International Short Course on ‘Plant Genetic Resources and Resilient Seed Systems for Sustainable Food Security’

An international training course has been organized jointly by LI-BIRD, GrowInnova, Centre for Development Innovation, Wageningen University & Research, the Netherlands and Bioversity International. 22 multi-disciplinary professionals working in the field of agriculture research, rural development and food security from 14 countries of Asia, Africa, and South America are at Pokhara to participate in the course entitled ‘Plant Genetic Resources and Resilient Seed Systems for Sustainable Food Security’. The training course programme kick-started on 23 October 2017 in Pokhara and will be concluded on 10 November 2017 in Kathmandu. The short course is divided into four modules; understanding and empowering community; resilient seed systems; learning from the field integrating into our reality, and creating a supportive policy and legal environment. The first two modules will be held in Pokhara, whereas the last two modules will be held in Chitwan and Kathmandu, from 1 November onwards.

Dr. Abishkar Subedi (Senior Advisor, Genetic Resources and Seed Systems, Wageningen University & Research), also the Coordinator of the training highlighted, “The world population is estimated to reach 7.6 billion by the end of October 2017, and is likely to be 10 billion by 2050.” He further added, “Currently only 12 crops (together with 5 animal species) provide 75 percent of the world’s energy. Among these, only 3 cereal crops – rice, maize, and wheat provide over 50 percent of the world calories. The Greater number of people are eating fewer cereals while there is an increase in consumption of meats following the changes in diet preferences. The decrease in the use of our crop diversity is going to risk our own future, which has been a global threat to the humanity.”

Dr. Subedi highlighted, “On one hand, we have a challenge on producing more quality food with less, at other hands, the average decline in the yields of major food crops across Africa and South Asia continues to impact agriculture production system. In this respect, how we should mobilize our common efforts and share our knowledge that promotes the potential of crop genetic resources and develop more resilient seed systems that cater the need of smallholders farmers, and contribute to achieving food security is very important common agenda to all of us. This training course will be platforms to exchange local experience and realities at the global level.” Dr. Subedi further elaborated on the reason for the training being organized in Nepal, “Nepal’s pioneering work in mobilizing the community efforts in managing the crop genetic resources by promoting participatory research for development has been achieved due to decades-long commitment and hard work of organization such as LI-BIRD, its partners, and Ministry of Agricultural Development”.

Dr. Abishkar Subedi facilitating a session in the inauguration day. Photo: Hem G.C., LI-BIRD

Inaugurating the training, Mr. Man Bahadur G.C., the Mayor of the Pokhara Lekhanath Metropolitan City, welcomed the participants to “one of the 10 most beautiful cities in the world”. He suggested participants explore more of Pokhara, its lakes, mountains, and culture besides the regular training. “I am hopeful that this training will be a platform for sharing knowledge and experiences of many countries to tackle the global issue of food insecurity”, said Mr. G.C., and wished the participants for the “fruitful completion of the training”.

Mr. G.C. shared that Nepal’s constitution has provisioned government at three levels, amongst which local government has been elected recently. He affirmed his commitment to lead Pokhara Lekhnath Metropolitan city towards prosperity. He also shared that preliminary steps have been taken in partnership with LI-BIRD to establish a multipurpose academy in Pokhara Lekhnath Metropolitan City, which could be a “matter of pride not only at national level but also at international level”.

The inauguration session was chaired by Mr. Beni Bahadur Basnet, Secretary, Executive Board, LI-BIRD. He shared, “By hosting this short course, we tried to upscale the good practices and experiences LI-BIRD has generated from the work of over 23 years.” He requested participants to utilize the opportunity to interact and exchange the knowledge and experience of working in the same area. He opined, ‘although the participants may be representing different geographies and countries, the problems and experiences could be quite useful for all to learn.’ He wished for the successful completion of the training and requested the participants to enjoy the beautiful view right from the window and also tap opportunity to explore adventurous touristic places around Pokhara.

Ms. Ogbonna Chioma Lilian, Research Officer at National Root Crops Research Institute Umudike, Nigeria, shared her enthusiasm for participating in the training: “I aim to understand contemporary approaches towards crop genetic resource management and integrated seed system also the development of a range of conservation strategies such as Community Biodiversity Management as it distinguishes itself from other conservation strategies by enhancing social interdependence, collaboration, adaptability, and autonomy.” She furthers added, “This course is very important to me because I’ll be able to relate what I have learned to my colleagues and farmers in Nigeria on the process of enabling communities to secure their access to and control over genetic resources through increased decision-making power. Strengthening the management over a variety of resources provides options that farmers can utilize in times of scarcity. Improving their access, simultaneously contributes to the development of farmers’ autonomy and their capacity to respond to change, also empower communities and enhance their resilience.”

Ms. Jane Njeri Reuben, who is working with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock & Fisheries at the provincial level and In charge of Natural Resources Management & Climate Change in Kenya, is very glad to be part of the course and explains, “We deal with seasonal weather advisory i.e. provision of technology package to the community and quality, healthy, disease, pest, and drought resistant seeds which is key to food security for both sustainable subsistence and economic empowerment of the communities. I applied for this course to enhance my abilities in conservation or preservation of seed biodiversity attributes in my country.”

Talking about his motivation for participating in the training, Mr. Zubog Philip Neri, Programme Coordinator of “Sustain the Future”, a National NGO of Ghana, said, “My motivation is the fact that Nepal is prominent in most studies I read about with regards to climate change, biodiversity and food security coupled with its culture and historical sights.” Similarly, Mr. Camilo Forero Vargas, Project Manager of Fundacion Natura, said, “I am interested in the course because it has field visits which allow me to figure out how to apply the knowledge with rural and indigenous communities in Colombia. When I arrived in Nepal, I observed the similarities in geography and rural communities with Colombia as evidential. We do not use machinery extensively and so this is a plus point of this course as we need tools and techniques more suitable in Colombian context.” Finally, he is happy to share experiences with people from different countries and to learn about applied tools that have potential to be adapted to Colombian context.

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