Bioversity International: research for development in agricultural and tree biodiversity

Using and safeguarding agricultural and tree biodiversity to meet multiple 2015 Sustainable Development Goals and Targets:

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Creating markets for traditional Andean grains in Bolivia and Peru

Conservation of quinoa diversity (with partner PROINPA).

Credit: Bioversity/A.Camacho

SDG1: End poverty in all its forms everywhereTraditional grains, such as quinoa, amaranth and cañihua, have been largely displaced by global cereal crops, placing many varieties under threat of disappearance.  Bioversity International and partners work to create markets for traditional crops around the world, identifying high-performing varieties, improving production and processing methods, strengthening market links and conducting promotional campaigns.

In Bolivia and Peru where poverty rates are high, sales of Andean grains increased in our research sites by 81% in Bolivia and 64% in Peru.  Read more

Target 1.1: By 2030, eradicate poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than US$ 1.25 a day.  This research also contributes to meeting Target 2.1, Target 5a and Target 15.5


Diverse durum wheat seed systems resisting drought in Ethiopia

Durum wheat varieties growing in the trial plots at Geregera, Ethiopia. Seeds for Needs field trip, 2015.  Credit: Bioversity International/S.Collins

SDG1: End poverty in all its forms everywhereOur research has found that more than 20% of traditional Ethiopian durum wheat landraces evaluated in participatory men and women farmer trials, performed better than commercial varieties bred specifically for drought resistance.

One variety yielded 61% better than the best commercial variety – an important discovery for food security in the country.  Read more

Target 1.5: By 2030 build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters.   This research also contributes to meeting Target 2.4, Target 5a and Target 13.1


Using diverse foods for improved nutrition and health all year round

Dishes prepared on site for a food fair held in the Barotse floodplain, Zambia. The food was judged in a competition for the most nutritious dish.

The food fair was organized by Bioversity International and WorldFish to promote more nutritious recipes. Part of the prize (2 winners) was an invitation to a national food fair to be held in July.

Credit: Bioversity International/E.Hermanowicz

SDG2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agricultureIn Zambia, we are working with local communities to test a diversity of crops and wild foods with potential to contribute to an all-year round healthy diet. This research is supported by educational materials about healthy sustainable diets, as well as a seasonal food calendar that shows which foods are available all year round, including the hunger season.  Read more

Target: 2.1: By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.  This research also contributes to Target 3.4


Reducing malnutrition with food system diversity

Dishes prepared on site for a food fair held in the Barotse floodplain, Zambia. The food was judged in a competition for the most nutritious dish.
Credit: Bioversity International/E.Hermanowicz

SDG2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agricultureRecent research conducted by Bioversity International in collaboration with the Earth Institute has found that increasing food supply diversity is associated with lower levels of acute and chronic child malnutrition (stunting, wasting and underweight) at a national level. It also found that the diversity of national food supply is dependent on the diversity of agricultural production, particularly in low income countries. Read more

Target 2.2: By 2030, end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving, by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons.  This research also contributes to meeting Target 2.1


Managing banana disease in Central Africa

Farmer showing management practices to prevent the spread of Xanthomonas Wilt. Disinfecting tools before using them on other plants help prevents the spread of the bacteria to healthy plants.

Credit: Bioversity International/N.Capozio

SDG2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agricultureBioversity International is part of CIALCA – a global partnership to improve the productivity of legume and banana-based agricultural systems in Central Africa. We contribute cutting-edge research on banana diseases and their management (banana Xanthomonas wilt, banana bunchy top disease and fusarium wilt), as well as banana agronomy, nutrition and Musa germplasm characterization.

An impact assessment found household incomes had risen by 20%, and farm productivity increased by an average of 30%.  Read more

Target 2.4: By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality. This research also contributes to meeting Target 1.1Target 1.5 and Target 12.3


Safeguarding 1000 local varieties in Nepal's community seedbanks

Community Seedbank in Nepal. Credit: Bioversity International/S. Padulosi

SDG2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
80-90% of seed used by smallholder farmers in developing countries is sourced from the
 informal seed system: saved from their own crops, bought from a market or shop or exchanged with friends and neighbours. 

Bioversity International works with partners to strengthen informal seed systems, support conservation of traditional farmers’ varieties and maintain seed security at the district and community level through community-managed seedbanks. In Nepal, there are now 115 seedbanks which safeguard more than 1000 local varieties of cereals, vegetables, legumes, root crops and spices. Our efforts to connect these seedbanks to the national genebank have also resulted in 916 local varieties of 62 crop species being placed in long-term storage. Read more

Target 2.5: By 2020, maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, including through soundly managed and diversified seed and plant banks at the national, regional and international levels; and ensure access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge as internationally agreed.  This work also contributes to meeting Target 2a and Target 15.5


Banana diversity safeguarded for the future in world's largest collection

In vitro banana collection at the Bioversity International Transit Centre in Leuven, Belgium. Credit: Bioversity International/N. Roux

SDG2: SDG2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agricultureThe Bioversity International Musa Germplasm Transit Centre (ITC) contributes to the secure long-term conservation of the entire banana genepool holding more than 1,400 samples of edible and wild banana species in trust for future generations. The collection is hosted at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

Between 1985 and 2007, the ITC distributed 8353 samples of accessions to external users in 103 countries. 75% of the samples go to people and institutions in the main banana growing regions – Africa (27%) the Americas (25%) and Asia and Pacific (23%) with the remainder going to universities and research centres in Europe.  Read more

Target 2a: Increase investment, including through enhanced international cooperation, in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services, technology development and plant and livestock gene banks in order to enhance agricultural productive capacity in developing countries, in particular least developed countries. This research also contributes to meeting Target 2.4, Target 2.5 and Target 15.5 


Connecting agricultural biodiversity, human health and nutrition

Connecting Global Priorities Cover

SDG3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all agesConnecting Global Priorities: Biodiversity and Human Health brings together the current state of knowledge about how biodiversity and human health are linked. The book is a result of collaboration between the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners. Bioversity International, with partners, has contributed to 2 chapters that investigate the evidence linking agricultural biodiversity and food security, and linking nutrition, biodiversity and human health.  Read more

Target 3.4: By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being. This research also contributes to meeting Target 2.1


Empowering women in India through markets for millets

SDG5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girlsBioversity International has worked with partners for 15 years to promote nutritious and resilient millet use and conservation in India. Millets were once a strong part of traditional diets in Southern India but have since become a 'forgotten food,' with barriers to their use including arduous processing needs and stigma as ‘food of the poor.’ 

Two farmers who attended an Agricultural Biodiversity and Women Empowerment event held as part of EXPO Milano 2015, shared their experiences in farming and using finger millet in different dishes and products which they now sell to local supermarkets and restaurants. They farm up to six different varieties of millet on their farms, use 'machinery to remove the grains’ tough outer shell, and have currently got 11 organic products on market shelves across India including organic flour and a nourishing coffee-like drink. They explained they now have a sense of empowerment and liberty thanks to this initiative. Read more

Target 5.a: Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws. This research also contributes to Target 1.1, Target 2.4, and Target 13.1


Reducing loss from crop pests and diseases

Different bean varieties in Uganda. Credit: Bioversity International/D.Jarvis

SDG12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patternsSince 2006, Bioversity International has been working with national partners in China, Ecuador, Morocco and Uganda to see how planting different varieties of the same crop in mixtures can reduce pest and disease damage. Recent findings from trials with the National Agricultural Research Organization in Uganda show that mixing varieties resistant to certain pests and diseases, with those that are more susceptible, greatly reduces the incidence of that pest or disease.

With common bean, we found this to be most effective when at least 50% of a resistant variety is mixed into a plot. For bananas, farmers have reported a 75% reduction in the presence of weevils when they used mixtures. It is important to note that many of the resistant varieties we are finding are actually local crop varieties. Read more

Target 12.3: By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses. This research also contributes to meeting Target 1.5, Target 2.4 and Target 13.1


Climate change: A strategic action plan for Mesoamerica

Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, Guatemala. Credit: Bioversity International/M.Ramirez

SDG13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impactsBioversity International and partners worked with more than 100 regional stakeholders to gather data – geospatial analysis, genebank questionnaires, policy reviews and farmer consultations – and agree how the agriculturally-biodiverse region of Mesoamerica can best use its plant genetic resources to adapt to climate change.

The result is a 10-year roadmap for action, now adopted for implementation by the Ministers of Agriculture who make up the Central American Agricultural Council and the Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture. It is also influencing national genetic resource plans – Guatemala is currently reforming its national seed legislation and starting a project to support farmers’ rights in light of actions contained in the plan.  Read more

Target 13.1: Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries. This research also contributes to meeting Target 1.5, Target 2.5 and Target 15.6


Putting genetic diversity into forest landscape restoration efforts

Acacia mangium tree seedlings brought to a post-mining forest restoration site in Colombia. Credit: Forestpa/L.Gonzalo

SDG15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity lossBioversity International is a partner in Initiative 20x20, helping countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to meet their commitments to restore 20 million hectares of land by 2020.

In addition, through our expertise on forest genetic diversity, we have been contributing to restoring forest ecosystems in Colombia through the development of a decision-making tool to help restoration practitioners select the most appropriate planting materials that match both the intended use of the site and the environmental conditions. This tool will be used to identify sources of planting material for the restoration of approximately 13,000 hectares of degraded Colombian dry forest.  Read more

Target: 15.2: By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally. This research also contributes to meeting Target 15.5


Safeguarding and using crop wild relatives for food security and climate change adaptation

SDG15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity lossCrop wild relatives are wild species closely related to domesticated crops. They supply valuable genetic diversity for plant breeding to help tackle challenges like climate change adaptation. Bioversity International works with partners to enhance scientific capacities in the South African Development Community to conserve crop wild relatives and identify useful potential traits.

We are also preparing National Strategic Action Plans on the conservation of priority crop wild relatives in partner countries, and promoting them to policymakers. Crop wild relatives are often not taken into account in environmental policy planning processes and their conservation not given high priority in management plans for protected areas.  Read more

Target 15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species. This research also contributes to meeting Target 1.5, Target 2.5 and Target 13.1


Ensuring fair access and benefit-sharing of plant genetic resources in 8 countries

Storage facilities and nurseries for traditional Andean grains, roots and tubers in Bolivia. Credit: Bioversity International/D. Hunter

SDG15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity lossBioversity International’s ‘Genetic Resources Policy Initiative’ is strengthening the capacity of national partners in Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Nepal, Rwanda and Uganda, to combine climate data, geographic information and data on crop suitability in order to identify potentially adapted genetic resources from genebank collections around the world.

These activities provide a pretext for the same countries to explore institutional mechanisms to participate in the multilateral system of access and benefit sharing under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Through the multilateral system, the 130 member states have pledged to pool and share the genetic diversity of a range of crops and forages for the purposes of conservation, plant breeding and training. Read more

Target 15.6: Ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and promote appropriate access to such resourcesThis research also contributes to meeting Target 1.5, Target 2.5, Target 2a, Target 13.1 and Target 15.5 


Making ecosystem services count for development goals

Fishing on traditional floating plank, Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana.  Credit: Bioversity International/C.Zanzanaini

SDG15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity lossWhile ecosystem services are increasingly recognized as valuable, quantifying that value can be extremely difficult. This in turn makes it difficult for those managing rural landscapes to make informed decisions when trying to balance the needs of a growing population against the need to protect the environment, and the trade-offs that can result.

Bioversity International and partners are building a comprehensive set of indicators to link ecosystem services to Sustainable Development Goals on nutrition, health, water, energy, climate and the environment. We are continuously improving a tool that will help decision-makers to quantify and map impacts of planned rural development interventions, while sustainably managing landscapes and achieving development outcomes: the Mapping Ecosystem Services to Human Well-Being for the Sustainable Development Goals (MESH-SDG). Read more

Target 15.9: By 2020, integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts. This research also contributes to meeting Target 2.4 and Target 3.4 

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