Seed collection and community seed banks in the High Atlas

By Hassan Rankou, Mediterranean Conservation Programme Director, GDF

Seed saving (also known as seed banking) is a practice that local communities in the High Atlas have been engaged in for millennia. Community seed banks allow communities and farmers to cultivate local plant varieties that are resilient to different environmental changes and to access seeds to grow crops in future planting seasons and in the event an emergency seed supply is needed when their crops are damaged by flooding, drought or other unfavourable climate conditions.

The role of community seed banks does not end there. These seed repositories maintain and preserve the quality and availability of local varieties, hence playing an important role in seed diversity and sovereignty. This contributes to enhancing local livelihoods via seed exchange and trade, sustaining people’s food security through diversification of crops and varieties, and strengthening communities’ resilience via decreasing the risk of crop production failures.

Community seed banks created by local communities in the High Atlas.

In partnership with the Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association (MBLA), Global Diversity Foundation engages with local communities in the High Atlas on seed collection and seed banking activities. Together, we developed community seed banks with local researchers and communities in two project sites. All the seed accessions from these sites are stored at the MARK Regional Herbarium and Seed Bank, a regional seed bank jointly created by Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech, MBLA and GDF.

GDF field researchers and scientists bring collected plants and seeds to the MARK seed bank for cleaning, testing and storing.

All these activities—collecting seeds, building the community seed banks and developing the MARK regional seed bank—are guided by the protocol that we (the university, MBLA and GDF) developed with Direction des Eaux et Forêts et à la Lutte Contre la Désertification du Haut Atlas Marrakech. This protocol describes the techniques for seed collection and identification, and documentation and care of the collections after harvest. Here, we share some photos of these processes.

 

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More information on seed banks…

Community seed banks contribute significantly to regional, national and global level seed bank collections. A seed bank is a documented collection of seeds held for long-term security or for ease of access. It aims to acquire and maintain seeds of high quality that will provide users with viable genetic material that represents the variation and useful traits of the original field collection. Seed banks safeguard genetic diversity that is at risk at the population and species levels. They are reliable and convenient sources of genetic material for users and researchers.