Gene Campaign, ITPGR & Bioversity

Gene Campaign competed successfully to get the award of a grant from the FAO-International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources Fund to work on the ‘Use of Genetic Diversity for Climate Change Adaptation’. The project is being implemented in four locations: Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Several activities are being undertaken to improve the adaptive capacity of farmers to climate turbulence. One of the highlights of this program is setting up seed banks containing the crop genetic diversity of the region. Bioversity International is a partner in this project.

This project was designed with the following specific objectives: Exploring means for strengthening link between national and community gene banks and local farmers in the context of adaptation to climate risks; Understanding social and cultural barriers to adoption of adapted varieties and explore effective means of introducing new adapted plant genetic resources; Understand the role of national and local seed systems in enabling adaptation under changing production constraints; Strengthening capacity of local institutions and farmers for climate variation adaptation and conservation of crop diversity and setting up community based gene banks and information dissemination systems.

The project focuses on the genetic diversity of rice (and in one mountain state, finger millet), with the aim of deploying crop diversity to increase the adaptive capacity of rural communities to climate risks. Whereas there has been significant enhancement of local capacity due to training programs, the field trials show the reluctance of farmers to cultivate traditional varieties. The preference is almost exclusively for HYVs and hybrids in the plain areas, mountain areas are still willing to use genetic diversity but largely because hybrids are not suited to their ecologies. There is an evident need for a proactive state policy on conservation and use of germplasm as a risk minimizing tool.

Initial studies on climate change impacts and local seed systems were done at the following four locations: Uttarakhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. Farmer Exchange visits were organized and Trainings on Participatory Varietal Selection were given to the farmers of the target areas. Farmer Field Schools have been conducted in villages of Shohratgarh, Uttar Pradesh; Ramgarh in Nainital district, Uttrakhand, Palampur, Kangra District, Himachal Pradesh and in Muzzafarpur, Bihar, with the collaboration of Bioversity. Community seed banks have also been set up in all four project locations to promote use of traditional seed varieties among farmers rather than hybrid varieties. Seed diversity fair have also been organized at the project sites in which people from various community organizations, civil society groups, government agencies participated. Farmers brought traditional seeds of Rice, Millets, Paddy, Wheat, Maize, Pulses which were exhibited at theses fairs.

A GIS workshop, entitled “Application of Geographic Information System (GIS) and Climate Analogue Tools for Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources (APGR) Management”, was organized by Bioversity in New Delhi on 3-4 June, 2013. The two-day training workshop was attended by researchers and field staff from Gene Campaign project sites and from other organizations.