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides.

 The Tharu largely depend on what they grow for food, selling only a small quantity of crops at the local market. This means their food basket is diverse, covering different seasons and nutritional needs. Typical food crops on which they depend, include rice, mustard, lentils, chick peas, pigeon peas, wheat, maize, oilseed crops, garlic, onions and traditional vegetables, including a very small potato called aloo. This starchy potato is an important ingredient in many traditional dishes, such as aloo-Gobhi, a curry made with cauliflower.
Read the full article: Bioiversity International 

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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