Climate-adapted seed, and access to seed in bad times

Poor farmers need access to quality seed, in bad times as well. The Development Fund works to ensure that poor families who live by agriculture will have access, at any time, to a varied inventory of quality seed, adapted to local conditions and climate. With this in mind, we support the establishment and maintenance of local seed banks, which give security to farmers who find themselves lacking seed, as can easily happen in the wake of earthquakes, flooding and drought.

The goal is to protect the rights of farmers, giving them access to seed and opportunity to manage their own plant resources. We maintain focus on local farmers’ knowledge and capacity for innovation, and our work builds on well-established methods for how best to use and preserve local plant varieties. In total, the Development Fund has supported establishment and strengthening of 31 seed banks in South Asia. The seed banks have, together, managed to conserve more than 2,000 genetic resources in the field, which would otherwise have been lost forever. The work with seed banks has given many good results, both on an individual and a societal level. Training of farmers and establishment of seed banks have led to greater variation in the farmers’ fields and have given better access to a range of different seed strains in the villages. The seed increases the capacity for climate adaptation, contributes to income and to nutritious diets for poor families who are dependent on agriculture to survive.

Climate-Adapted Villages

Nepal is particularly exposed to climate change and extreme weather. To meet such challenges, the Development Fund has developed a model for climate adaptation. In Nepal, we use participatory methods in vulnerability analyses, which involve the local population in identifying and understanding their village’s vulnerability to climate change. This serves as a point of departure for deciding which measures to prioritize, so action plans can be formulated and resources identified. This model, which we refer to as Climate-Adapted Villages, is used in a number of local communities and leads to increased consciousness of and ownership to measures that strengthen the capacity for adaptation.

The Nepali authorities have good goals, but local implementation has been deficient due to lack of capacity and resources. For this reason, and in order to strengthen commitment to common goals and local adaptability, the Development Fund maintains a strong focus on cooperation with local authorities, and in many cases the authorities have decided to provide economic support and access to education and materials.

During the last years, Nepal has seen the consequences of increasingly extreme weather and natural disasters, such as the flood of 2017 and the 2015 earthquake. This has stimulated heightened consciousness among local populations of the need for support to prepare themselves and meet future challenges. The disasters have also brought about an increased understanding of the rights of local people vis-à-vis the authorities. Training in contingency planning is therefore now integrated in our work. Click to read about some of the measures identified by villagers in flood-exposed Majhari.

Climate-smart solutions

When confronting climate challenges there is a need for both new, innovative, technological solutions and for building on local knowledge. The Development Fund in Nepal therefore encourages its local partners to learn from each other and promote solutions that contribute to improving both adaptive capacities and reduced emissions. “Climate-smart” refers, inter alia, to methods that increase knowledge of and access to resources for responding to weather, as reflected in our work with new plants, seeds and varieties. Establishment of seed banks and vegetable gardens, and diversification of agriculture are other solutions with which the Development Fund has long experience in Nepal.

In agriculture, new, small-scale tools and machines have been introduced, which save time and energy for women, or contribute to saving energy. We get particularly good feedback on our energy-saving stoves, which, in addition to reducing emissions, keep houses in mountain villages warm and expose women and children, who spend more time in the kitchen than men, to lesser amounts of health-damaging smoke. In high-mountain Humla, rugged greenhouses have been introduced in order to lengthen the growing season. In lowland Terai, both too little and too much water are among the main challenges. Drip irrigation, water harvesting, and repair and protection of water sources have proved useful in conditions of drought. Flood protection by planting trees and bushes, as well as the use of sandbags, are among the measures that villagers have used. We are exploring the possibility of getting more farmers to insure themselves, since both crops and animals are often eliminated by extreme weather. This presupposes mutual trust between farmers and banks, and demands that farmers have the ability to pay. It is also vital to have access to important information on accessible resources and weather conditions, e.g. by telephone.