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
Nutritious and resilient African leafy vegetables are making a comeback in Busia County, Kenya, thanks to a pilot procurement scheme that is sending local, nutritious and diverse crops back to school. This initiative is developing markets and value chains for traditional crops by using them in school-feeding programmes. This win-win approach is increasing crop diversity in both diets and production systems, resulting in healthier people, healthier food systems and improved livelihoods.
Busia County, Kenya, is rich in biological diversity. It has a variety of agroecological zones suitable for growing a diverse range of plants and crops with the potential to meet nutrition needs and sustainably support agricultural productivity.
Yet people living in Busia County are among the poorest and most food insecure in Kenya with poverty rates around 70% and two-thirds unable to meet their basic food needs. Twenty-six percent of children under five are stunted and 11% are underweight. At the same time obesity is on the rise, along with an increase in diabetes and high blood pressure.
Several challenges are affecting food production, including climate change, severe weather, changing land use, water pollution and soil erosion. Shifts in eating habits and preferences, and a lack of access to quality seeds, have left most communities relying on just a handful of food crops for their sustenance. This has come with a decline in the production and consumption of traditional crops, including African leafy vegetables, nutritious, weedy, semi-cultivated species adapted to local growing environments and more resistant to pests and diseases, requiring little management, pesticides and fertilizers.
A food procurement model approach between local producers and schools, carried out by Bioversity International and partners, is simultaneously addressing consumer demand and supply constraints linked to marketing traditional crops.
One farmer group began by supplying African leafy vegetables directly to St. Mary’s School, Mundika, under a negotiated memorandum of understanding. The farmers grow the vegetables directly on school land reducing transport costs and food losses. The agreement means that the school has a reliable and constant supply of quality African leafy vegetables while the farmers have a dependable buyer for their produce. The 400 students benefit by consuming a more diversified and nutrient-rich diet through their school meal.
“There is nothing more important than seeing my pupils fed on a nutritious and balanced diet. This will improve their health and increase their academic performance and reduce absenteeism due to sickness and diet-related diseases,” commented Mr. Obonyo, School Principle, St. Mary’s School.
Additional benefits of having the vegetable plots on the school premises are the educational opportunities. Students are getting hands-on experience in growing and using local crops in food dishes, and learning about sustainable agricultural practices.
“Other schools in the area have shown interest in adopting this approach as they see that providing healthy balanced diets need not be expensive and that barriers can be overcome. This reflects what we have found in other project sites where we have carried out similar procurement schemes, such as in Brazil,” explains Danny Hunter, Scientist and Global Project Coordinator of the Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition Project, Bioversity International.
Since this initial success, training was provided to 25 farmer groups to build capacity to sustainably produce African leafy vegetables, while nutrition education activities were carried out to improve the capacity of schools and clinics to benefit from leafy vegetables consumption. Eight farmer groups have now signed contracts with 13 schools and 1 hospital for the provision of African leafy vegetables to be included in their institutional meals.
“Looking ahead, we are currently planning a workshop with stakeholders to roll out and test the procurement model in more locations in Kenya and to look at including additional countries, such as Tanzania and Ethiopia,” concludes Hunter.
Critical support for this research has been received from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) with additional support from the MacArthur Foundation.
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition initiative is led by Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey and coordinated by Bioversity International, with implementation support from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
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.
Key implementing partners include SINGI, CABE, the Busia County Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agriculture, and Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).