Starting a Community Seed Bank

Crop productionEnvironment and climate change

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 second of four in a series about community seed banks.  In part 1, we explained how a community seed bank can protect rare and local varieties of crops. This script explains how to begin setting up the seed bank.

Wherever possible in this 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 them to share their information with other farmers through your broadcast.




[Yesterday, last week, _________] we talked about community seed banks, and why it is important to save seeds from local varieties of crops.

Some people put their savings in a bank.

When they need extra money, they can take out their savings.

This is the way most banks work.

A seed bank works the same way, but it has seeds in it, not money.

A seed bank belongs to your community, not to an individual farmer or family.

If your crop fails because of bad weather or pest damage, the extra supply of seed from the seed bank is very important.

You might also use the bank if you need seeds from a particular crop or plant.

Whenever possible, however, you should also keep your own seed.

Today’s program is about how to set up the bank.

Don’t try to set up a community seed bank by yourself.

You need a group of people to share the work.

The group may include farmers and other members of your community.

Some members of the group may be assigned particular tasks, such as collecting the seeds, preparing the seeds for storage, labelling the seed containers, or keeping records about the seeds that are stored in the bank.

Make sure that everyone understands the work involved, and agrees to help keep the bank going.

When you have a group of people to help with the bank, you can collect seeds from crops which are useful to farmers in your area.

Then you store them in a community seed bank until they are needed.

A seed bank can take different forms.

In your village it could be a collection of seeds stored in a public building, such as the health clinic or school.

It could be a collection of clay pots dug into the floor of a storage hut.

Or it could be bags of seed on a kitchen shelf.


As most farmers can tell you, seed collection, treatment and storage must be done throughout the year.

So a community seed bank requires work and commitment.

Tune in to our next broadcast [tomorrow, next week, on _______] to learn some methods for collecting seeds for your seed bank.

And feel free to contact us here at [_____________] if you have ideas about community seed banks you would like to share with other farmers.

– 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.