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SEARICE kickstarts UN-funded plant genetic resources conservation project in Western Visayas

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Farmers from 15 farmers' associations in Kabankalan and Bago cities participate in the Baseline Study Workshop. Credit: Central Philippines State University

Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental--On 5 to 7 June 2024, SEARICE made a jumpstart on a United Nations (UN) -supported project to give small farmers greater access to plant genetic resources (PGRs) that they themselves would conserve and manage sustainably.


SEARICE gathered over 30 farmer representatives from 15 farmers’ associations in Kabankalan City and Bago City, in Negros Occidental Province, to participate in a three-day baseline study workshop, along with officials of the Central Philippines State University (CPSU)—SEARICE’s main local project partner, and representatives from the Office of the Municipal Agriculturist of Kabankalan and Bago cities. This workshop is the major first step towards implementing the project titled, “Engendering access for smallholder farmers to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture for conservation and sustainable use”.


Funded by the Benefit-Sharing Fund (BSF) of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), or simply, the Plant Treaty, the SEARICE-CPSU project is one of only 48 projects worldiwde selected for support under the fifth cycle of the BSF. The two-year project seeks to address the challenge facing farmers, who lack access to seeds and planting materials from which they can develop crop varieties that not only meet their nutritional needs but which are also best suited to local farming conditions. Currently, the farmers rely on their own saved seeds, seeds that they have to buy, or seeds that come packaged with chemical inputs and distributed by the local agriculture office. Through this project, SEARICE and CPSU will build the farmers’ capacity to manage PGRFA, including conservation and sustainable use.


The baseline study workshop introduced the farmers to the use of baseline gathering tools, including: (1) the community resource map, which shows the location of resources in the project areas as well as the types of agroecosystems prevailing in them; (2) the historical timeline, which chronicles events in the history of the community that affected their seed systems; (3) the problem tree, which identifies and links causes to problems and consequences; (4) the diversity wheel, which categorizes common food plants found in the community assessing the crop diversity; and (5) pairwise ranking (by gender), which enables farmers to identify their top preferred crops and to rank them according to preference.


Hands-on exercises in the use of the tools were conducted by SEARICE and CPSU, following which a number of the farmer participants were guided to serve as trainor-facilitators for other farmers during the three-day activity.


The baseline study workshop will be followed by a series of Farmer Field Schools (FFS), field studies and on-farm trials, to train the farmers to perform participatory plant breeding and plant variety selection. The project will train 375 farmers, 50 percent of whom are women, in Kabankalan City and Bago City.


The establishment of a genebank that is accessible to small farmers is one of the major outcomes of this project. Unique seeds that were developed and selected by the farmers will be stored in the genebank as a back-up collection. SEARICE will share its seedbank management experience to support the partner university to in enhance its PGRFA collection. The project will also include the establishment of community registries to protect the seeds that are available in the communities from possible misappropriation.


Aside from the CPSU, SEARICE is working with local governments of Kabankalan City and Bago City.

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