Script 56.5

Notes to broadcasters

A seed bank protects local crops which may be rare or especially well-adapted to local conditions. It is an emergency seed source if crops fail due to disease, pests, or bad weather. This script is the first of four in a series that explains why a seed bank is useful and how to set one up. Wherever possible in the series, include discussions with local farmers about the varieties of crops they grow, how they save their seeds, and traditional methods of seed storage. Encourage farmers in your area to begin discussions about community seed banks.



Most people think of a bank as a place to save money.

Today we are going to talk about a different sort of bank, one that contains seeds, not money.

It is a community seed bank.

Why save seeds?

Without seeds, crops will not grow.

A wide selection of seeds protects a farmer’s investment and livelihood.

Why is a wide selection of seeds important?

There are many varieties of every crop.

For example, there are different varieties of maize, and each variety has its own qualities.

Some have yellow kernels, and others have white kernels.

Some maize plants are tall, and others are shorter.

Some maize is resistant to insects.

Other kinds of maize can survive in very dry weather. And so on.

Different varieties and qualities of local crops contribute to diversity.

If farmers do not save seed from many different varieties, diversity is lost.

And without diversity, the future of crops and farms is at risk.

Just one pest could destroy an entire harvest – and this means disaster when farmers only grow one crop.


So, a community seed bank protects local crops and is an emergency source of seed if crops fail due to disease, pests or bad weather.

How can you decide if your community needs a seed bank?

Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Do you grow local or unusual varieties of food crops?
  2. Do you exchange and share seeds with other farmers, or your neighbours?

If you answered yes to both questions, then you’re already protecting crop seeds so it may not be necessary to start a seed bank.

When many farmers grow local varieties and exchange the seed, they are making sure that good quality seed is always available.

But perhaps you don’t exchange or save seeds.

This may be because it is difficult to work together with other farmers.

Or perhaps you had to eat your seeds after a bad harvest.

Then a seed bank may be the answer for you.

A carefully organized seed bank will guarantee that there is always some local seed available.

Tune in to our program [tomorrow, next week, __________] to learn how to start a seed bank.

It is important to remember the value of local crops, and rare and useful plants.

Seeds from a variety of different local crops may be the most important savings you ever make!

– END –


  • Contributed by: Dr. Helen Hambly Odame, Associate Officer, International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR), The Hague, The Netherlands.
  • Reviewed by: Hélène Chiasson, Urgel-Delisle & associés inc, Québec, Canada.

Information Sources

  • Community Seed Bank Kit, Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), PO Box 655, Pittsboro, North Carolina 27312, USA.
  • Growing Diversity: Genetic resources and local food security, edited by David Cooper, Renée Vellvé and Henk Hobbelink, 1992, 166 pages. Intermediate Technology Publications, 103/105 Southampton Row, London WC1B 4HH, United Kingdom.