Agrobiodiversity, Land and People – A New Initiative by PAR

The ongoing debate over “land sparing” versus “land sharing” is of great importance for agrobiodiversity. Among the scientific community, the question is whether biodiversity can be conserved through agricultural intensification that increases the productivity of existing cropland (land sparing) or through alternative approaches (e.g. agroecology, wildlife-friendly farming) that enable the coexistence of biodiversity and agriculture on the same land (land sharing). In many situations a mix of the two land use strategies may be needed to reach various apparently conflicting objectives: biodiversity conservation, the provision of ecosystem services, higher agricultural productivity, food and nutrition security, income and land tenure rights for local communities.

Still, there are large knowledge and evidence gaps surrounding the land sharing or land sparing question, particularly in the context of environmental and social change. Producing specific recommendations requires the consideration of interacting factors including geographical, ecological, social and cultural, as well as political and economic. Moreover, the contentious issues of, for example, land grabbing and the production of biofuels, make the identification and implementation of sustainable land use strategies highly problematic. The needs of rural communities and indigenous peoples, and especially women, are often neglected. Decisions about land use, whether that be for protected areas, agricultural land, mining or multifunctional landscapes, are often made without the involvement and consent of local communities.

Together with its partners, PAR seeks to tackle some of the knowledge and information gaps surrounding the land sparing versus land sharing debate in a new initiative “Agrobiodiversity, Land and People: Strengthening the partnership between indigenous peoples, rural communities and scientists” funded by the Christensen Fund.

Over the coming months, PAR will undertake an analysis of relevant information and experiences, and then involve civil society and indigenous peoples’ representatives with agricultural and conservation scientists to explore the issues raised by this debate from the perspective of indigenous and rural communities.

In addition to the analysis of the current state of knowledge with respect to the two approaches, we hope to discuss a number of relevant questions including the following: Are traditional and smallholder-dominated landscapes appropriately considered in the debate? Which land use strategies can best contribute to agrobiodiversity conservation, land restoration and climate change resilience? How do different land use strategies affect rural communities and indigenous peoples who maintain agrobiodiversity? And, how can decisions on different land use strategies be made?

In the next year, we will actively seek your involvement. We welcome and encourage your contribution. For further information or any suggestions please contact