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Climate change and indigenous communities: strengthening adaptability, resilience, and innovation

August 12th, 2010

Through a project developed by the Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research and supported by the Christensen Fund, the Sarawak Institute of Agriculture Scientists (SIAS) and the Semongok Agriculture Research Centre (ARC) has begun working on an initiative that intends to support  the use of agrobiodiversity by indigenous and rural communities who are having to cope with the effects of climate change.

The large number of rice varieties still maintained by a great number of  farmers represents a rich opportunity for Sarawak and its farming communities; this diversity provides livelihood options through social, economic and ecological opportunities and helps improve both environmental and community resilience.

The seed genebank of Sarawak’s Department of Agriculture (DoA) aims to provide an improved service to the members of the Bidahyu community at Gahat and of the Iban one at Skrang by identifying and making available rice varieties that will help these farmers to adapt to the changes they are facing, especially floods and drought.

The work seeks to directly benefit the farmers and indirectly all of us, supporting a better understanding of the value and the use of diversity. Diversification can help improve nutrition, provide additional economic opportunities, improve ecosystem services and support local culture and knowledge, often at risk of being lost forever.

In addition, by attaching a Geographical Indication (GI) to certain indigenous rice varieties such as the Bario, Biris or the purple Bajong, Sarawak’s Department of Agriculture helps in tapping into the market potential of these products while offering opportunities to the farmers for income and maintenance of their traditional customs. GI protection ensures authenticity, consistency, quality assurance of the product and safeguard of the Intellectual Property Rights of the farmers.

Involvement and empowerment of the farming communities in the identification, maintenance and exchange of relevant materials will be a process that will create a relationship between the genebank and the farmers. Farmers are also scientists, custodians of precious diversity and traditional knowledge which we should learn about and respect. For this reason a Free and Prior Informed Consent agreement is signed between the indigenous people and the genebank managers so to safeguard the intellectual and material property of the community members.

Following an evaluation by communities and genebanks, a program of further cooperation will be developed to improve maintenance and quality of existing crop materials and access to new materials.

Read PAR’s publication Farmers and Genebanks – Creating alliances to help rural communities cope with climate change

For further information: Jean Teo G.K. – email: jeantgk@sarawaknet.gov.my
Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research – email: platformcoordinator@cgiar.org

You can read about this also on the Daily Mail and on the Brunei Times


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