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A new international effort on neglected and underutilized species, on farm conservation, and climate change.

May 12th, 2011

A traditional rare variety of rice with medicinal value; locally know as Aanga-only few households have maintained this in poor soils.

In June 2011, Bioversity and its partners in India, Nepal and Bolivia, will be launching a new Project entitled “Reinforcing the resilience of poor rural communities in the face of food insecurity, poverty and climate change through on-farm conservation of local agrobiodiversity.” This 3-years Project supported by IFAD, was conceived in response to the silent and unprecedented loss of species, varieties and associated traditional knowledge adversely affecting today agrobiodiversity at the farm level. The impact of such a situation on the poor is dramatic as it reduces their options to cope with change and in particular to food and nutritional insecurity. As a matter of fact, the 2010 FAO State of the World Report II on PGRFA depicts an alarming and worrying situation with regard to the conservation and use of agrobiodiversity: despite considerable progress made on ex situ conservation, very limited efforts are on record for curbing the genetic and cultural erosion taking place on farm and severely affecting the sustenance of local crops and varieties. Furthermore, international policy instruments in support of agrobiodiversity, such as the Global Crop Diversity Trust, are currently focusing

Threshing minor millets in India: traditional operations which are currently poorly effective can be improved with great benefits for the farmers who is encouraged to use these resources and contribute to their on farm conservation (Credit: S. Padulosi)

mainly on crops of Annex I of the International Treaty for PGRFA, thus excluding de facto thousands of other nutritious (and in many cases endangered) crops and varieties from being properly safeguarded, conserved and promoted for their effective use. More concerted efforts are therefore needed to support in situ/on-farm conservation and the sustainable use of local plant genetic resources. The newly approved Project will contribute to move the Agenda in that direction by developing methods for assessing and monitoring diversity on farm along with mechanisms for supporting use enhancement of local crops within a climate change scenario. Genetic erosion maps from case studies will also be used to support the international debate over the expansion of Annex I of the Treaty to include neglected and underutilized species.

Objectives of Project: The Programme will be implemented in Latin America (Bolivia) and in South Asia (Nepal and India) and will be pursuing three main objectives, namely: 1) the development of tools to map out diversity and assess values, threats and competitiveness of local crops of relevance to the rural poor within a climate change context; 2) the dissemination of tools, mechanisms, approaches to enhance capacities of stakeholders in conserving diversity on farm and 3) the exploration of policy options and collaborative frameworks at national and international levels aimed at strengthening pro-poor on-farm conservation. Ultimately, these efforts will aim at mainstreaming agro-biodiversity into conservation and use practices and in so doing enhance the preparedness of farmers and value chain actors against climate change.

Processing machine for quinoa has allowed to remove the saponin alkaloid from the seeds more efficiently and contributing to use a greater range of quinoa varieties currently underutilized in Bolivia and Peru (credit: W. Rojas)

 

Outputs and Beneficiaries: The Outputs expected from the implementation of the Programme include 1) Evidence building for better understanding of the distribution of local crops on-farm, their competitiveness and status of threats; 2) Documentation of local/traditional knowledge of use of diversity in developing strategies to cope with specific situations and recommendations made available on how to enhance good practices through their blending with scientific findings; 3) Human capacity to mobilize local agrobiodiversity for coping with change enhanced through community-based mechanisms and frameworks; 4) Networks and systems to promote greater access, sharing and conservation of diversity and knowledge developed and/or strengthened;  5) Policy options to promote greater use of local diversity addressed and recommended at national and international level.
The Programme will benefit, in particular, resource-poor farmers and value chain actors, and will have a special focus on the empowerment of women.  One of the expected products of the project is the development of a genetic erosion monitoring and awareness method for cultivated agrobiodiversity, which would include the application of ‘Red Lists’ to cultivated species. These lists, based on use and livelihood benefits’ considerations, will be very helpful for guiding governments and agriculturalists in developing suitable action plans for preventing loss of valuable diversity to happen due to increased marginalization of local crops.


Implementing Agencies: Bioversity will be the Executing Agency of the Project whereas the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, LI-BIRD and PROINPA will be the implementing Agencies for the work in India, Nepal and Bolivia respectively.

For more information: please contact Dr Stefano Padulosi, Bioversity International, Maccarese (Rome), Italy, email:  s.padulosi@cgiar.org