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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 806: International Symposium on Underutilized Plants for Food Security, Nutrition, Income and Sustainable Development

CONSOLIDATING COMMUNITY'S ROLE IN LOCAL CROP DEVELOPMENT BY PROMOTING FARMER INNOVATION TO MAXIMISE THE USE OF LOCAL CROP DIVERSITY FOR THE WELL-BEING OF PEOPLE

Authors:   B.R. Sthapit, V.R. Rao
Keywords:   agricultural biodiversity, farmer seed systems, grassroots breeding (GB), participatory variety selection (PVS), participatory plant breeding (PPB)
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2009.806.83
Abstract:
Global food security has become increasingly dependent on a handful of crops. We are either losing agricultural biodiversity assets that are important for the poor or not using them optimally because neither the rural poor themselves nor research and development teams understand their value and/or manage them sufficiently. This loss is often attributed to the green revolution. However, the use and conservation of agricultural biodiversity can be increased by: i) empowering farmers and community institutions to improve farmer’s access to a wide range of underutilized plant species for local innovation, and ii) enhancing farmers’ knowledge and skills in genetic resources management and selection of useful traits. This paper illustrates how simple plant breeding processes can strengthen the capacity of farmers and grassroots institutions to assess existing diversity, select locally adapted materials, produce sufficient quality seed, and integrate into farmers’ seed systems. This process of local crop development is defined as “grassroots breeding”. If we would like to optimise benefits for poor farmers through the use of underutilised diversity, current plant breeding programmes in developing countries need critical review in terms of relevance and efficiency. Such an effort is particularly pertinent given the ever-increasing demands placed on different production systems due to changing climate and farming practices. A set of community-based actions from Nepal is illustrated that utilizes grassroots plant breeding skills and procedures to maximise the use of useful diversity for sustainable livelihood options.

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