South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Published in The E-Kantipur on Nov. 04 ::

Parliament on Tuesday approved a proposal presented by the Ministry of Agricultural Development to ratify the agreement on the establishment of a Saarc Seed Bank.

According to Mahendra Poudel, under-secretary at the ministry, Nepal signed the pact to establish the bank during the 17th Saarc Summit held in Addu City of the Maldives in 2011. Four countries—India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Bangladesh—have ratified the accord to create a mechanism to guarantee food security.

South Asia has put in place a collective mechanism to ensure food security as agriculture and food production has been hit by recurring floods, droughts and other erratic weather conditions caused by global warming.

The agreement to set up the Saarc Seed Bank will go into effect after it has been ratified by all the member states. The seed bank is expected to deal with seed production and exchange of varieties and seed trade among member countries, said Poudel.

According to him, the bank will help member states to exchange seeds produced in their territories and help farmers to get quality seeds. It will also help the respective countries to preserve indigenous seeds. The seed bank will particularly be useful in addressing seed shortages caused by natural calamities. For example, if any member state suffers from a natural disaster, it can withdraw the seeds stored in the bank.

After the seed bank comes into existence, Saarc countries can share and grow common varieties of seeds. Currently, each country has its particular variety of seeds, and some of them are not grown in other territories while some are restricted by intellectual property rights.

“It takes at least 10 years to develop a new seed variety, and sharing and growing common varieties of seeds in the region will not only save time but also aid exchange of technologies and techniques.”

The bank will also play a key role in introducing seed multiplication programmes and helping countries to increase their seed replacement rate. Nepal’s seed replacement rates for cereal crops are very low.

The ministry’s statistics show that the rate of seed replacement in Nepal is 9 percent, and under National Seed Vision 2013-25, the government plans to increase the rate to 25 percent for cereals by 2025. By the same year, the seed replacement rate for vegetables is expected to reach 90 percent from the current 66 percent.

As many land races and indigenous genetic resources are on the verge of extinction, the bank will ensure that these precious genetic resources are well preserved for the development of climate resilient high yielding competitive varieties in the future, added Poudel.  

It will ensure greater availability of quality seeds and spread high yielding improved crop varieties.