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
How do we conserve fruit tree diversity in a way that brings benefits to the people who look after them? Let’s ask the farmers. An international group of research partners did just that and have now summarized years of discoveries into a book from the series Issues in Agricultural Biodiversity.
When we eat fruit such as vitamin C-rich mangoes or antioxidant-packed mangosteen, we do not often realize that these delicious and highly nutritious fruits are mostly based on farmer discoveries and innovations instead of on results of long-term breeding research. Although it is widely recognized that fruits play a crucial role in a healthy and nutritious diet, investment in identifying, breeding and developing improved planting materials for fruit trees has been limited – and for good reason – as fruit tree breeding is highly challenging. The development of an improved fruit tree variety can take decades or even generations. Their conservation faces similar challenges: it is problematic as fruit seeds are recalcitrant and cannot be conserved in cold storage. Even to date, most of fruit tree crop improvement and conservation is undertaken by farmers around the world, with the public sector pitching in only in recent decades.
Asia is home to over 400 fruit tree species, and fruits like mango (Mangifera indica) and mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) now reach customers across the globe, but that was not always the case. Many unique or highly nutritious fruit tree species remain underutilized and neglected while we continue to lose fruit tree diversity due to the dominance of introduced fruit species and changing land use patterns that result in the uprooting of diversified orchards and home gardens.
“To make steps forward we realized that we should learn from farmers. We asked ourselves: how do farmers conserve and utilize fruit tree diversity? Which practices do they apply and how can we make their local innovations widely available?” explains Bhuwon Sthapit, Senior Scientist, Bioversity International.
In the early 2000s, countries in south, southeast and east Asia started acknowledging the incredible richness of fruit diversity they housed and recognizing the potential of fruit trees to improve local and global diets while enhancing both household income and national revenue. Fruits such as mango, mangosteen, rambutan, durian and pomelo were prioritized because of their importance in the local food cultures and to the well-being of the local populations, as sources of income, food security and a healthy and nutritionally balanced diet.
In 2009,working with horticultural research partners from Asia, Bioversity International coordinated a UNEP/GEF project* to improve the livelihoods and food security of target communities in India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand through the conservation and use of tropical fruit tree genetic resources. The partners decided to focus on four commercially important tropical fruit species with high diversity levels in these four countries: citrus (Citrus spp.), mango (Mangifera indica), mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) and rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) as well as their wild relatives. The project built on methodologies and practices that had proven effective for the conservation of crop genetic diversity, adapted their use for tropical fruit tree species, and tested their relevance with farmers, local communities and user groups.
The project intended to respond to a crucial question: how to conserve the amazing diversity of tropical fruit trees in a way that benefits the people who look after them while uncovering new tastes and flavours to consumers? The research partners turned to farmers for answers and quickly realized that they had their own techniques which allowed them to successfully manage and cultivate different species – all without a guidebook.
The regions’ custodian farmers – people who maintain, adapt and disseminate agricultural and tree biodiversity and the traditional knowledge related to it – proved to be a tremendous source of knowledge. Their contribution drastically sped up the identification and selection of improved and adapted planting materials for several underutilized fruit tree species. With their help, a total of 43 species were found in project sites and 132 elite materials were collected to then be multiplied and distributed. The partners managed to distribute over 80,000 saplings through 53 tree nurseries within a time span of 6 to 7 years.
“We aimed to understand their motivations and how their passion for conservation can be passed on to the next generation,” explained Hugo Lamers, Bioversity International Scientist.
“We couldn’t have pinpointed the good practices we did without first identifying the 83 custodian farmers who helped us. Their insight and knowledge allowed us to discover ways in which good practices can be scaled up and mainstreamed,” added Bhuwon Sthapit. Recognition of the efforts of custodians as well as networking of such farmers were identified as major means of sustaining their work in the future.
In 2016, the researchers ‘packaged’ years of research into Tropical fruit tree diversity: Good practices for in situ and on-farm conservation that outlines a framework for on-farm conservation for fruit trees, drawn from the real ways that communities and farmers implement conservation strategies through their everyday practices.
* The ‘Conservation and Sustainable Use of Cultivated and Wild Tropical Fruit Tree Diversity: Promoting Sustainable Livelihoods, Food Security and Ecosystem Services’ project was financed by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The project was regionally executed by Bioversity International in collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in India, the Indonesian Centre for Horticulture Research and Development (ICHORD) in Indonesia, the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) in Malaysia and the Department of Agriculture (DoA) in Thailand. It contributed to achieving the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and was linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.