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
A 3-year research initiative to put diverse nutritious foods back onto plates in the Mai Son district of Vietnam delivers an extra serving of vitamin A through the increased consumption of dark green leafy vegetables.
Vietnam suffers high malnutrition rates: in 2012, one in four children under the age of 5 was classified as stunted, meaning that malnutrition has reduced their physical and mental development, adversely affecting future health and economic prospects.
In 2014, Bioversity International and partners started a 3-year initiative to assess the potential of using diverse local foods to improve diet quality and diversity. The project was based in the Mai Son district of Northwest Vietnam, where diets are largely based around a narrow selection of starchy staple foods, like white rice. These diets, lacking adequate, diverse and nutrient-rich foods (e.g. foods from animal sources, legumes, fruits and vegetables), are thought to be one of the principle causes of the ubiquitous malnutrition. Paradoxically, this exact region is considered an agricultural biodiversity hotspot.
Vitamin A deficiency is highly prevalent, yet this nutrient is essential for human health contributing to supporting the immune system, vision, cell growth and foetal development. In recent years, Vietnam has made progress in lowering this deficiency through programmes aimed at using dietary supplements. However, in Son La, where the research is taking place, 19% of children under five still remain deficient.
In collaboration with partners, Bioversity International took a food-based approach to improving nutrition by making more use of the locally available and accessible agrobiodiversity. In particular, we targeted women of reproductive age and those with at least one child aged between 12–24 months, the age when children begin to eat real foods.
To this end, we carried out dietary recall surveys with 400 randomly selected households – assessing foods eaten during the past 24-hour period over two different seasons. The results were then compared with the Minimum Dietary Diversity (MDD) score, revealing a substantial lack in consumption of pulses, and of fruits and vegetables containing vitamin A. Even though all women and children, regardless of whether they met MDD or not, consumed low levels of vitamin A-rich foods, those who actually reached the MDD score had consumed significantly more vitamin A-rich foods, especially dark green leafy vegetables.
After sharing the findings with the communities surveyed, a 12-month period of collaborative work followed to increase both the production and consumption of diverse local crops, in particular for three key food groups: dark green leafy vegetables, vitamin-A rich fruits and vegetables, and legumes.
The communities shared their local recipes and brought examples of all the different vegetables from their own farms revealing that while community members often have a diverse selection of nutritious foods available – one group brought seven different varieties of leafy green vegetables – they were not consuming them in sufficient quantities.
For example, two very common ingredients in Vietnamese cuisine – fresh herbs and spices – are often used to garnish and season soups and dishes, or used as a salad. While quite rich in vitamin A, they are used as condiments, and thus not eaten in high enough quantities to significantly contribute to a dietary intake of vitamin A.
A cluster randomized trial was set up, in which the intervention tested a Diversity Club model that encouraged communities to have a more diversified production of underutilized species, including varieties of dark green leafy vegetables, and vitamin A-rich fruit (e.g. papaya) and vegetables (e.g. pumpkin and carrots). Health workers facilitated the clubs and were taught how to use nutrition educational materials to encourage diversified consumption. For example, leaflets, a food calendar and a poem, produced through the initiative, were used to disseminate these messages in an interactive way.
Following this period of intervention, 37% more women and 18% more children met the MDD, when compared to the control group. There was also an increase in the number of species consumed by both women and children, including species from the target food groups.
Another increase was noted in the average consumption of micronutrients – the essential vitamins and minerals required in small quantities for healthy development, including vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and zinc.
“These initial results confirm those found in similar research programmes we have conducted around the world, for example, working with poor malnourished communities in Benin and Kenya, that show how biodiverse foods can contribute to improved nutrition and health,” commented Jessica Raneri, Nutrition Research Specialist, Bioversity International, and Principal Investigator in the initiative.
Find out more about our work on improving nutrition with diverse, local foods
This work was carried out with partners through the CGIAR Research Program on Humidtropics and in collaboration with the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.
Local implementation partners include the HealthBridge Foundation of Canada, Vietnam and the Center for Agricultural Research and Ecological Studies (CARES) from the Hanoi University of Agriculture.