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Diversity Against Damage (DAD) – A Global Family Combating Crop Loss Today and Tomorrow. Join and / or support the DAD family

April 3rd, 2016

IMG_20160317_163231Diversity Against Damage is a global family of men and women researchers, educators, developers, policy makers and farmers working together to integrate intra-specific crop diversity (crop varietal diversity) into integrated pest management (IPM), resistance breeding and other agronomic and land and water management practices to combat pest and disease for small holder farmers.

Why DAD?

Worldwide, farmers lose more than 25% of their annual crop harvest to pests and diseases with developing countries experiencing the greatest devastation . The resulting losses are often the evolutionary consequence of crops grown in genetically uniform single variety monocultures and the continuing evolution of new races pathogens and pest biotypes that are able to overcome resistance genes introduced by modern breeding .Breeding programmes exist to develop new varieties and to replace varieties that have “lost” their resistance, but the maintenance cost for national systemsis high, particularly for developing countries , andthe resistance may protect for only a few cropping seasons as new pathotypes or pest biotypes emerge .Yet, most, if not all, known resistance to pests and pathogens in crops used in breeding programmes is derived from local varieties collected from farmers who traditional grow them in genetically diversesystems . Even so, the development of new cultivars grown as monocultures continues to be central to modern agriculture.Subsidies for modern varieties and associated agricultural inputs are mainstreamed, and lack of access to sufficient quantities of clean and healthy diverse seeds, limit the potential for the optimal use of crop varietal diversity to prevent crop loss .The DAD global family works along-side resistance breeders to expand the tools available to researchers, educators, policy makers and farmers to assess, value and use diverse sets of varieties within a crop species, (i) to reduce crop loss now, and (ii) to ensure that the crop populations in farmers’ fields are less likely to be overcome by new pathogen strains or pest biotypes in the future.
What we do as a global family to be successful:

Identify where intra-specific diversity can be part of the answer (not everywhere!):
• Assess for variation in resistance among and within traditional and commercial crop cultivars
• Test whether the resistance found is helping to reduce damage in farmers fields;
• Test whether we are dealing with a variable pathogen species or pest species, and what is the nature of the variation of the pathogen or pest species
Develop gender and age sensitive diversity rich solutions
• Develop genetic mixtures to slow the development of pest and pathogen outbreaks in a crop.
• Breeding desirable characters into locally adapted resistant through participatory and conventional breeding and crop improvement
Build capacity and ensure benefit sharing
• Build capacity for men, women and youth at farm, research station, extension, research and education institutes, and local and national policy makers to support the use of and benefit from diversity in their production systems
• Share lessons learned, protocols and expertise within and across countries

Originally funded by UNEP-GEF, SDC, and IFAD, the Diversity Against Damage (DAD) global family started with a team of over 60 national research and academic institutions, national and local governmental, extension agencies, NGOs, community and farmer associations in China, Morocco, Ecuador, Uganda and researchers from Bioversity International. It has now expanded to partners in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Ethiopia, Nepal, India, Vietnam, Burkina Faso, and Mali. Together,our global family developed and implemented common protocols for agreed host/pest pathogen systems for rice, maize, common and faba beans, banana and plantain, and durum wheat, to assess and use high levels of diversity of traditional and commercial varieties, to reduce pests and diseases. The national researchers from China, Ecuador, Morocco and Uganda trained site-level personnel in common participatory approaches and technical assessment of genetic diversity, pathogens and pests, and supported the implementation of on farm experimental trials. Ministries of Agriculture, NARS and local governments in all four countries provided policy support and allocation of staff and students to work with farmer communities. Researchers and farmers have tested the use of this intra-specific diversity linked to good agronomic management practices on farm, on station and the materials evaluated in laboratories. National government and non-government development agencies have supported local institutes and market actors to strengthened access to diverse planting materials in quality and quantity, and to improve the capacity, particularly of woman farmers to promote the use of crop genetic diversity to reduce crop loss . Farmers in the original four countries have provided testimonies below on about how adopting crop variety rich approaches has increased their crop yield on-farm. With the new partners joining the global family, the target crops have increased to include, high elevation rice, common bean, and buckwheat in Nepal, rice and mung bean in Vietnam, barley and durum wheat in Ethiopia, temperate fruit tree diversity in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and sorghum and millet diversity in India, Mali, Burkina Faso, Uganda, and Ethiopia.

High impact – low cost

In just the last three years with 750,000 USD in funds spread across the original four countries: China, Morocco, Ecuador, and Uganda, over 30,000 farmers (between 30 to 60% female) have benefited from training on producing and storing clean seeds. Farmers have had on average a 50% increase in the number of varieties in their fields to manage pest and diseases. These have been made available through diversity fairs, demonstration trials, the establishment of community seed banks, diversity kits, participatory variety selection, community meetings, and knowledge products. This increased diversity specifically targeted to manage pest and disease has reduced damage in 75% of the farmers’ fields across the China, Ecuador, Morocco and Uganda and has been correlated to increased yields . Over 250 mixture trials were carried out to compare two or more varieties grown together to the mean of their varieties grown separately in monocultures. The results show that 87% of the mixtures did better than the mean of their component monocultures in either higher yields (51%) or less damage (67%) of both higher yields and reduced damage (31%). 20 BS, 29 MSc, and 11 PhD students from the four southern countries have completed their degrees in the last three years in on farm management, mixture trials, and diversity analyses of genetic diversity. 50% of students who received their MSc and PhD from the project were woman, over 30% of the technicians trained were women, and the overall percentage of women involved in project management was over 60%.

Support our Global Family to grow!

We are seeking membership from participation and engagement of scaling up actors and support from funding partners. The incremental investment in a country targeting 1 million households (5 million people on average) per country amounts to $5 per farmer or $2 million per country over 3 years (or 20 million for 10 countries). The investment will be transformational. The multi-disciplinary approach brings together all key stakeholders in national systems – farmers, universities, national agricultural research centres, conservation organizations and policy makers. Millions of poor farmers will benefit from a self-selected portfolio of high quality, diverse varieties delivered in a timely manner in sufficient quantities to reduce crop loss from pest and disease. Degree programs for universities and technical colleagues in each country will train a new generation of young agricultural and environmental extension and development workers to integrate genetic diversity into sustainable agricultural solutions. The investment will increase farm productivity, resilience to climate change and improve household food security by reducing the likelihood to future pest and disease epidemics. It will amplify impact of other research and development investments by drastically decreasing the time between laboratory and field, and by building on massive user innovation and feedback to make intervention targeting much more effective.
Testimonies from farmers
In China, the villagers of Bada village, Xiding county, at Thursday markets, are now promoting the use intra-specific crop diversity and introducing and presenting experiences of using crop varietal diversity to other farmers. In Ecuador, farmers are now requesting planting materials for traditional banana varieties that they have seen from on farm trails to be resistant to black sigatoka to increase their portfolio of banana varieties. In Morocco, local farmers interviewed said that, “the local varieties or beldi display a good quality in terms of taste, a good productivity and adaptation to climate and climate changes. They resist to drought and disease incidences. In addition, they are producing large quantities of straw (Quechbal) that are used in animal feeding.” In Uganda, Mrs. JovailleMuhoozi, at Kabwohe Site, tripled her common bean yields after adopting mixtures of common bean varieties. With the coming of the community seed bank that provides farmers with a diverse choice of over 30 varieties of good quality healthy seeds, Mr. Musinguzi Boaz, Kabwohe site who used to get nine seeds per plant, now harvests between 50 to 90 seeds per plant. Below are the activities that have made our work a success.


Frequently Asked Questions

Why would the use of local crop genetic diversity within in current IPM programs be useful?IPM strategies focus primarily on using agronomic management techniques to reduce pesticide use, and concentrate on modifying the environment around predominantly modern cultivars, using biotic control. These methods, however, have tended to exclude the potential of using within-crop diversity as an added means of regulating pest and diseases for poor farmers. In addition, the majority of IPM strategies concentrate on reducing current or the coming season crop loss to pest and diseases. They are not as yet oriented to reducing the risk to future crop loss (reducing genetic vulnerability within the farmers’ fields) to new mutations of the pathogen population within the farmers’ field or migrations of new pathogens that may come into the farmer’s field.

In which (not all) host-pest systems would crop genetic diversity use work? For this approach to work, it is necessary to concentrate on host-pest/pathogen systems where host variation for resistance to pest and pathogens exists.

Where would crop variety and/or genetic mixture development would be most efficient for IPM programs? (i) in countries where substantial traditional varieties continue to be grown with long-term local breeding programs where traditional varieties been phenotypically characterized together with recommended certified varieties in the country (ii) for crop-pest/pathogen systems that are well studied, (iii) where there is national and local experience with participatory plant breeding and genetic mixtures of crop varieties, and where (iv) links exist with on-the-ground breeding activities and on-going national and international conventional breeding programs. For these new materials and methods to enter into the formal seed network, there is also a need to investment in uptake pathways, including the development of alternatives and modifications to current seed certification systems and support to economic ideas that value crop genetic diversity not only as a production input along with seeds and labor, but also the consideration of crop genetic diversity also as a damage abatement factor, as a substitution for pesticide application

Who were the Original Global Family Members and what are their roles?
Diversity again Damage started as a global family in China, Ecuador, Morocco and Ecuador. with national coordination that has established technical and site teams in each country. In Morocco the team is led by InstitutAgronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II (Morocco), the Instituto Nacional Autónomo de InvestigacionesAgropecurarias (INIAP – Ecuador) for the highlands and the Fundacion Para el Desarrollo de Universitario de la Universitario de la Universidad TecnicaEstatal de Quevedo (FUNDUTEQ) for lowlands (Ecuador), the Plant Genetic Resources Center of National Agriculture Research Laboratories NARO (Uganda), and the Yunnan Agricultural University (YAU), the Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences (YAAS), Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences (SAAS). The teams have trained site-level personnel in participatory approaches and technical assessment for genetic diversity, pathogens and pests. The Ministère de l’Agriculture et de la Pêche Maritime and the Office National de Sécurité Sanitaire des Produitsalimentaires (Morocco), the Ministerio del Ambiente, the Departamento del Ambiente de la Alcaldía de Saraguro and the Ministerio de Agricultura in Ecuador and the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Local Government (Uganda), and the National Agricultural Technology Extension Service Center (NATESC), Ministry of Agriculture, Beijing, (China) provide policy support. Mainstreaming with farmers/NGOs is supported by Direction Provinciale de l’Agriculture de Taounate (Morocco), in Ecuador by Unión de OrganizacionesCampesinas e Indígenas de Cotacachi (UNORCAC) and the Asociación de indigenasSaraguros de la parroquiaTenta and local associations in La Mana and El Carmen, by Mbarara and Kachwekano Zonal Agriculture Research and Development Institutes (Uganda), and by county bureaus of agriculture in China. Over the last few years, the family has been expanded in the last year to include government and non-government partners from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Ethiopia, Nepal, Peru, Mali linked to other on- going programs that use crop genetic diversity to improve crop productivity.



Oerke et al., 1994
Marshal 1977
Strange and Scott, 2005;
Wolfe and Finchk, 1997
Duvick 1984
Mulumba et al., 2012; Jarvis et al., 2011
Mulumba; Bai Community seed banks.
IFAD Final Report; Ssekandi, W., et al., 2016