Community seed banks for family farming

Monday, 22 January 2018 13:33 Written by 
  • Location(s): Mozambique, South Africa
  • Type(s): Solution
  • Theme(s): Agriculture , Food Security
  • SDG(s): 1. No poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 5. Gender Equality, 15. Life on land
  • Locations of Agro Solutions: Mozambique, South Africa
  • Types of Agro Solutions: Solution
  • Themes in Agro Solutions: Agriculture , Food Security
  • SDGs in Agro Solutions: 1. No poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 5. Gender Equality, 15. Life on land
  • Locations in Africa: Mozambique, South Africa
  • Types in Africa: Solution
  • Themes in Africa: Agriculture , Food Security
  • SDGs in Africa: 1. No poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 5. Gender Equality, 15. Life on land
  • Types of ComSec Solutions: Solution

Held between 2009 and 2014, this initiative was the first South-South cooperation project developed by Brazil, whose formulation and implementation was carried out by social movements, coordinated by a Brazilian NGO (IBASE). Involving peasant organizations in Brazil, Mozambique and South Africa linked to family agriculture, the project focused on the rescue of Creole seeds and technical strengthening on planting and harvesting of them, as a way of promoting, at the same time, income generation, community empowerment and the preservation of agrobiodiversity.

Challenge: Based on large corporations and intensive monocultures that use mechanization and the use of agrochemicals, commercial seeds and chemical fertilizers to increase productivity, the dominant model of agricultural development was propagated in the 20th century in order to solve the problem of hunger in the world. However, it has been found that this model has triggered significant socio-environmental imbalances (such as the impoverishment of small-scale agriculture, the gradual impoverishment of agrobiodiversity, soil depletion and increased vulnerability of production to atmospheric variations, pests and diseases) , which, on the contrary, focus on maintaining a vicious circle between poverty, hunger and environmental degradation. Thus, agribusiness has been questioned in terms of its capacity to generate development that is both inclusive and sustainable.

According to the FAO, family farming is the main form of food supply in the world, and is the basis of livelihood for the majority of the population of African countries (although in rural areas, the majority of the population poorer). Declaring 2014 as the "International Year of Family Farming", the UN aimed to increase the visibility of this production sector, which plays a key role in food security and sovereignty, as well as in the generation of employment and income, particularly in the countries less developed countries.

For example, in contrast to the homogenization and simplification of agricultural agribusiness procedures, family farming has been responsible for perpetuating the knowledge and practice traditionally developed over time for the selection and improvement of plants and seeds adapted to particular contexts . With energy needs and industrial inputs much lower than those of monocultures, the complex and diversified systems associated with family farming have persisted even in environments with hostile conditions (such as those subject to drought), thus contributing to the preservation of genetic heritage and cultural heritage. This is especially relevant considering that, as estimated by FAO, about 75% of agrobiodiversity disappeared in the last century.

In response to this situation, peasant movements and agroecology scientists have sought to promote the rescue of creole seeds - varieties specifically adapted to the place of cultivation - and the traditional community practices associated with them, in particular seed banks (to ensure their storage until the next planting) and the trade fairs. Thus, among the main challenges are the rehabilitation and dissemination of such practices by peasants.

Solution: Prepared with the participation of members of civil society and community leaders from the countries involved, the project of community banks of creole seeds for family agriculture aimed at the training of peasants in procedures of rescue, multiplication, storage and use of native seeds. From the transfer of social technologies and agroecology, the project also aimed at the establishment of community seed banks and the training of peasants in the processes of exchange and commercialization of these, thus contributing to the organizational and economic strengthening of family agriculture in Mozambique and South Africa.

The activities focused on the exchange of professionals for the exchange of knowledge among the three countries, through technical visits, courses and testing of planting with the participation of agronomists accustomed to working with popular movements. Representatives of Mozambican and South African peasant movements were in Brazil to exchange experiences and know techniques of planting and harvesting of creole seeds used by Brazilian social movements and, on another occasion, to visit a fair of exchange of seeds, in the state of Goiás.

With content and methodology collectively defined by the social movements of the three countries, the training courses involved peasant technicians and leaders on issues related to the cultivation and preservation of seeds, as well as cross-cutting themes related to organization, functioning, challenges and the needs of peasant social movements. The participants of the courses were also trained on how to disseminate the knowledge acquired, so that they functioned as multipliers of the initiative. The project took particular account of gender issues in family agriculture, by including a seminar especially dedicated to peasants, held by representatives of the Peasant Women's Movement of Brazil. This seminar had repercussions on the mobilization and empowerment of women in both Mozambique and South Africa, having influenced the creation of specialized structures and events in those countries.

The project also trained peasants in the methodology of implementing and operating community seed banks, carried out an inventory of the native seeds present in the areas covered by the project in the two African countries (mainly grains, roots and vegetables) and developed concrete seeds creoles. The results of the project also include recognition by the two African governments involved of peasant social movements and closer relations between them.

The main difference of this South-South cooperation project was to have rural social movements in Brazil, South Africa and Mozambique as agents to define the demands and activities and their implementation, which both strengthened the sustainability of the initiative and promoted the reinforcement of local economies.

Supported by: Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC)

Agency of implementation:
On the Brazilian side: General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic, Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analysis (IBASE), Popular Peasant Movement (MCP) and Peasant Women's Movement (MMC)
On the Mozambican side: Ministry of Agriculture (National Directorate of Agrarian Extension) and National Union of Peasants (UNAC)
On the South African side: Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE)

Contact Details:
Athayde Motta
Executive Director, IBASE
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

AthaydeMotta IBASE

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