In 2015, at the United Nations in New York, countries agreed on the Sustainable Development Goals; in Paris at the Climate Summit, they reached an agreement on Climate Change; and at the Convention on Biological Diversity, countries focused on mainstreaming agricultural biodiversity into health, nutrition and production systems.
Agricultural biodiversity has an increasingly important role to play in creating long-term food system sustainability, with contributions to make in terms of improving nutrition, enhancing resilience of agricultural production system and increasing adaptation to climate change,.
In the report you will find examples that show the impact of Bioversity International’s work on people's lives on the ground in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Our work is organized around three initiatives: ‘Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems’; ‘Productive and Resilient Farms, Forests and Landscapes’; and ‘Effective Genetic Resources Conservation and Use’. Through these initiatives, we investigate how to safeguard agricultural and tree biodiversity for future generations and how to use it to diversify diets, production systems, seeds and planting materials.
“Agricultural biodiversity has an increasingly important role to play in creating long-term food system sustainability.”
Increasing the sustainable use of agricultural and tree biodiversity in production and consumption systems plays an important part in solving today’s challenges – reduce global malnutrition, adapt to climate change, increase productivity and reduce risk, and address shrinking food diversity.
Bioversity International’s strategic objectives are to diversify diets, production systems, seeds and planting material, and safeguard biodiversity.
To achieve these objectives, Bioversity International integrates its research portfolio into three initiatives.
Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems
Productive and resilient farms and forests
Effective Genetic Resources Conservation and Use
In 2015, Bioversity International produced 169 scientific publications on topics that include:
- banana genetic resources conservation and management systems
- biodiversity and ecosystem services
- diet diversity and nutrition
- forest genetic resources and restoration
- fruit tree and tree crops diversity
- genetic resources policies and institutions
- neglected and underutilized species
- on farm and in situ conservation.
Bioversity International works with partners around the world to identify and deliver innovative solutions to ensure agricultural biodiversity nourishes people and sustains the planet.
Our partners are national and international research systems and advanced research institutes, non-governmental organizations, foundations, private sector organizations, government ministries, UN agencies and international bodies.
Bioversity International's work would not be possible without the support of the CGIAR Fund members and a wide range of funding partners who share our vision and mission.
The continuous and fruitful collaboration with our partners is critical for Bioversity International to deliver scientific evidence, management practices and policy options to use and safeguard agricultural and tree biodiversity to attain sustainable global food and nutrition security.
Mobilizing funding is becoming more challenging as many CGIAR donors cut their aid budgets and divert resources to crisis management and achieving short-term results. To address these significant funding cuts, Bioversity International has used a combination of cost-cutting measures, strategic use of reserves, and has developed additional fundraising plans.
Funding to Bioversity International from bilateral sources is on the increase and development of several ‘big idea’ evidence-based products, which are attractive and ripe for support by development budgets, will help the Institute to recover and grow again.
Revenue in 2015 amounted to US$ 36.3 million (2014: $42.4 million) against expenditures of $36.9 million (2014: $42.2 million), resulting in an operating deficit of $0.6 million for 2015. Bioversity International’s reserves were at $10.7 million (115 days) at 31 December 2015, compared with $11.1 million (107 days) at 31 December 2014, both of which are above the target of 90 days set by the Board.
Despite the challenges posed by several unexpected cuts and a difficult bilateral resource mobilization environment, Bioversity International has implemented effective mitigating measures and continues to achieve great results in delivering scientific evidence, management practices and policy options to use and safeguard agricultural biodiversity to attain sustainable global food and nutrition security.
For more information, download our 2015 Financial Statements
Board Chair: Cristián Samper
Vice Chair: Carl Hausmann
Maria Helena Semedo
M. Ann Tutwiler
Douglas van den Aardweg
Bioversity International created a UK registered charity (no. 1131854) in October 2008 to increase awareness and support for its research agenda and activities. Bioversity International UK is governed by an independent Board of Trustees.
Board Chair: Trish Malloch-Brown
Jacqueline de Chollet
M. Ann Tutwiler
Bioversity International USA, Inc aims to engage and inspire a wide range of partners and donors to ensure that agricultural biodiversity nourishes people and sustains the planet. It is led by a committed and highly regarded Board of Trustees:
M. Ann Tutwiler
2015 marked the 30th anniversary of the world’s largest banana genebank - the Bioversity International Musa Transit Centre.
The genebank, hosted at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, contributes to the secure long-term conservation of the entire banana genepool and holds the collection in trust for the benefit of future generations under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN.
“Bananas are a source of food, nutrition and income for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Safeguarding the genetic diversity of banana is vital to ensure that the livelihoods and food security of farmers who depend on bananas are not at risk, now and in the future,” commented Nicolas Roux, Theme Leader on Genetic Resources Conservation and Use. A broad genetic base is also necessary to adapt this crop to the challenges of climate change and to make it more resistant to pests and diseases.
The International Transit Centre now contains more than 1,500 accessions of edible and wild species of banana from all over the world. In 30 years of activity, the International Transit Centre distributed over 17,000 banana samples to researchers and farmers in 109 countries. On average, 75% of the samples go to users in the main banana growing regions – Africa (27%), the Americas (25%) and Asia and Pacific (23%) with the remainder sent to universities and research centres in Europe.
All samples distributed are virus free and are shared under the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit Sharing of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, an international agreement to facilitate the exchange of plant genetic resources and ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their use.
In addition to conservation purposes, Bioversity International uses the genebank to carry out research that can benefit farming communities around the world. “We sent vitamin A-rich banana varieties from the International Transit Centre to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as part of our nutrition research in East Africa. We are also screening a wide range of materials in the collection for resistance to drought, which is particularly important given the predicted rise in temperatures in the tropical and subtropical areas where bananas are cultivated,” says Bioversity International Senior Scientist Inge Van den Bergh.
Obtaining material from the International Transit Centre is very simple. All samples are available upon request on the Musa Germplasm Information System (MGIS) portal, the most extensive source of documentation on banana genetic resources that contains key information on banana germplasm diversity.
Banana is a vegetatively propagated crop. It does not reproduce through seeds, and new plants grow from parts of the parent plant. This is why in this genebank, bananas are conserved as small plantlets in vitro - in test tubes under controlled light and temperature. In vitro banana samples need to be transplanted once a year, and after a certain number of years, if necessary, replaced with fresh material grown out in the greenhouse or in the field to avoid the risks of unwanted variations that spontaneously happen when plant tissues are kept in test tubes for an extended period of time.
Cryopreservation – freezing plant material in liquid nitrogen at -196 ºC – is the most effective way to secure the integrity of such collections in the long term. The extremely low temperature stops all biological and physical processes, so the plant remains unaltered for thousands of years.
The International Transit Centre is a global centre of excellence on plant cryopreservation, having developed protocols for cryopreserving over 30 crops, including apple, banana, cassava, olive, potato and tomato. Over the past 20 years, scientists at the International Transit Centre have trained around 100 researchers from 44 countries on plant cryopreservation techniques, resulting in the development of new technologies for specific crops, research papers and new projects.
“More than 60% of the banana accessions in Leuven are now cryopreserved, and, for security-reasons, backed-up in Montpellier, France, 1,000 kilometres from Leuven. We are working hard to cryopreserve our entire banana collection,” says Bart Panis, Bioversity International cryopreservation expert in Leuven.
After 30 years, the International Transit Centre has not stopped learning and growing in terms of the contribution to be made to global food security. Based on the globally recognized cryopreservation research conducted there, the Centre plans to offer an expansion of its the services in the near future, both in terms of building cryopreservation capacities in genebanks as well as offering to host a global backup collection. “Many plant collections around the world are vulnerable and, currently, there is no global backup collection for vegetatively propagated crops. We believe that the ITC could host such a back-up vault with samples of vegetatively propagated crops from around the world. Such a vault would complement the Svalbard Global Seed Vault that conserves crops that are reproduced and stored through seeds. With these two facilities, the majority of existing crop diversity will be preserved for present and future generations,” concludes Panis.
The Bioversity International Musa Transit Centre is supported by the CGIAR Research Programme for Managing and Sustaining Crop Collections; the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas; the Crop Trust; BMZ - Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development; and the Belgian Development Cooperation.