Community seed banks contributing to small-scale food production, agrobiodiversity and local seed exchange networks in Chile

By Paula Fuentealba Urzúa

Feature image: Basket with bean seed varieties © ONG CETSUR

Our project  intends to implement seed banks governed by seed guardians of four localities in the Biobío region, south of Chile. We are focusing on women leaders from urban agriculture organisations who maintain food and seed farms using agroecological and traditional techniques, allowing varied production to feed families and their communities. As leaders of their industry in Tomé, Penco, Talcahuano and San Pedro de la Paz, they participate actively throughout Biobío to sustain trafkintus, the Mapuche name to self-manage seed exchanges amongst local agriculture organisations, where food sovereignty is at the heart of it, and good quality seed is shared. Their participation increases seed production and promotes sharing of knowledge, allowing the replication by their respective communities and seed exchange networks.

Women seed guardian workshop © ONG CETSUR

We are working with ONG CETSUR, a local NGO whose role in this project is to strengthen relationships amongst the seed guardians, thus contributing to small-scale food production, agrobiodiversity of local agriculture organisations, conservation and reproduction of local seed varieties, as well as the restoration of varieties that are at risk of disappearance from the region. This will also contribute to maintaining the trafkintu network in Chile. In addition, this project supports CETSUR’s efforts towards its dependencies as an agent that contributes to native and good quality seed circulation through exchanges, workshops and mutual support initiatives to urban and rural small-scale food farmers.

Plants and seed varieties on a seed exchange or “Trafkintu” © ONG CETSUR

With the four seed guardians, we will develop a workshop focused on (a) identifying collectively how they select, save, conserve and exchange seed over time, identifying local crop diversity and how to improve their seed conservation conditions; (b) recognising the global and local biodiversity loss situation and seed conservation strategies; and (c) sharing technical knowledge to improve crop selection and seed collection, including seed health and cleaning, registration, processing, storage, monitoring and regeneration seed techniques. The CETSUR team will support each seed bank’s efforts in seed conservation.

Seeds are scarce and at risk locally. Supporting their conservation for future seed exchanges is crucial. Through this project, we aim to raise the recognition and strengthen food sovereignty by improving agrobiodiversity of urban and rural food farms, particularly through CETSUR and local seed guardian networks, who obtain their seed supply through local seed exchanges.

This project, Community seed banks contributing to small-scale food production, agrobiodiversity and local seed exchange networks in Chile, is being carried out by GEN member Paula Fuentealba Urzúa, and is supported through GEN Project Packages.