India is home to an incredible diversity of both wild and cultivated crops. Diversity is one of the main characteristics of nature and also the very basis of ecological stability. Diverse ecosystems give rise to diverse life forms and diverse cultures and this forms the basis of sustainability.
With the advent of the green revolution, the emphasis has largely shifted to the increase in yield - as a consequence, a small number of seed varieties selected for their capacity to give high yields in response to the application of high doses of fertilizers are being promoted. This has seriously eroded the diversity of local varieties. This displacement has not only led to loss of diversity, but to several undesirable ecological consequences.
Several traditional seed varieties are now facing extinction. These varieties, if conserved, will be of immense value to Indian agriculture in many ways. A concentrated effort to preserve them is vital to the future of India's most important industry.
Our community seed bank project is aimed at identifying important traditional seed varieties and orienting the agricultural community towards conserving and cultivating them.
When CIKS began the seed conservation initiative, we found no more than a handful of indigenous varieties. Today, more than 130 varieties of paddy and 50 vegetable varieties are being conserved in farmers fields and experimental farms.