BUILDING RESILIENT COMMUNITY-MANAGED SEED SYSTEM TOWARDS
CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION
Implemented in the Philippines and Cambodia from July 2013 up to June 2015, the Building Resilient Community-Managed Seed Systems Towards Climate Change Adaptation project aimed to empower farming communities by building their capacities to manage crop genetic diversity and local seed systems for adaptation to changing climatic conditions. To attain this goal, disadvantaged farmers were organized to gain social and political empowerment, actively assert their rights and interests and establish resilience to climate change
The general objective was to strengthen local seed systems in all aspects, namely, plant genetic resources (PGR) conservation and distribution, variety development and seed production, and delivery for climate change adaptation.
The specific objectives were:
To provide men and women farmers with knowledge and skills that will enable them to adapt to the impacts of climatic change;
To establish resilient farms, through conservation and development of agricultural biodiversity, that will contribute to food security;
To facilitate ongoing learning of national research and extension systems to strengthen their support roles in community-managed seed systems; and
To affect policies towards the recognition of the rights of men and women farmers over local seed systems and support of their participation in policy formulation and inclusion of their working methods/approaches as part of national climate change adaptation and sustainable development strategies.
The two-year project made significant contributions towards the empowerment of farming communities and built the capacities of men and women farmers to manage the genetic diversity of their staple crop — rice. More importantly, the project contributed to strengthening local seed systems for the crop to increase communities’ adaptation to changing climatic conditions.
A. Farmers Increased Capacity to Adapt to the Impacts of Climate Change
Through farmers field school (FFS), farmers in the project communities came up with several climate change adaptation strategies. Cambodian farmers adapted to CC by selecting and planting short maturing variety/ies for them to still be able to plant for two cropping seasons even if there have been threats of drought. In the upland areas of the Philippines, farmers began to make rice terraces, especially in areas that are prone to erosion. In farms near the coasts where salt-water intrusion is a problem, farmers discovered, during the PVS trials in the FFS, a variety adapted to the saline conditions of their soils.
At the end of the project, a combined total of 55 FFS for the two countries were implemented—22 in the Philippines and 33 in Cambodia.
B. Contribute towards Establishment of Resilient Farms
An important factor in achieving resilience to climate change is farmers’ access to and control over their seeds. By the end of the project, more than 50 rice selections were determined to be useful for extreme climate conditions—especially drought and salt water-intrusion which were the most glaring conditions hounding the communities of the two countries. These genetic resources will prove invaluable for many farmers over time. More than 3,000 farming families have enhanced accessed to good quality seeds through seed exchanges, institutionalized during Farmers Field Days held as FFS culminating activity.
Farmers also saw the importance of establishing their own Community Seed Banks in order for them to withstand events that may threaten their crops and still be able to plant again because they have kept surplus amount of seeds exactly for these situations.
C. Support Institutional Capacity Building of National Research and Extension Personnel
Agricultural extension workers (AEWs) and/or agricultural technologists (ATs), being the front liners in the delivery of government services to the agriculture sector in both Cambodia and the Philippines, were enlisted as community facilitators for the project.
And since Participatory Plant Breeding is relatively new to them, the project saw it fit to strengthen the capacity of the AEWs and ATs as project partners. As FFS facilitators, they underwent 10-day Training of Trainers, which focused on PPB, PVS, Line Selection and Seed Rehabilitation.
D. Policy and Institutional Changes for the Recognition of Farmers' Rights
More than and on top of the above accomplishments, the project has effectively influenced policy and institutional changes, particularly on farmers’ rights and the adoption of participatory plant breeding as part of the local government programs in the project sites in both countries.
All the project sites in both countries gained an overwhelming support from all the Local Government Units (LGUs) involved from the commune/barangay level, to the district/municipal level and up to the city and or provincial level. On the part of LGUs, the partnership with the project was seen as opportunity to get farmers to empower themselves over the control and access to seeds in the light of climate change woes.