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What is the Agrobiodiversity Index?

The Agrobiodiversity Index is an innovative tool that brings together data about the agrobiodiversity that people sell and eat, grow and conserve, and provides insights into food system functioning.

The Agrobiodiversity Index measures biodiversity across three domains usually disconnected: nutrition, agriculture and genetic resources. It is an action-oriented tool that identified policy and business levers, good practices and areas for improvements, risks and opportunities, to increase use and conservation of agrobiodiversity for sustainable food systems.

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Why agrobiodiversity matters for sustainable food systems?

We need to transform our food systems. Global food production is the single largest driver of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. Increasing food production without due regard for the environment is causing severe land, water and soil degradation. Addressing hunger without ensuring nutritious diets is contributing to an epidemic of heart disease and diabetes. Increasing yields in a few staple foods is contributing to loss of food diversity.

The way we produce and consume our food is clearly hurting both people and the planet. The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the limitations of our current food system and is pushing us to reflect on the changes we need to make to achieve a food system that adequately nourishes people, sustains the planet, while providing resilient livelihoods. How can we do that?

Agrobiodiversity can fix that. Agrobiodiversity - the wealth of plants, animals and microorganisms used for food and agriculture - plays a key role in shifting towards more sustainable and resilient food systems. It boosts total productivity and quality of nutrition diets. It increases resilience, soil health and water quality while reducing the need for water, synthetic fertilizers and other costly inputs. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions compared to less diverse farms.

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Why do we need the Agrobiodiversity Index?

Despite its importance, little is known about the state of agrobiodiversity across the world. As a result, agrobiodiversity is often completely left out from dietary guidelines, agricultural and environmental policies, business strategies, biodiversity assessments and global monitoring efforts.

Improving access to data and knowledge on agrobiodiversity can trigger behaviour change and help reintroduce agrobiodiversity in our food systems to make them more sustainable. By detecting agrobiodiversity-related risks and opportunities, the Agrobiodiversity Index helps public and private decision makers to better manage and use agrobiodiversity to make our food systems more sustainable.

Who is it for?

The Agrobiodiversity Index is designed for:  

  • Governments and development partners, including multilateral agencies and development banks, to design and monitor policies and interventions and measure progress towards global targets.
  • Companies to reduce risks in the supply chain, enhance environmental stewardship and improve the sustainability of their production, responding to consumers and investors needs.
  • Global conventions and treaties to monitor how well countries are doing with their commitments towards agrobiodiversity.
  • Investors to rate the policies and performance of food and agriculture companies, and make appropriate decisions.

What does the Agrobiodiversity Index measure?

The Agrobiodiversity Index measures agrobiodiversity across three ‘pillars’: 1) consumption and markets, where agrobiodiversity contributes to healthy diets; 2) agricultural production, where agrobiodiversity contributes to sustainable production; and 3) genetic resource management, where agrobiodiversity secures current and future use options.

Across the three pillars, the Agrobiodiversity Index measures:

  • Status: the current state of agrobiodiversity.  
  • Commitment: to what extent country, company or project strategies, policies and codes of conduct are contributing to sustainable use and conservation of agrobiodiversity. For an overview of the Commitment assessment methods, please refer to our recent article Text Mining National Commitments towards Agrobiodiversity Conservation and Use.
  • Action: what countries, companies, or projects are concretely doing to increase agrobiodiversity across the food system.

The Agrobiodiversity Index methodology v.1.0 was released in March 2019. The document resulted from a thorough process of formulation, carried out in consultation with potential users and science partners to make sure the tool could address their needs. From May to September 2019, a consultation process was opened to gather further feedback on the document and identify areas for improvement. Based on this feedback, in 2020 the Agrobiodiversity Index team is planning to release an updated version of the methodology report (version 2.0).

Applications

We designed four specific Agrobiodiversity Index applications to support different food system actors in making informed decisions in food and agriculture:

Risk and resilience assessment:it provides food system actors with insights on their exposure to different risk areas (malnutrition, poverty trap, climate change, land degradation, pests and diseases, and biodiversity loss) when agrobiodiversity is low.

Intervention planning: it helps to plan and formulate evidence-based strategies for sustainable food systems by comparing the impact on agrobiodiversity of different interventions in food markets, supply chains, production or agricultural genetic resource management.

Global policy alignment:Indicators of the Agrobiodiversity Index are aligned with one or more SDGs and Aichi targets. Users interested in monitoring progress towards these global targets can use performance on the Index indicators. This also helps understand if agrobiodiversity is effectively integrated into global policy interventions.

Ranking and benchmarking: the Agrobiodiversity Index scores can be used to compare performance on use and conservation of agrobiodiversity among countries, within a company or among projects. This can stimulate positive behaviour change as part of the ‘race to the top’ to improve sustainable use and conservation of agrobiodiversity, as well as foster exchange of knowledge and best practices.

The Agrobiodiversity Index team is also exploring how the tool can be used by financial sector to leverage investments for sustainable food systems. For example, it could help produce a baseline assessment of the status of agrobiodiversity in specific areas where interventions financed through the bonds are planned and monitor progress.


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

Agrobiodiversity

Why it matters

Contact:

For more information, please contact: 
Chiara Villani, Partnership Officer, Agrobiodiversity Index