Research to improve the use and conservation of agricultural biodiversity for smallholder farmers

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2 Research to improve the use and conservation of agricultural biodiversity for smallholder farmers Agricultural biodiversity the variability of crops and their wild relatives, trees, animals, arthropods, microbes and other species that contribute directly or indirectly, to food production is fundamental for the long-term sustainability and resilience of agriculture. It forms the basis of a diverse and nutritious diet, and is a key asset to improve the livelihoods and productivity of smallholder farmers in developing countries. Nearly 2 billion people worldwide are malnourished 1 and 70% of the world s poorest 1.4 billion people depend on small-scale farms for their food 2. Most research in recent decades has been concerned with increasing production through the increased use of external inputs and management of production, in ways that render agriculture more uniform. These approaches are increasingly recognized as having significant adverse consequences including land degradation, pollution and the loss of ecosystem services. Alternative approaches are urgently needed to sustainably feed the growing population and adapt to global challenges such as climate change. There is a growing body of evidence about the value and effective use of agricultural biodiversity as a potential development tool but significant knowledge gaps still exist. Agricultural systems rich in biodiversity are inherently more sustainable and resilient than uniform systems that rely on external inputs. Agricultural biodiversity, including forest resources, is also a vital source of food and livelihood for the many smallholder farmers including those who live in rural poverty. Around 350 million people who live in or near dense forests depend on them to a high degree for subsistence and income 3. Bioversity International Bioversity International is the only global non profit organization that places the use and conservation of agricultural biodiversity in smallholder farming systems at the centre of its work. Bioversity International has been at the forefront of global scientific efforts to collect, conserve and use agricultural biodiversity for more than 35 years. During this time, we have gained the necessary breadth of experience and depth of understanding of agricultural and forest biodiversity to address the complex challenges of improving the nutrition, livelihoods and agricultural sustainability of smallholder farmers. We have an extensive network of partners that brings together scientific expertise and farmers traditional knowledge to build evidence and models that will lead to concrete change: in farmers fields, on people s tables, in markets and in agricultural policy. We are also a CGIAR Consortium Research Centre. Our research investigates diversity at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels, working in representative sites and agricultural ecosystems. It focuses on important crops, trees and other useful food and non food plant species, and the associated diversity (such as microorganisms) that supports their production. In the past 5 years alone, Bioversity International has carried out activities in around 100 developing countries. But agricultural biodiversity is a resource in rapid decline. If we are to realize its enormous potential to improve the livelihoods and nutrition of smallholder farming communities, and the sustainability of their farms, we must move quickly to create a robust framework of knowledge regarding biodiversity, its optimal uses and its conservation on farms, in forests and in the wild. 1 Global Health Risks Report, World Health Organization, Rural Poverty Report, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Sustaining the World s Forests: Managing Competing Demands for a Vital Resource, World Bank, 2006.

3 BIOVERSITY INTERNATIONAL S VISION AND PURPOSE Our vision is of a world in which smallholder farming communities in developing countries are thriving and sustainable. Our purpose is to investigate and promote the use and conservation of agricultural biodiversity in order to achieve better nutrition, improve smallholders livelihoods and enhance agricultural sustainability. Two Strategic Priorities In the next 10 years, two strategic priorities will guide our work: 1. To improve the use of biodiversity by smallholder farmers. Demonstrate how, through the improved use of biodiversity, smallholder farming communities can significantly improve their livelihoods and nutrition, and ensure more sustainable and resilient agricultural systems with the potential to benefit 320 million people. 2. To improve the conservation and availability of plant diversity. (a) Support the development of an innovative operational global programme of in situ conservation of plant diversity, tested and applied on at least 30 crops and their wild relatives, and 100 priority forest tree species on three continents. (b) Significantly improve the availability of plant genetic resources through conservation, information management and a supporting policy environment. In 5 years time, midway into our new strategy, Bioversity International will have provided evidence at sufficient scale to enable a range of partners and individuals to effect lasting change in food systems, by demonstrating how: the use of agricultural biodiversity can intensify production and reduce risk for smallholder farmers in at least four targeted ecosystems. the use of agricultural biodiversity results in greater diet diversity with potential nutritional and health benefits in at least four targeted agricultural systems. the improved marketing of agricultural biodiversity and equitable participation of the poor in markets increases income and income stability in four targeted smallholder farming communities. We will also have: identified and developed five in situ conservation locations that secure significant diversity of priority crops, wild relatives and useful tree species. ensured that information on 3 million accessions (samples) of the most important crop species is available on-line through a global system accessible by all. increased the gene pool coverage of bananas and plantains in genebanks by 20%, with special emphasis on crop wild relatives.

4 Priority 1: TO IMPROVE THE USE OF BIODIVERSITY BY SMALLHOLDER FARMERS Five objectives guide our research towards achieving our first 10-year goal. The first four investigate individual dimensions of the use of biodiversity and build upon on going work. They will constitute a large part of our efforts in the first 5 years. The fifth objective brings together all aspects and will gradually receive more attention. Objective 1: Prototype approaches to agroecological intensification through the increased use of agricultural biodiversity. Agroecological intensification builds on ecological processes (such as light capture and nutrient cycling) to increase the productivity and sustainability of farming. Its use in smallholder farming systems can improve the efficiency of on-farm and external inputs, conserve natural resources and enhance ecosystem services. In this approach, external inputs, farm labour and onfarm resources do not substitute ecological processes, but make them more effective and productive. Existing strategies include the use of cultivars adapted to erratic rainfall, improved vegetation cover, or recycling of more biomass back to soil organic matter. The use of agriculturally diverse crop mixtures can increase productivity through better exploitation of water and nutrients, and reduce pest and disease damage. Finally, the management of associated species, such as shade trees, pollinators, and soil and plant microorganisms are important inputs to agroecological intensification. ground-test policy reforms. Results will be synthesized across diverse agricultural ecosystems and under different socio-economic conditions to derive overarching approaches, methods and principles. Objective 2: Pilot approaches for increased resilience and risk reduction on smallholder farms through greater use of agricultural biodiversity and local forest resources. One of the great benefits to smallholder farmers of diversified production is increased stability in the face of variability, such as climate change and market shocks. When possible, smallholders depend on a variety of sources of food and other products for their own consumption and income generation. This may include planting several varieties and species of crops and fruit trees, small-scale commercial crop production for a local market, raising different livestock species and breeds, and the use of trees on farm or in surrounding forest areas for food, fuel, construction, medicines and other uses. But the benefits for human well-being and ecological resilience of managing risk through diversified production are not completely understood. Bioversity International will seek to understand the impacts of a loss or gain of agricultural biodiversity, in terms of socioeconomics, policies and biological processes. The use of agricultural biodiversity at multiple scales (from genes to landscapes), and the increasing knowledge of its functional values, such as how a species interacts with and contributes to ecological processes, opens new opportunities for innovation. Bioversity International combines a strong focus on genetic resources in agroecological intensification with a global perspective on agricultural systems. Our research will consolidate a framework for analysing the current status of biodiversity in production systems; the incentives and disincentives that affect use; and the opportunities for agroecological intensification through incorporating biodiversity within a certain crop, in crop mixtures, or non-crop associated biodiversity at the plot and landscape scales. Bioversity International will also examine the influence of institutions and policies on farmers abilities and decisions to use biodiversity. We will identify and

5 We will conduct research to strengthen local systems and identify support mechanisms needed to maintain and enhance diversified production by smallholder farmers, and increase their ability to adapt. Participatory research, based on strong collaboration with smallholder farmers, will facilitate the development of improved risk management through diversification. Objective 3: Promote the use of agricultural biodiversity to provide affordable, nutritionally rich food sources which contribute to dietary diversity and improved nutrition and health. As agricultural biodiversity is the basis of the food and nutrient value chains, increasing its use is crucial for improved food and nutrition security. Bioversity International will develop methodological and empirical evidence of how agricultural biodiversity can contribute to dietary diversity and nutrition, as well as to improved livelihoods and ecosystem functions. This work pays close attention to different farming practices and cultural preferences, and seeks to determine what works best in development programmes on the ground. We aim to mainstream the role of agricultural biodiversity into public health and nutrition policy and practice, by sharing evidence and providing local solutions. Our research tackles the complex issues of monitoring, evaluating and enhancing the role of agricultural biodiversity within food and nutritional systems in a range of agricultural ecosystems and different economic and political situations. We will build the necessary evidence, tools and products to allow the uptake and scaling out of research results by governments, development programmes, value chain and food sector actors, academic and research institutions, health and agriculture workers, farmers and their communities. Objective 4: Develop innovations across the value chain that permit the improved use of agricultural biodiversity for increased income, and supporting the equitable participation of the poor in markets. Making markets work for the rural poor is a challenge. Obstacles include unfavourable national and international economic, trade and marketing policies. Furthermore, many of the qualities of local products (like improved taste, nutrition or cultural significance) may be undervalued. New products often lack established value chains and infrastructure that add to their value and widen their appeal. Expanding agricultural markets and value chain developments are often seen as offering farmers improved employment opportunities and associated income generation. The global trade in healthier and more diverse foods creates a strategic opportunity to orient markets and value chains to increase the demand for products from diverse landscapes and provide incentives for sustainable use. Our multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder research will therefore address production, marketing technologies and policies needed to ensure the equitable participation of the poor in new markets of diverse products. It will seek to: foster public-private cooperation for sustainable value chains; build capacity of key value chain actors; influence consumer preferences; establish farmers associations, with a focus on women; and develop policies that facilitate successful market-oriented production without displacing other important sources of agricultural biodiversity. Objective 5: Identify, validate and promote biodiversity-based options for improving nutrition, livelihoods and system sustainability in representative agricultural ecosystems. Increased incomes in farming cannot be sustained if the gains are extractive in nature, lead to ecological imbalances, or continuously bring new land into farming. On the other hand, increased use of biodiversity can contribute to more sustainable and resilient systems, as well as to improved livelihoods and better access to nutritious food. The challenge of Bioversity International s 10-year goal is to holistically address all three components, i.e. livelihoods, nutrition, and sustainable and resilient production systems. Our research in support of this objective will focus on developing an integrated framework that includes targeting, priority setting, partnering mechanisms and impact assessment.

6 Priority 2: TO IMPROVE THE CONSERVATION AND AVAILABILITY OF PLANT DIVERSITY The global loss of plant genetic resources, including crops, crop wild relatives and trees, continues unabated. These genetic resources are critical to ensuring that the diversity needed to adapt and enhance agriculture remain not only available for future generations, but accessible too. This requires two complementary conservation approaches: ex situ (conservation of seeds in long term storage facilities) and in situ (conservation of plants and trees where they naturally grow on farms and in the wild). It needs to take account of genetic, species and ecosystem maintenance, and maximize effectiveness at all scales. We will work on crops, wild relatives and trees, selected on the basis of distribution, threat status, breeding system, phenology, importance for smallholder farming communities and potential utilization. We will develop improved procedures for determining priority species and populations for conservation to ensure future production options are maintained and genetic diversity and evolutionary potential are maximized. Work will also determine what management procedures and practices are most effective for in situ conservation of crops, trees and wild relatives. Objective 1: Develop an operational global programme of in situ conservation, on farms and in the wild, of agricultural and forest biodiversity including crop wild relatives. In situ conservation ensures continuing evolution and adaptation to changing conditions, on farms, in forests and in the wild. While the past 50 years has seen significant advances in knowledge of ex situ conservation, comparable progress has not been made in the field of in situ conservation, and major gaps in knowledge remain. For example, molecular methods that assess the extent, distribution and temporal changes in plant biodiversity could provide a useful tool for conservation decision making. Yet, despite its potential, this approach has yet to be fully developed. In situ conservation is important for other reasons as well. The crops and other useful plant species conserved on smallholder farms yield both direct and indirect benefits to farmers and rural communities, and to society at large. These benefits may include greater security of production and cultural benefits. Bioversity International will focus over the next 10 years on improving the in situ conservation of crops, wild relatives and useful tree species and on developing the local, national and international collaboration needed for a global effort to be put into operation. Working both on farms and in natural environments, Bioversity International and its partners will test methods to identify and manage populations and varieties that need to be conserved, identify ways of monitoring the effectiveness of conservation efforts, and develop the new management practices, collaborative mechanisms, and policies and laws needed to support global conservation efforts.

7 Our work will also identify the linkages needed between in situ and ex situ conservation to maximize global conservation effectiveness. This will involve identification of policy options to support the dynamic movement of materials between ex situ collections and in situ conservation areas. Objective 2: Improve the availability of plant genetic resources. Improving conservation requires complementary actions that support the increased use of diversity conserved in situ and ex situ. Key to this is the ability of genebanks to provide high quality materials, and to ensure that the global community of users has access to the information they need to identify useful materials. Bioversity International will continue to support the provision of information and to further the development of guidelines and standards that improve conservation procedures and ensure the maximum availability of ex situ collections. In parallel, we will build on information systems about plant genetic diversity maintained in situ, including trees and wild relatives. The development of a global information system that provides users with direct access to information on the wealth of material conserved ex situ is key to improving the availability of plant genetic resources. Bioversity International will continue its work with other partners to ensure that this system provides accession-level performance and environmental information on at least 80% of the unique material held in ex situ and in situ collections around the world. Bioversity International will continue to help create a supportive policy and legal environment that stimulates the flow of useful agriculture and forestry genetic resources, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits associated with increased availability. Objective 3: Ensure the long-term conservation and availability of the global diversity of banana and plantain, cacao and coconut. Bioversity International has a standing commitment to the long-term conservation of the global banana and plantain collection held in trust under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at its International Transit Centre. Working with a network of experts on an internationally agreed genetic resources conservation and use strategy for banana and plantain (Musa species), Bioversity International will ensure the further conservation and safe dissemination of Musa under its responsibility. It will work to improve conservation methods and use cutting edge technology to fill gaps in knowledge of the Musa gene pool. To promote use of Musa diversity, it will maintain an accession-level information system, including genetic information on particular traits, within the International Transit Centre and other Musa collections. Bioversity International will also continue to coordinate genetic resources networks in cacao and coconut, and improve the conservation of these and other commodity crops of importance to the poor. An enabling policy environment is also an essential element of improved availability.

8 Bioversity International is a CGIAR Consortium Research Centre. CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food secure future. Bioversity International is also registered as a 501(c)(3) non profit organization in the US and as a registered charity in the UK (number ). Bioversity International 2012 Bioversity Headquarters Via dei Tre Denari 472/a Maccarese, (Fiumicino) Rome, Italy Tel. (39-06) Fax. (39-06) Printed on recycled paper

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