Saturday, 29 April 2017

Sustaining the change with community seed storage model

The low-lying tract of polders in the coastal zone which is home to millions of poor people is regarded as a low agricultural productivity zone. The farmers generally grow a single crop of traditional rice.  While many government and international agencies are working to unlock the production potential of the region, the adoption of modern high yielding cultivars has been very slow. Among many, availability of quality seeds is one of the major reasons determining slow adoption rate.
Most of the farmers in rural Bangladesh including those in the polders store rice seeds in their house. The common practice is to keep and use their own rice seed. The farmers seldom purchase rice seeds, except those who cultivate high yielding and hybrid rice varieties in the dry season (limited areas in fish ghers). The traditional and conventional storage structures they used are Dole, Berh, Motka, Jala, Gunny bag, Plastic drum and Plastic bags. The seeds stored in these structures/containers are susceptible to damage by adverse environmental conditions attack by microorganisms, insects, and rodents, causing considerable damage and loss. The farmers have reported that insect damage to stored rice grains and seeds may amount to 20-40%.

The SIIL-Polder project is engaged with farmer community to increase awareness and train them on hermetic seed storage. Since crop production is seasonal, and consumption is continuous, safe storage is important to maintain the seed quality. In the past, insect infestation was often a less concern among the farmers as most of them cultivated traditional varieties. However, with the increased price of high-yielding varieties (HYV) of rice and demand for more food production from declining land resources, they are now highly concerned about safe storage of improved rice seeds. Hence, storing grains and seeds without insect infestation is highly essential.

The project has established a “Community seed-storage” learning hub in Fultala village. The primary goal of community led learning center is to provide training on seed storage, interaction among the community on the importance of quality seeds and creating income generation opportunities for poor section of the community.

For seed storage, one cocoon of 1-ton capacity has been placed in Fultala village. The project has introduced community seed model where one landless woman has agreed to coordinate and take responsibility for the storage process and its maintenance. The community agreed to pay Tk. 2 per kilogram of stored seed to the distressed woman for improving her livelihood. Since the community keeps their rice seed at home, the Water Management Group (WMG) started this community seed bank model deciding on a low price to test its viability and social acceptability and to develop an income generation model for the distressed women within the community. In 2017, the community was able to store 926 kg seed in the cocoon, 70% of which is HYV rice.

Ms. Maloti Sarkar who is a distressed woman member of WMG and has no land; agreed to take responsibility of the cocoon. Maloti regularly inspects the cocoon to check any damage by rodent or other sources. She will earn BDT 1,852 by taking care of the cocoon for a season. She is planning to use this money to cultivate the leased land and grow rice in 2017 aman season.
With this concept, training on seed storage was provided to 107 farmers (66 male and 41 female) in aman season 2016. The training was organized in nine locations at Katakhali sub-polder area. In addition to 22 farmers producing HYV rice seeds, 85 farmers from five villages were included in the training on seed storage. They were provided insight on the importance of good quality seed production, good quality storage like cocoon and benefits of keeping seeds in cocoons.

The main goal of the SIIL-Polder project is to establish and empower the community to sustainably manage their land and water resources to make these resources more productive. The project aims to create strong cooperatives that will interact with public and private organizations that play a role in the agricultural development of the area. Participatory resources management is the entry point and the initial driver of the community organization process. The explicit objective of the project is to reduce poverty of the people in the coastal areas by enhancing cropping intensity, improving crop productivity, and ultimately increasing incomes. The WMG’s would be key players to empower the community for achieving the goal of the project and sustainably managing and utilization of natural resources. They could adopt hermetic storage as a means for income generation to sustainably run the community seed storage hub and may act as the service provider in quality seed production and distribution within the community. Besides, they can develop the business plan and engage the poor women and youth for improving their livelihoods. 

Compiled by: Rokhsana Parvin Ratna, Shilpi Sarker and Shwapon Vhadra

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