It has thus become obvious that interventions must be made to
address these problems and
enable Palestinian small-holder farmers communities, especially
in marginal areas, to access
seeds, conserve, document and enhance their resources and
GEF has supported the
implementation of a regional project (1999-2005) on
conservation that involves countries from the Near East Region
including the PA, Syria,
Lebanon, and Jordan. The project aims at promoting the
conservation of wild relatives and
landraces of important agricultural species indigenous to the
region including the Palestinian
support, BERC has established the BERC-Til Botanic Gardens
in the Nablus district. The BERC-Til BG aims at the conservation
of natural plants including
wild origins of cultivated trees and shrubs, using in-situ and
ex-situ techniques; carry out
educational programs in conservation biology; carry out research
in plant sciences; and
function as a recreational site.
In this regard a community seed bank (CSB) intervention can thus
be integrated with the
traditional community farming systems in such areas of semi-arid
BERC therefore has responded
to the current status of indigenous crop landraces by setting
up a CSB in the northern area of the West Bank as a
complementary component of the BERC-
Til Botanic Gardens, to function as a facility and the center
for seed requirements of farmers
in the Till village area, to enhance and keep alive the
tradition of nurturing diversity through
such aspects as: access to seed of farmers’ choice; farmers’
capacity building in producing
desired seed of specific crop cultivars; providing strategic
seed reserve in drought years;
production of good quality seed; ensuring farmers’ seed security
at household level.
The CSB, which is an
improvement over the old concept of a seed bank being a mere
or retrieval mechanism and structure, also functions as a
facility for on-farm germplasm
conservation through utilization; farmer training in the
modalities and rudiments of seed
production; seed selection, treatment and storage; and exchange
of germplasm, information,
innovations and technologies between and among farmers,
extension agents and
researchers. Target plants are mainly food crops including
cereals, legumes and vegetables.
The new agricultural
biodiversity of seed allows the diversification of crops that
adapt to climate, soils, and rainfall patterns. Also information
is exchanged about the traits
and characterization of new varieties.
The overall goal of the CSB establishment is therefore, two
fold: one, to maintain and
improve local crop accessions that will ensure lasting food
productivity and availability, as
well as increase source of income in the target local
communities, and two, to enhance the
diversities of traditional food crop varieties.
Objectives Of The Community Seed Bank:
Overall objective: To achieve
genetic resource conservation at the community level within the
framework of sustainable agriculture. To
serve and fulfill the rights of rural communities in on-farm
(in situ) conservation of agricultural
biodiversity, recovery and restoration of both the materials
(seeds) and their plant genetic resources.
To serve as backup systems for which lost and
endangered varieties are revived, and also
serve as drought mitigation and management strategy
at community level.
collect, select and create mechanisms for the availability of
indigenous (and improved) seed varieties to the farmers and
To engage in seed
varietal improvement through farmer’s selection, as well as
multiplication, maintenance and propagation of seeds.
To introduce or
reinforce food production initiatives through bio-intensive
gardening of vegetable crops and production of annual or
perennial food crops.
To work on a
diversity and ecological strategy that will ensure nutrient
cycle balance and soil and water conservation. This will be made
possible by determining the proper and preferred crop mix and
To identify and
build the proper structures (e. g., seed storage) and mechanisms
needed for the community seed bank.
Work Plan Description:
The propagation of local
varieties of food crops and other target plant
species, and the establishment
of CSB assist the conservation of genetic resources at the
community level within the
framework of sustainable agriculture.
Nablus district. A number of
villages representing about 10-15 % of farmers’
community in the rural areas of
the Nablus district is the primary target beneficiaries of the
project. Six village community
clusters were initially selected to study the status of crop
landraces in the area: (1)
Zawata; (2) Talouza; (3) Alsawieh; (4) Salem; (5) Til; (6)
CSB is now being established in
Till. Other CSBs can be established in other villages based on
the Til experience.
Include landraces of wheat and barely; landraces of lentil and
of Allium (e.g. onions);
landraces of forage and pasture species; and landraces of other
important food crops (e.g.,
vegetable marrow, pumpkins, okra).
Seeds from identified and verified
local landraces and varieties are being
collected by staff from BERC
and by eligible farmers.
multiplication of target crops landraces:
Part of the collected seeds is
cultivated organically and
working collections established at BERC-Til Botanic Gardens, and
Al-Tal site 1km northwest of
the BGs. Biodiversity of the collected germplasms is maintained
each cultivated population in
order to produce a set of ecotypical cultures, an important
for conservation as well as
providing high quality raw plant material for scientific
second portion of the seeds is
dispensed to selected eligible farmers for propagation on their
farms. Farmers are asked to
return larger quantities of seeds than they received.
Establishment of the CSB:
Structure of the community-based seed bank:
comprises the following compartments:
1. Receiving and
Temporary Storage Room (an office): day-to-day transactions are
conducted in this room.
2. Drying Room.
Drying of seeds will be carried out immediately after its
arrival at the CSB. Different methods will be used for drying
including: desiccants, drying cabinets, NGB apparatus.
3. Preparation Area.
Seed processing involve cleaning, inspection, sterilization,
packaging, classification (voucher numbers given), etc.
4. Seed Testing
Laboratory. Tests include determination of weight of 1000 seeds,
moisture content of seeds, viability, and detection of microbial
(fungal, bacterial, viral) infection.
5. Seed Manipulation
Area: Selected and preferred crop cultivars, which have been
evaluated on farm and selected for bulking by farmers, are
stocked in this room. In addition, the room keeps materials,
which are intended for bulking in quantities of up to a set
weight (e.g. 25 Kg). Also all multiplied seeds for distribution
and supply purposes are housed in this room.
6. Germplasm Mid-Term
(10-20 years) Conservation Cold Room: to conserve all locally or
acquired germplasm for safekeeping. Orthodox seeds will only be
considered for storing germplasm in the CSB since those can be
dried at low humidity and stored at low temperatures. These
seeds can remain viable for many years and are rather easily
stored in the CSB. The recalcitrant seeds which do not tolerate
low humidity and temperature will not be eligible candidates for
the seedbanking conservation in the CSB. Seed storage practices
at the CSB may involve the following. Seeds are first cleaned,
inspected, counted and packaged then they are placed open for a
minimum of three weeks to equilibrate at 20 C and 13-15 %
relative humidity (RH) (using silica gel desiccant). The
storage containers are then sealed and kept at the appropriate
temperatures (2-4 °C).
7. Farmers Meeting
Room (Seminar Room): this is a function room where the
stakeholders hold meetings, consultations and trainings
of the CSB:
formed a CSB Management Committee (CSB-MC) comprising members
BERC, and farmers from the Til farmers
Community (also members of the
Farmers’ Committee, FC).
The CSB-MC is responsible for, but not
limited to, aspects such as:
Determining the crops and crop cultivars to be multiplied.
Identifying farmers in charge of multiplying seeds.
Estimating the seed demand by crop and variety.
Coordinating seed distribution and supply to farmers.
Facilitating germplasm collection and rescue missions in the
Determining the quantity of seed reserves required by crop
Treating packaging and storing seed materials.
A designated staff member at BERC will be responsible for
administrative duties and maintaining
the cooperative effort between the
MC and farmers. A farmers’
committee (FC). one FC for women,
WFC; and one for men, MFC have been formed.
The FCs help facilitate, coordinate, and ensure
the participation of community members in
the CSB’s activities.
Current Farmers Committees:
Samir Y. Zeidan (Head), Mr. Omar M. Hindi, Mr. Mustafa M.
Assideh, Mr. Al. A. Saifi, Mr. M. A. Hasan.
FCW: Mrs. Fatimeh A. Assideh (Head), Mrs.
Safieh M. Nofal, Mrs. Arifeh F. Hindi, Jamileh A. Saleh, Zahereh
I. Ramadan, Ms. Abir H. Ramadan.
Current MC: Prof.
Moh’d S. A. Shtayeh (Head), Ms. Rana Jamous, Mr. Mahdi Al-Khader,
Mr. Samir Y. Zeidan, Mrs. Fatimeh A. Assideh.
Training and educational program:
In order to promote a deeper awareness and
understanding of indigenous crops amongst farmers community, and
the unique within-species genetic diversity in these crops, The
MC develops, in conjunction with the cultivation programs,
educational activities, workshops and training programs which
are to the farmers, agriculturists, and researchers. Such
programs help facilitate the exchange of information, resources
and germplasm between the CSB and farmers communities.
Farmers from Til community and the CSB
committees’ members have been instructed by BERC staff, and
other specialists on a wide range of sustainable organic
agricultural techniques, specific for indigenous crop plants.
Courses have been held over 3-week periods at BERC, and
included: germplasm collection, simple propagation methods,
establishing genotype collections, selection and breeding and
integration into local crop systems and post harvest protocols.
The training is designed for the capacity
building of farmers and involved committees members to
competently manage community seed banks and accompanying
activities. Issues covered by the training programs included,
but not limited to:
1. Importance of germplasm and the need for conservation
2. Seed technology (germplasm collection, selection,
production, propagation, breeding, etc). 3. Seed
4. Seed adaptation trials.
5. Gender dynamics in agricultural biodiversity conservation
6. Importance and value of indigenous knowledge systems/
practices as it relates to agricultural
7. Community rights.
8. Seed multiplication procedures.
9. Seed selection, drying, seed processing and storage
10. Benefits sharing between and among farmers.
Workshops / Seminars / Meetings:
A series of these have been organized to convey to the community
the main educational and public awareness messages related to
the CSB’s activities.
The collection and exchange of traditional
Historical uses of indigenous crops, including their current use
by Palestinian communities are now being documented from source
material and in interviews with farmers from the Nablus
district. Information has been recorded on pre-prepared forms,
accompanied by photos and voucher herbarium specimens of plants
used by farmers, collected for identification.
Address for correspondence:
Biodiversity and Environmental
Research Center (BERC),
Til, Nablus POB 696.
Telefax: 09-2346-406, 09-2346-147