Seed is the foundation of life and so is traditional knowledge of the farmers. Diversity Fair — a community based competitive event to display local seed diversity — is a well-established participatory tool employed in conservation and management of agricultural biodiversity in many countries. It has multiple functions such as i) to raise awareness about the value of local crops, ii) to assess and identify existing local crop diversity including rare and unique crops and varieties, iii) to locate prime areas and custodians of rare crops/varieties, iv) to enhance access of seeds and traditional knowledge, v) to motivate and capacitate community for collective actions in managing diversity, and vi) to bring multi-sectoral stakeholders together for wider sensitization about the value of local crops and initiate community based collective actions on its conservation and utilization. In addition, community also celebrate diversity fair as a function to convey positive messages through folk songs and dramas at local level.
A participant preparing display of seeds’ samples in her stall. Photo: Bibudh Dhewaju/LI-BIRD.
Our earlier effort to organize diversity fair in Jugu village development committee (VDC) located in remote mountain landscapes of Dolakha district on 29 April 2015 was postponed due to the devastating earthquake that turned the VDC into rubble with almost 99% of the households affected. Although no human casualty was recorded, it badly affected lives and livelihood of local farming communities damaging seeds and planting materials saved for upcoming seasons. In this disastrous situation, farmers have realized the importance of local crops and their seeds which they have been cultivating traditionally and are adapted to local environment. Almost a year later, community in Jugu organized the ‘Local Crop Diversity Fair 2072’ on 2 April 2016 with active participation and enthusiasm. Himchuli Multi-purpose Co-operative, a local co-operative in Jugu, managed the event involving mother’s groups, local schools, ward citizen forums and government line agencies with the financial and technical support from UNEP/GEF funded Local Crop Project (LCP). The programme was the first voluntary community festival organized in Jugu after the devastating earthquake of 2015.
Communities at the Fair. Photo: Niranjan Pudasaini/LI-BIRD.
The fair was organized with an objective of raising awareness and sensitizing community on the importance local crop genetic diversity and assessing its present status through involvement of Community Based Organizations (CBOs), local farmers’ groups and governmental line agencies reviving power of collective action and also developing sense of community ownership on biodiversity. Involving mother’s groups is a step towards empowering women farmers recognizing their role in farming and conserving traditional knowledge on local seeds.
The fair was chaired by the chairperson of local Himchuli Cooperative, Mr. Jhalak Bahadur Karki and attended by more than 450 individuals from the different wards of VDC. Senior Agriculture Development Officer (SADO) of Dolakha district, Mr. Bauwa Lal Chaudhary, participated the event as a chief guest while special guests were senior scientists / representatives from National Agricultural Genetic Resources Centre (NAGRC), Kathmandu, Bioversity International, Nepal, Local Initiatives for Biodiversity Research and Development (LI-BIRD), Pokhara and Hill Crop Research Program (HCRP), Kabre, Dolakha.. The event was actively participated by representatives from VDC office, Agriculture Service Center, local community user groups, political parties, local cooperatives along with other local NGOs and INGOs working in the area.
A woman participant working in her stall. Photo: Bibudh Dhewaju/LI-BIRD.
Crop varietal diversity was displayed ward wise where out of 29 mother’s groups in the VDC, 20 mother’s groups contributed to represent their respective wards. More than 70 different crop species — 8-cereals, 11-legumes, 16-vegetables, 14-spices, 10-fruits, and 11-medicinal herbs species — were displayed. Among them, highest varietal richness was displayed in rice (36 varieties) followed by beans (26 varieties) and finger millet (16 varieties). In total, 270 different varieties of 70 different crops and medicinal herbs were displayed which reflected high agro-biological richness of Jugu VDC. The event also explored and listed 176 varieties of various local crops that are in decreasing trend of cultivation, indicating immediate need of conservation.
Diversity display stalls were evaluated by stall evaluation technical team considering criteria such as varietal diversity of local crops displayed, uniqueness and rarity of displayed crops or varieties, arrangement and presentation of seeds at the stall, quality of information and traditional knowledge on seeds provided and degree of women’s participation. Ward no. 2 represented by Nilkanthaeswar Mother’s Group, Kalika Mother’s Group and Devithan Mother’s Group ranked first in the event followed by ward no. 8 represented by Khusepuswori Mother’s Group and Milijuli Mother’s Group ranked second while ward no. 5 represented by Shree Bahumukhi Mother’s Group ranked third place. These groups were recognized in the fair and awarded with cash prizes. Goma Jirel, a local woman farmer of Jugu-7 said, “We farmers rarely get awarded or admired by prestigious people. This event has made us realize that we are doing a great job. Guests of this event are very kind to give us respect, motivation and now, we are encouraged to do similar events again and again.”
Message giving folk songs and traditional dances covering issues on importance of local crops and need of conservation for sustainable agriculture was another highlight of the event. Some stalls have also displayed food/recipe prepared from mandate crop of LCP Project which added another attraction to the diversity fair event. Informative posters and flyers displayed and distributed during the event caught the eyes of every age grouped people. Makhana Khadka, a woman farmer of Jugu-8, shared, “I’m very happy that I got an opportunity to represent my ward and display our crops among large people. Many people are unknown about crop varieties that we have within the VDC. Occasions like this will help to share seeds and knowledge among us.” Basanta Karki, a local school teacher said, “I have been to agricultural fair before and had thought that this event would be similar but I found it totally different, unique and message giving. Women farmer’s group’s enthusiasm is tremendous, I’m really happy to visit this event.” After visiting a display stall, Shanata Lama Sherpa, Principal of a local school and social worker of Jugu, said with smile on his face, “While receiving several relief materials after devastating earthquake, we felt that we had lost everything. This programme has helped me realize that we still have traditional assets in our VDC.”
A participant interacting with Dr. Bhuwon Ratna Sthapit in her stall. Photo: Bibudh Dhewaju/LI-BIRD.
Dr. Bhuwon Ratna Sthapit, Senior Scientist from Bioversity International, admired the effort made by the local women and cooperative towards conserving diversity of local crop seeds and encouraged farmers to share their rich traditional knowledge associated with these seeds and crops. Similarly, Mr. Bauwa Lal Chaudhary, SADO expressed his commitment to support local groups and cooperative for their collective actions to promote agriculture and agricultural biodiversity . During the event, DADO also donated 100 piece of moisture proof grain pro bags for seed storage as a support to the local cooperative.
LCP team is linking this event to initiate Community Seed Bank (CSB) in Jugu to support on-farm conservation of local crops, strengthen local seed system and also as a part of seed recovery program in the aftermath of devastating earthquake of the last year. The rare and unique varieties identified from the fair will be documented, conserved and multiplied through the CSB. The site based project team will play a vital role to mobilize, guide and support the Himchuli cooperative and farming communities for the establishment of CSB and its continuity as a good practice of collective actions in the future.
Originally published on 23 May 2016 at www.libird.org
You can also listen to our coverage of Diversity Fair 2072 in LI-BIRDko Chautari Episode 578: https://soundcloud.com/li-birdko-chautari/episode-578
Local Crop Project is funded by the Global Environment Facility, implemented by UNEP and jointly executed by Bioversity International, National Agriculture Genetic Resources Centre (NAGRC) – Nepal Agriculture Research Council (NARC), the Department of Agriculture (DoA) and LI-BIRD.