At the end of 2016, representatives from 200 countries gathered in Mexico at the 13th meeting of the Conference to the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP13). The Conference theme was ‘Mainstreaming Biodiversity for Well-Being’, reflecting the groundswell of interest by the global community in biodiversity’s potential role to achieve sustainable development, in particular on the importance of agrobiodiversity’s role in achieving more sustainable food systems. Agrobiodiversity holds the promise to make our food systems healthy for both people and the planet to meet today’s global challenges such as malnutrition, climate change and degradation of ecosystem services.
As a result of this groundswell, we are seeing growing interest in Bioversity International’s vision and mission. In November, at the inaugural International Agrobiodiversity Congress co-organized by Bioversity International and the Indian Society of Plant Genetic Resources, 900 participants from 60 countries came together to adopt the Delhi Declaration on Agrobiodiversity Management. The Declaration calls for urgent action to mainstream agricultural biodiversity for sustainable development which Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, described as “a treasure of valuable agrobiodiversity that we have not explored scientifically yet.”
"Agrobiodiversity holds the promise to make our food systems healthy for both people and the planet to meet today’s global challenges such as malnutrition, climate change and degradation of ecosystem services."
Agricultural biodiversity is the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms that are used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture.
Agricultural biodiversity is the backbone of sustainable agricultural intensification. For example, agroforestry, home gardens, integrated crop–livestock systems, mosaic land uses, intercropping, cover crops, integrated pest management and crop rotations all typically benefit from using agricultural biodiversity.
It is also a rich resource for year-round healthy, diverse diets by providing nutrient-rich species and varieties, which are often well adapted to local conditions. Increasing the number of food groups grown on farms is associated with greater diversity on the plate.
Households which grow a diverse set of crops are less likely to be poor than households that specialize in their crop production. Additionally, crop diversity reduces the probability that a non-poor household will fall into poverty and the probability that a poor household will remain in poverty.
While agricultural biodiversity is by no means the only component needed in a sustainable food system, a sustainable food system cannot exist without agricultural biodiversity.
Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems
Productive and Resilient Farms and Forests
Effective Genetic Resources Conservation and Use
In 2016, Bioversity International produced 184 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 has become more challenging as governments of many high-income countries that support CGIAR have cut their aid budgets, diverted resources to crisis management, and seek clear lines of sight to development results. Nonetheless, Bioversity International’s overall revenue from bilateral grants has grown by 25% since 2012 including the first legally decreed contribution from Italy in 2016 and an additional voluntary contribution. Even without the extraordinary voluntary contribution from Italy, overall bilateral revenue increased 8% over the period. Meantime, development of several ‘transformative innovations’, evidence-based products that promise large-scale results ripe for support by development budgets, will help Bioversity International to recover and grow again following the cuts in revenue in 2015 and 2016 from the CGIAR System Fund.
Revenue in 2016 amounted to US$32 million against expenditures of $30.8 million, resulting in an operating surplus of $1.2 million for 2016. Bioversity International’s reserves were at $12.2 million (154 days of expenditure) at 31 December 2016 compared with $10.7 million (115 days) at 31 December 2015, both of which are above the target of 90 days set by the Board.
For more information, download our 2016 Financial Statements
Cristián Samper (until November 2016)
Julia Marton-Lefèvre (from November 2016)
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.
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
In two areas of southern Benin, where almost a third of children are malnourished, a 6-year initiative is examining ways in which locally accessible diverse food sources could be better used to nourish infants and young children.
Chronic malnutrition is defined as a diet lacking essential nutrients needed for growth and development, which often starts early in the life of children. In two areas of southern Benin, where more than 30% of children are considered malnourished, a 6-year initiative is examining ways in which locally available diverse foods could ameliorate nourishment of children aged 6–23 months. Receiving the right nutrition in this period is critical for a healthy lifelong development of a child.
Researchers worked closely with communities in Bopa and Houéyogbé to observe foods currently being given to infants and young children by using a dietary recall method – assessing foods eaten during a 24-hour period across two different seasons. The results revealed that 35% of the children did not meet the minimum dietary diversity requirements, i.e. consuming foods across at least four out of seven food groups essential for a healthy balanced diet.*
The diets prevalent were high in energy-dense foods, such as maize, but low on calcium, iron and zinc, with a low consumption of animal-sourced foods. From this group, the most commonly consumed was fish, but only by 16% of children, in very low quantities. Even though poultry was kept, only 2% of children were regularly eating eggs.
In a parallel activity, researchers documented indigenous knowledge about locally cultivated and wild foods, including information on food preparation, parts of the plants which are eaten, and other uses of species – such as for medicine. In total, 146 edible plant species and 148 edible animal species were registered as being available in the communities, whether on the farm or in the wild with 173 different plant parts available for use in 186 different food purposes.
Scientists then used mathematics to examine possibilities of making local recipes more nutritious for small children, taking into account different foods, recommended nutrient intakes, typical portion sizes, costs, palatability and cultural acceptability.
From the 100 recipes collected within the community, more than 35 were optimized to contain more nutritious ingredients, either by introducing, swapping, or increasing the quantity of nutritious ingredients in the existing recipes, as long as the changes did not influence the integrity of the dish.
The optimized recipes were tested in the communities for ease of preparation, cooking, taste and acceptability, and some ingredients had to be adapted. For example, eating small freshwater fish whole meant eating bones rich in calcium and eyes rich in vitamin A, but small children preferred eating fish ground into a powder and added to another dish, instead of eating fish served whole.
Finally, the efforts were supplemented with a great drive to increase the nutrition literacy of the community members. Results are currently being analyzed for various devised and efficiency-tested methods, such as videos, posters, leaflets, a recipe book and seasonal food calendars.
Speaking about the research activities, Gervais D. Ntandou-Bouzitou, former Scientist at Bioversity International, said: “This is the first time that the huge amount of agrobiodiversity available to local populations in southern Benin and its associated indigenous knowledge, including both animal and plant species, has been documented.”
“We have shown that local biodiversity can be used for food and nutrition, with concrete examples of how locally available and affordable foods can fill nutrient gaps,” added Céline Termote, Associate Scientist, Bioversity International. “We can also see a clear link between the nutrition literacy of primary caregivers and the probability of improved nutrition in the diets of small children.”
More information on this work is available on the FoodAfrica website
*The seven food groups are: grains; roots and tubers; legumes and nuts; dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese); flesh foods (meat, fish, poultry and liver/organ meats); eggs; vitamin-A rich fruits and vegetables; other fruits and vegetables.
This research is part of FoodAfrica, an initiative in seven countries (Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Senegal and Uganda) to improve food security in West and East Africa through capacity-building in research and information dissemination. Bioversity International leads Work Package 4, working in collaboration with the University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin, the University of Helsinki and ESAM and with the critical support of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Finland.
This work is carried out in collaboration with the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health and is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.