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Farmers and Genebanks

August 29th, 2011

Creating Alliances to help rural communities cope with climate change

For the last 2 years, The Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research has worked with Indigenous communities and genebanks in Sarawak, Malaysia and Cochabamba, Bolivia. The aim of the work was to improve the access by communities to the crop varieties maintained in genebanks that could help adaptation to climate change.

A first step to achieve the project’s goal was the Free Prior and Informed Agreement, a collective agreement on collaboration between community representatives and the genebank.

Activities of the project included workshops and discussion sessions which provided both the communities and the genebank with information on the crop materials and their management.

The second part of the project focused on the role of gender in agrobiodiversity and on how men and women affect each community’s ability to adapt to climate change.

This phase highlighted that women and men complement each other in agrobiodiversity management.

In Malaysia, the project was undertaken in the villages of Gahat and Skrang, respectively in Serian and Sri Aman and focused on rice cultivation, which is crucial to the livelihoods of both communities.

In Bolivia, the work was carried out in Morochata and Colomi, in central Bolivia, and focused on potato, the main crop in that region. Potato varieties play a fundamental role in ensuring food security and generating income.

Farmers of all the four different communities maintain a wide range of their traditional crops but are aware of the changes affecting their environment and of the need of using crop varieties in order to cope with and adapt to climate change.

With regards to genebanks, farmers of the two countries showed different approaches and understanding of them, hence genebanks need to make an effort if they wish to explore ways to help communities satisfy their needs.

The project identified a number of activities which could help communities access material in genebanks, among which the existence of local groups of farmers who can request varieties to genebanks, the support provided to farmers in order to help them maintain the quality of their seeds and support to farmers in identifying the causes of loss of traditional varieties.

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