Status of Agro-biodiversity and strategies used for its conservation in Nepal

More than 80% of food for human population comes from plant sources. Food and Agriculture organization (FAO) describes that people of Asian and African region gets 90% of their diet and nutrition from plants. Despite of 10 to 12 thousand ever known edible plant species, only 150-200 species are commonly used in the world. Rice, Wheat and Maize are the major staple crops among them.

Nepal is itself very rich in agrobiodiversity. About 790 edible plant species have been found in Nepal. Moreover, 30,000 local landraces are recorded in Nepal till date. Nepal ranging from terai plains; 60 masl to mountainous range; 4700 masl are used for crop cultivation. In Nepal, 64 agronomic crop species, 145 horticultural crop species and 275 forage species are mentioned under agricultural Plant Genetic Resources (APGRs).

The varying altitude, diverse topography and climate have created altogether eight kind of agro-ecosystems; Rainfed high hill, rainfed mid hill, rainfed terai, irrigated high hill, irrigated mid hill, irrigated terai, wetland agriculture and rangeland agriculture. Besides the food species, 700 medicinal plants, 500 wild edible plants, 484 indigenous crop species, 35 types of forest, 75 types of vegetation and many more are found in Nepal.

For the initiation of agro-biodiversity conservation, first community seed bank was established at Lalitpur in 1994. Later in 2010 A.D., National Seed Bank was established by Government of Nepal as National Agriculture Genetic Resource Center (NAGRC). Altogether, 11053 accessions (plant materials) of 70 crop species have been placed in NAGRC. Moreover, 2045 plant materials have also been stored in 7 international gene bank for security. Likewise, 12 countries have stored 23600 crop plant materials of Nepal.

Still there are many species needed to be identified, collected, preserved and regenerated to present to prevent it from extinction before its economic use. Due to globalization of agriculture, modernization, mechanization and industrialization of agricultural system, people are barely using local crops for production.  They rather use high yielding hybrid and improved varieties than local cultivars creating genetic pollution globally. The old, valuable and pure cultivars, landraces, germplasms have lost their purity and existence due to haphazard use of modern technologies.

Conservation strategy used for APGRs in Nepal

  • Ex situ conservation

It is the method of conserving APGRs outside its natural habitat or location. E.g. botanical garden, gene bank etc.

  • On farm conservation

It is the practice of continuously producing local cultivar or landraces, germplasms, cultivars etc. so to maintain its existence at community level is called on-farm conservation. E.g. Community seed bank, On farm gene bank etc.

  • In-situ conservation

It is the method in which species are conserved at their natural habitat or place. E.g. National park, buffer zone etc.

  • Breeding strategies

It is the method by which species are done breeding at local level to conserve biodiversity. E.g. participatory Plant Breeding (PPB), cultivar mixture etc.

Conservation methods used in Nepal

  • Seed Bank
  • Community Seed Bank

Community Seed Bank are the bank/organization established ata community level where people of that community participate tocollect the local cultivars and landraces, register and store seeds. They can use those seeds to reproduce whenever they need. They also get credit for themselves after registering unique cultivars in community seed bank. All those crop seeds that can be stored after brying like Rice, Wheat, Maize etc. are stored in community seed bank.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bioversity/7837999666
  • Community field gene bank

Community level field gene bank is a type of gene bank where seeds of plants that couldn’t be stored after drying like Mango,Citrus etc. and seedless plants like Banana, Potato etc. are conserved.

Form these places, farmers can store, register and buy back for their own use and restoration purpose.

  • Tissue bank
  • DNA bank
  • Household gene bank
  • Himalayan seed bank
  • Protected areas (10 National Parks, 6 Conservation areas, 3 wild life reserves and 1 hunting reserves)
  • Ramsar sites
  • World heritage sites
  • CG banks
  • Ritual practices of Hindu
  • Culturally protected areas
  • Leasehold and Private forests
  • Farmers seed network system etc.

Despite of these provisions, still Nepalese farmers are unware about preserving local crop resources at local level. Several vital local plant resources have been gone to extinction due to negligence done in the sector of biodiversity conservation both by public and government level. Adequate research, development program and policies should be implemented at present context to ensure conservation of agrobiodiversity and biodiversity as whole for upcoming generations.  

References

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