At the Farmers’ Seeds Network Forum, participating farmers share views on
passing on traditional agricultural wisdom,
community seed banks, and local seed selection.
Biodiversity is integral for a healthy planet, and agrobiodiversity for humans and our food. For generations, peoples in different regions of the world have farmed and interacted with the land, accumulating significant knowledge about agricultural species and farming techniques. There is so much to learn!
In December 2017, Minzu University of China (MUC) launched a pilot community research project on conservation and agricultural genetic resources. Over the years, MUC has promoted interaction between scientists and farmers, and collated input from ethnic minority communities for their views to be reflected in the legislation process of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources. The team also provided data and policy support to the government.
In 2020, MUC compiled a list of agricultural genetic resources based on initial field research in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Hunan Province, involving four ethnic groups: the Miao, Tujia, Zhuang, and Yao. MUC discussed the access and benefit sharing (ABS) mechanism around biodiversity, genetic resources, and traditional knowledge with villagers in Guangxi, enhancing their capacity to protect and use these resources sustainably. They also supported the local government in Hunan in enacting landmark legislation: ‘Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture Biodiversity Conservation Regulation’ was promulgated in August 2020, the first piece of regional legislation of its kind in China.
Seed conservation is key in achieving agrobiodiversity. In December 2020, more than 50 farmers, researchers and NGO workers joined ‘Sustainable Food System and Smallholder Farmers’ Practices on Local Seed Protection and Usage’, a 2-day forum organised by the Nanning Green Seeds Poverty Alleviation Service Centre (Farmers’ Seeds Network). They discussed many practical matters. How can we best run seed banks? How can we selectively breed traditional seeds so that they are protected and passed on to the next generations? How does climate change affect agriculture and what can we do to adapt? How can we best promote eco-agricultural products to consumers? The forum was bursting with enthusiasm as participants exchanged experiences and expertise.
Although it might be too much to expect solutions to be found for every question in a two-day event, it was clear to the participants that a seed carrying traditional agricultural wisdom was planted – a seed which is key for food diversity, biodiversity conservation, and climate change adaptation. They have confidence that solutions will unfold as their local communities continue to experiment and innovate in their daily life.