The Seeds for Needs Initiative in Ethiopia: integrating farmer and scientist knowledge
This set of factsheets by Bioversity International shows how the ‘Seeds for Needs‘ initiative works with farmers to research how agricultural biodiversity can help minimize the risks associated with climate change. The concept is simple – if farmers have better information and access to a wide range of varieties, they are more able to choose what best suits their conditions and cope with unpredictable weather. Seeds for Needs is trying to encourage this by exposing farmers to more crop varieties and increase their first-hand knowledge about different traits and options available and strengthening their seed systems and seed-saving capacity so that they always have access to planting material that fits their changing needs. This is done through a participatory approach that can connect farmers’ qualitative evaluation of landraces with quantitative agronomic and morphological data in a scientifically sound way. This helps participatory breeding programmes focus on improving traits that are relevant to farmers. In order to speed up farmers’ evaluation of the varieties while collecting scientific data on how they adapt to climate change, a crowdsourcing approach was used. Furthermore, the initiative set up community seedbanks for strengthening the informal seed system. The Seeds for Needs initiative is examining durum wheat varieties to find drought-resistance traits, that could be used for breeding drought-resistant varieties that can be used in other drought-prone areas. Moreover, the initiative aims to further improve traditional durum wheat varieties through breeding. In addition, molecular techniques were used to map farmer and breeder preferences.