The value of plant genetic diversity to resource-poor farmers in Nepal and Vietnam

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Genetic resources for food and agriculture are the biological basis of world food and nutrition security; and they directly or indirectly support the livelihoods of over 2.5 billion people. [...] The economic value of genetic diversity for productivity and yield traits is discussed in the literature. However, it is difficult to value many other aspects of agricultural biodiversity as these have both direct and indirect values in terms of qualitative traits such as food, nutrition and environmental uses that include adaptation to low input conditions, co-adaptive complexes, yield stability and the consequent reduction of risk, specific niche adaptation, and in meeting socio-cultural needs. [...] The value of genetic diversity to resource-poor farmers is seldom captured by markets or addressed by the international research agenda.

This paper presents lessons learned from our work over 5–10 years in the Asia and Pacific Ocean (APO) region on participatory crop improvement, home gardens and on-farm management of agricultural biodiversity. The lessons illustrate how farmers adapt genetic resources to suit local environmental conditions. The paper focuses on the value of genetic diversity of selected crop species to meet people’s food and other needs. Genetic diversity valued by resource-poor farmers is often maintained, selected and exchanged by local social seed networks. Identification of such genetic resources and their custodians is important if international agricultural research is to contribute to the reduction of poverty. The paper highlights some good practices from case studies that illustrate how such genetic resources could be exploited by informal research and development strategies or participatory plant breeding or for marketing value-added products.

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