Visit in Colombia : knowledge exchange

What is to be learned from Colombia seed knowledge? 

Community seed banks are a central pillar of the project CROPS4HD to increase accessibility of neglected and underutilised crops as well as farmers’ varieties. In Latin America, SWISSAID has been working with community seed banks for 15 years. Therefore, the project decided to capitalise this experience in a South-South exchange.  

In Colombia SWISSAID partner have created a large and strong network named Semillas de Identidad (Seeds of Identity). This network is comprised of 80 seed banks in various regions of the country.  

To learn from this experience, collaborators from Chad, Niger and Switzerland visited the project and several community seed banks in Colombia. They exchanged with seed guardians, project collaborators, farmers networks advocating for peasants’ right to seeds, and with representatives from the Columbian agricultural research institute (AGROSAVIA).  

Some of rich lessons learned from this exchange:  

  • Culture, local identities, and the struggle for human rights play a central role in all seed activities in Colombia. This makes it difficult to transfer the approach as is to different contexts. Instead, local customs, beliefs and stories about seeds need to be probed to anchor the interventions. 
  • The activities depend a lot on enthusiastic and very engaged individuals. On the one, hand this contributes a lot to success, but on the other hand sustainability of seed banks might be at risk when the project does not manage to mobilise other actors (especially younger ones) to take this struggle further. 
  • To grant for sustainability of the community seed banks, it is important to maximise efforts in building capacity and only invest minimal resources in physical assets such as actual constructions to host the seed banks. This will help to increase local ownership and the capacity to maintain the seedbanks.  

These learnings are used as a basis for the further development of community seed banks in Chad, Niger and Tanzania. To facilitate further exchange, a virtual workshop will take place in November to discuss the possibilities to adapt these Colombian experiences to African contexts and to mutually learn from the experiences made in the focus countries of the project.   

A short video (in Spanish) presenting this exchange, following some activities and small interviews with the actors present during this visit is available, have a look :