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
Historically, research to reduce hunger has focused on increasing the yields of mainstay crops which often account for 80% of the calorie intake in developing countries. But with 2 billion people suffering from micronutrient deficiencies, researchers have begun to focus on how these mainstay crops can also deliver better nutrition and not just more calories. Much of this research has targeted vitamin A deficiencies. Every year, a half a million children go blind from the lack of vitamin A, and half of those die from infections.
While diversifying diets is critical to improving nutrition and health, for low-income consumers, producing or purchasing nutrient-rich food is not always easy or affordable. Some of the most publicized interventions include fortification and biofortification of staple crops, such as orange-fleshed sweet potato or golden rice. But there is an alternative approach: finding naturally occurring varieties of these traditional foods that offer high levels of missing micronutrients.
For example, in Africa, bananas are the fourth most important food crop. So finding banana varieties with higher content of vitamin A could be part of the solution to this major public health problem. It is estimated that there are over 1,000 varieties of bananas in the world. These varieties range from green to pale yellow to orange to dark red. Their shapes vary from large, half-moon shaped bananas; short, fat bananas; and everything in between. The genetic diversity in these varieties determines not just these differences you can see and taste, they also determine micronutrient levels – the orange-fleshed Karat banana contains 1,000 times more of the pigment which the human body can convert into vitamin A (carotenoids) than the Cavendish banana, which is the variety of bananas most Western consumers see in their supermarkets.
Bioversity International is conducting research with partners in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to see how we can use this banana diversity to increase the levels of vitamin A in diets.
The first step was to screen more than 400 varieties to identify those with high levels of carotenoids. Bananas are notoriously difficult and expensive to breed, so ‘fast-tracking’ existing vitamin-A rich varieties for testing in this way offers savings of both time and money. Based on these results, we introduced a number of varieties that originated from Asia and the Pacific into East Africa, through the Bioversity International Musa Germplasm Transit Centre (ITC) in Belgium – the world’s largest collection of banana germplasm. Those selected have levels of carotenoids that are high enough to meet a child’s recommended daily needs for vitamin A by eating just one banana.
Bioversity International is now testing these varieties across different growing cycles and agroecological zones, as well as in local food dishes. In Burundi and the DRC, Bioversity International researchers mapped the varieties of bananas that people eat, and worked with local communities to better understand how bananas are used by women and men.
Engaging the communities in Bioversity International’s research is critical: introducing a new variety of any staple food into people’s farms and diets will never succeed without a firm understanding if farmers can grow the new variety easily under local conditions; whether people like how it looks and tastes; whether farmers can sell the new variety in local markets; how the new variety suits traditional cooking methods. It is also important to understand how people eat the fruit (raw, fried, boiled, etc.) as different preparations will affect the level of vitamin A.
Initial feedback is really positive in terms of both agronomic performance and consumer acceptance, and more than 5,000 community members have now been reached through an extensive training programme.
Based on these results, Bioversity International is planning to expand its research into Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, testing promising varieties in five locations, over two crop cycles. We would initially engage with around 1,500 men and women farmers, with scope to expand much further into these countries, if initial results are positive.
This post was adapted from Mining banana diversity to reduce Vitamin A deficiencies in East Africa - a blog by our Director General, M. Ann Tutwiler.
This work contributes to the CGIAR Research Programs on Roots, Tubers and Bananas, and on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. It is supported by HarvestPlus through the Global Challenge Programme.