Case Study 2: Participatory plant breeding and farmers rights in the Pokhara Valley, Nepal

Pokhara Valley. Credit Feliz Verlade

Pokhara Valley. Credit Feliz Verlade

Jethobudho is an aromatic rice variety found in the Pokhara valley of central Nepal. The variety is valued for its superior cooking qualities such as softness, taste, aroma and volume expansion ability. But due to significant problems with quality variation from susceptibility to lodging (stalk bending) and disease, Jethobudho was not competitive with other high quality rice varieties despite consumers being willing to pay a high price.[1]

Together, the Fewa farmers’ group, the Local Initiatives for Biodiversity Research and Development (LI-BIRD), the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), the District Agriculture Development Office Kaski and Bioversity International initiated a participatory selection process to identify improved Jethobudho varieties. An extensive field diversity collection survey was carried out to identify plants with valuable characteristics, as determined through consultation with farmers, traders and hoteliers who identified a list of traits, including aroma, taste, softness, yield, susceptibility to lodging and diseases, for the “ideal” Jethobudho variety. Surveys of crops were carried out across several locations in the valley, with a total of 338 lines from farmers’ fields evaluated for their performance against these desired traits. Based on the survey, 46 lines were selected and 6 distinctive lines chosen to create ‘Pokhareli Jethobudho.’ In the years that followed, Pokhareli Jethobudho was found to outperform the original breeds in uniformity, post-harvest quality (such as taste and aroma), yield, straw quality and tolerance to stress. Yields increased from 2.4 t/ha to 3.35 t/ha. For the first time ever in Nepal, the variety was formally registered and released by the Nepalese regulatory authorities with recognition of farmer co-ownership even though under the Nepalese Seed Act, varieties can only be registered to those with an MSc degree or higher.[2]

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