Seed banks for banking the local variety of seeds

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According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), today, more than 793 million people suffer from chronic hunger, 161 million children under the age of five are stunted, 3.4 million people die each year due to overweight and obesity and the cost of malnutrition is about 3.5 trillion USD (United Sates Dollar). Inadequate production of food accompanied by the nutritionally deficient agricultural produces is affecting the generation of youngsters.
Can hunger be eliminated from our homes, villages, states, countries or the world in our life time? Can we imagine a world of zero hunger? How can we increase the production to satisfy the ever increasing hungers of the expanding population in a contracting and the fragmenting fields and environment? These are some of the questions that must be taken care of so seriously today. And the most central idea to the approaches of increasing productivity for a secured and healthy society today is the strong feeling with conviction that know-how or knowledge must be brought to the people and places that need it the most.
A seed bank (also seed bank or seeds bank) stores seeds to keep them viable. It helps in to preserve genetic diversity which the plant breeders need to increase yield, disease resistance, drought tolerance, nutritional quality, etc of plants used in agriculture. Many plants that were used centuries ago by humans are used less frequently now and seed banks offer a way to preserve that historical and cultural value. Seed banks are considered seed libraries and contain valuable information about evolved strategies to combat plant stress or produce novel products.
Seed Banks maintain stocks of foundation and certified seeds of different crops and varieties which can be utilized for such contingent requirements such as during natural calamities like floods, droughts, etc. By maintaining the traditional varieties opportunities shall be opened for the breeders and the crop scientists to find novel genes and traits. Traditional varieties that have evolved in an area shall be providing the buffer against damage that may fall on the modern high yielding varieties.
Established in 1995, the Millennium Seed Bank Project (MSBP) is an international partnership for the conservation through seed storage of research quantities of endangered, endemic and useful. A great number of the world’s plant species are under threat of genetic erosion leading to loss and that seed banks are a cost-effective means of countering some of this threat.  Deforestation affects the daily lives of millions of people. The starting material for reforestation is, primarily, seed and it is also the most useful material for the conservation of species. Developing seed banks for the crop plants and trees shall provide a beautiful synergistic platform to help each other.
Making the seed banks accessible besides providing the awareness to the local farmers shall surely help them in developing newer varieties and at the same time shall also provide them another opportunity for the growing of the traditional variety. Such acts shall surely help in conserving the biodiversity of the areas and also help them adapt to the changes which is brought by the changes due to global climate changes. Today more than 7 million samples of seeds, tissues and other plant-propagating materials from food crops, along with their wild relatives, are safeguarded in about 1,750 gene banks. Such seed banks, if managed properly, shall surely help to preserve genetic diversity and make it available to breeders and other scientists, who can then use it to develop and share improved varieties, including those adapted to particular agro-ecological conditions.
Ren Wang, FAO Assistant Director-General correctly said, “As the world’s population grows and continues to face a wide range of climate, environmental and other challenges, maintaining a healthy variety of seeds and other plant genetic resources for the benefit of people in all countries will be essential to keeping agricultural and food systems sustainable and resilient, generation after generation”.
Seed banks are the modern temples that help in bridging the past and the future by ensuring the continued availability of plant genetic resources for research and for breeding new varieties that meet the consumers’ continually evolving needs and a changing climate. They will surely improve the adaptive capacity of the local farmers and the people alike. Gene bank will re revolutionise the agricultural productivity, this time, by integrating with the biodiversity not away from it. More than 200,000 varieties of paddy were known to be cultivated extensively at one time in our country. Drought –resistant and highly nutritious scented millets were also once a popular crop as they were cultivable in the poor soil. If conserved it will surely manage to come out with 200,000 different ways to increase and conserve crops and their productivity.
Traditional knowledge is the product of the biocultural adaptation of the local and indigenous people. Farmers have wealth of knowledge. Rather than imposing and dictating methods and information on farmers, it is important to learn from them and at the same time find ways to communicate and make long lasting relations .The farmers’ fields are grounds for discovering a dynamic living laboratory of tremendous biological diversity sustained primarily by small-scale farming communities.
Upgrading the quality of farmer-saved seed, providing the financial assistance for distribution of certified seed for the production of quality seeds and for the training on seed production and technology to the farmers is a much needed work of today. In this regard progress has been made through programmes like the Seed Village Scheme. Without good seeds the survival of rural households is endangered. Diversity is the best and the cheapest form of pest control.
Our traditional cropping methods in many agricultural societies have been based largely or solely on the crop rotation patterns maintaining the diversity of the area. This method of agriculture has been acting as the adaptive gene throughout our culture. Doing agriculture by maintaining the diversity is the best way to honour the Earth.
Conclusion:
Domestic agriculture production is a priority to attain future food security and self sufficiency goals. Collaborative programs are underway to share valuable knowledge with local farmers everywhere. Local growers and the farmers are provided a series of demonstrations throughout the growing seasons and to educate them on effective hybrid rice farming techniques besides arming them with the much needed know how on proper seed selection, soil health management, pest control, water conservation, harvesting and post harvesting practices. Such programs in order to be sustainable and efficient must also incorporate the local knowledge that has been already embedded in the existing geography.
The results of any of the programme and the policy may not be getting crowned with success so quickly but the journey must be memorable, meaningful and enjoyable. And this will be achieved if we work inclusively by incorporating the diverse ways and norms of the places  likes and dislikes of the places and the levels of education and educatedness, awareness and inquisitiveness of the farmers, growers and all the stakeholders.
We must treasure the saying “Once in a Journey Always in a Journey”. Our growth model and fruits of the same shall be an everlasting journey of peace, prosperity, meaningfulness and indeed a truly enjoyable one.
(This article is adapted from the essay the author wrote in 2016, July issue of Kurukshetra -A Journal on Rural Development and published by Publication Division, Ministry of I&B, Govt of India) (The writer is an Assistant Professor in Zoology Department, Ramjas College, Delhi University, Delhi 110007. He is also a Research Fellow at School of Human Ecology, Ambedkar University Delhi. He can be reached at [email protected])

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