The Local Seed Bank Ten Years of Development and Production.
16\2\2021 Over the
years of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) work in supporting
agricultural production, the idea of a local seed bank was developed. The
idea first appeared in 2003 as an extension of the UAWC’s work in improving,
propagating and breeding of local seeds. The establishment of the Local Seed
Bank was officially approved in 2010, this step came to conserve and preserve
local varieties from extinction or loss, in fulfillment with national and
heritage goals. As for the practical goals, they go beyond national and
heritage duty, to the importance of preserving and documenting these seeds and
reviving them, and the importance of transmitting the traditional knowledge
associated with them to next generations, and making use of their adaptive
characteristics fill the agricultural gap existing in the Palestinian society.
Over a period of ten years, great efforts were put into improving and developing the local seed bank, until it was able to reach its first milestone in collecting and preserving more than 50 local varieties, from more than 550 entries belonging to 14 plant families. in addition, more than 20 medicinal and rare varieties of wild plants, for which the bank has become the only source, have been preserved, such as local black carrots, local white cucumbers, yellow cauliflower, local tomatoes, local lettuce and many other aromatic and medicinal varieties, in addition to preserving endangered wild tree varieties, which have been mapped, identified and classified in cooperation with the Environmental Quality Authority as a step in the road of conservation of biodiversity.
The work of the Local Seed Bank did not stop at preserving local seeds, but went beyond it to propagate and reproduce them using safe and innovative ways that utilize modern techniques. So, being the main source for them, reproduction units are considered the most important units of the seed bank. With the experiences and skills acquired over the many years from working with farmers and external breeding trainings in companies specialized with seed production, the units have been greatly developed and ready to shift from the regular production stage to the environmentally-intelligent and intensive production stage, that is compatible with the needs of each variety. Among these techniques is reproduction inside greenhouses using pollinators, cage farming, intensive unit cultivation, small tunnels, establishment of permanent propagation units for medicinal plants, and rooftop cultivation.
Among the important steps that fall under the vision and objectives of UAWC is the provision of seed security for farmers and maintain the green cover, as 635 dunums were covered from 2003 until 2007, and the number of beneficiaries reached 462 farmers in Hebron and Bethlehem governorates, while 1450 dunums were covered in Governorates of the other West Bank, bringing the number of beneficiaries to 757 farmers. While in the period between 2012 and 2016, 3,500 dunums were covered in the governorates of the West Bank, and the number of beneficiaries reached 1750 farmers. And in the period between 2017 and 2020, 6,690 dunums were covered in the governorates of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the number of beneficiaries reached 3,197 farmers.
Preserving the green cover requires the provision of high-quality seeds, where high standards are set and followed at the Local Seed Bank prior to admitting samples to the storage unit to ensure a large, vital and healthy seed that can yield a strong mother seedling, adapted to climatic changes. The preserved and distributed seeds have a germination percentage not less than 90%, as the new seed-cleaning line have helped provide high production capacity, with less time and higher quality results, which is a new milestone reached on the road to develop the bank and its units.
The process of preserving local seeds is carried out by an organized administrative process. Since its establishment, the bank has developed several forms that organize its work, and focus on tracking any seed sample that enters the bank, registering lab and drying results until it reaches the storage unit with high quality and suitable purity and moisture content. The attention has been focusing on purity from several axes, including the purification and separation of the varieties based on the official description and geographical demand of consumers, such as a long and short Sahurian cucumber and curly or not curly local tomato.
Among the most important achievements of the Local Seed Bank is that it has become a specialized research and education center, as it includes activities related to raising awareness for the local community, including the production of publications, advertisements, workshops, lectures, field days, practical training for school and university students, in addition to providing job and volunteer opportunities. During the past ten years, no less than a local volunteer from among the university’s students, and of 7 universities international volunteer. This is the result of the UAWC’s accreditation as a member specialized in the La Via Campesina movement in preserving and producing the original seeds. The idea of the bank was spread to the members, and journalists were attracted. 45 delegations were welcomed, they were from different nationalities, academic institutions, international and governmental institutions.