International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

BSF Project - Third Cycle

Sustainable use of the agro-biodiversity of corn, beans and under-utilized species in indigenous communities of Central America: A strategy for food security and climate adaptation
Where are we working?
Central America is the center of origin of several crops and boasts high levels of agrobiodiversity. However, the area has experienced detrimental effects of climate change such as prolonged droughts, heavy rains and an increase in the presence of pests and diseases, directly impacting small producers, whose agricultural production is increasingly lost in its entirety. This has led to food shortages, particularly in the dry season.
With active participation of indigenous communities, this Benefit-sharing project works on the generation of crop varieties with tolerance to key climatic effects, making use of local agrobiodiversity, and strengthening community resilience.

What are we doing?
  • Establishment of seed banks with direct links to producers organizations;
  • Characterization of corn and bean varieties, with active participation of farmers;
  • Organization of agrobiodiversity fairs at the regional level, and promotion of seed and knowledge exchange;
  • Linking community seed banks with national and international germplasm banks for the mutual exchange of materials and repatriation of accessions of importance for food security;
  • Large-scale participatory evaluation of crop varieties
  • Generation and dissemination of corn and bean varieties under the participatory plant breeding approach:
  • Capacity building in the context of seed production
  • Establishment and strengthening of National Commissions of Plant Genetic Resources in the participating countries, with the involvement of civil society organizations and government agencies.

What has been achieved to date?
23 new seed banks have been established and equipped, strengthening the network at the regional level. A total of 88 accessions of ayote (Cucurbita moschata), 37 of cassava (Manihot esculenta) and 40 of sweet potato (Ipomoea batata) have been characterized for morphological traits.
Large-scale participatory evaluations have been carried out, and enabled the dissemination of 36 selected varieties of beans and five of corn, including varieties with excellent nutritional profiles (high content of iron and zinc), improving the diet of rural families. To date, five adapted bean varieties and two adapted varieties of corn have been developed through the project’s participatory plant breeding approach and released at the regional level. 5,522 seed packages of these corn and bean varieties have been disseminated. Moreover, 9,271 quintals of quality maize, bean and potato seed have been produced by ten producers’ organizations, increasing accessibility of quality seed in rural areas.
Four small seed producing companies have been strengthened through the participatory formulation of business plans, and the capacity of farmers, researchers, extension workers, and technicians has been built through training workshops.
Agrobiodiversity fairs have been organized and reached over 13 thousand farmers (39% women). Information on Farmers’ Rights has been disseminated, including in three Mayan languages via radio broadcasts.

Who has benefited?
A total of 127 producer organizations have been involved in the project, benefiting 39,965 farmers (26,718 men and 13,237 women) who face extreme climatic variations and food shortages. Of these, 3,106 farmers (34% women) directly benefited through involvement in participatory evaluations, and 3,372 farmers through training in agroecological management with emphasis on soil conservation, organic production and crop diversification.
Moreover, 863 seed producers and 125 plant breeders and technicians have directly benefited from project implementation and training.

Best practices and success stories
Participatory plant breeding has enabled the development of varieties adapted to local conditions and with traits preferred by farming communities. The project has thereby increased crop yields by 50 to 100% (depending on the particular agroecological conditions of the area and farmers’ access to resources, especially irrigation systems). It has sustainably increased food availability for farming families throughout the year.
The establishment of community seed banks has been very successful, with additional farmers and associations interested in replicating the approach adopted by the project. These seed banks have also facilitated the repatriation of accessions held in international gene banks, enabling farmers to recover landThe founding and strengthening of micro enterprises for seed production has turned small farmers into local actors in production chains, improved income and access to quality seed for the wider rural population.races that had previously been lost.
Beans, Cassava, Cucurbitáceas, Maíz, Sweet potato
Window 2 - Immediate action projects
Region: Latin America and the Caribbean
Target Countries: Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua
Implementing institution: Asociación de Organizaciones de los Cuchumatanes (ASOCUCH)

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