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
Despite the existence of effective measures to control banana Xanthomonas wilt in Uganda, the country’s banana fields witnessed a sudden resurgence of the disease in 2009. A new participatory tool that promotes farmers’ learning and experimentation is proving successful.
Xanthomonas wilt is a bacterial disease that attacks bananas causing up to 100% yield loss and severely damaging the livelihoods and food security of banana farming households. The disease first struck East Africa in the early 2000s, and by 2004, 33% of farms in Uganda were infected.
Despite success against this disease throughout 2007 and 2008 – spearheaded by Bioversity International, the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO-Uganda) and partners – in 2009 it had once again returned to the banana growing areas of Uganda. When the partners revisited the fields, they learned that disease management practices were known by the local communities but they were not often put into practice. In order to curb the resurgence of the disease and save banana farmers’ livelihoods, researchers went back to the drawing board and came up with a new disease management tool. A couple of years later, with support from The McKnight Foundation, Bioversity International and NARO research teams piloted Learning and Experimentation Approaches for Farmers (LEAFF) at one of the benchmark sites in Nyabubare subcounty, Bushenyi district, Western Uganda.
According to Eldad Karamura, Bioversity International’s Senior Scientist and Regional Representative for Eastern and Southern Africa, Bushenyi district had been one of the worst affected by Xanthomonas wilt. Farmers had lost entire plantations and their main source of food and income, forcing many to abandon banana farming for alternative crops.
“Banana had become a cash crop for these people and yet their area was hit particularly hard when the disease came back. These farmers had to entirely abandon banana farming for annual crops like beans and maize,” says Karamura.
LEAFF started with the identification and selection of study sites, followed by collection of baseline data. Each site comprised ten farmer Accountability Groups – each one consisting of ten farmers who came together and agreed to learn from each other about combating the disease. Each of the groups appointed a sub-group leader and were all under the oversight of a field officer. Bioversity International and NARO-Uganda then coached trainers of trainers on Xanthomonas wilt diagnosis and mechanisms of its spread and control. These Accountability Groups met every two weeks to share information and agree on whether the different approaches and control measures were working.
The farmers involved did not always agree on the effectiveness of the different tools. In order to bring about common understanding and buy-in for the tools deemed effective, simple experiments were used. Individual farmers could visit the experiment sites and take data and at the next meeting, the information gathered would be shared. In this way, farmers were able to correct the misapplication of control measures while increasing adoption of disease management tools and approaches.
LEAFF has allowed farmers to make field observations with which they could set and test hypotheses, and ultimately change their crop management strategies having seen how they work. This improved the farmer-to-farmer experience and skills exchange as the farmers trusted each other’s results.
To ensure monitoring of project progress on their part, the participating farmers were trained in data recording for disease incidence and yield. One way of boosting farmers’ involvement in the process was through farmer competitions, whereby those who adopted the control measures and had exhibited high yields from their plantation stood a chance of winning. The winning farmers received recognition when the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, visited the project area on the occasion of the first Banana Farmers' Day in November 2016, during which the farmers showcased their harvest.
Throughout this process, awareness of the disease spread and control measures among all the farmers (LEAFF and non-LEAFF) is estimated to have increased from 30–50% at the project start, to 95–100% in 2016.
Farmers involved in LEAFF have also been observed to adopt at least four recommended practices for the management of banana Xanthomonas wilt: removing infected plants, disinfecting the tools used to cut the plants, removing the male bud using a forked wooden stick and selecting clean planting material. This has reduced disease incidence by 90–98% and many farmers have not seen a diseased plant in their fields for over 15 months. In addition, the average farm yield has increased from 5–10 bunches per acre per week to 15–20 bunches, allowing farmers to sell more bananas in the market and gain financial stability for their families and communities.
The disease is currently under control and the project strategy has changed from epidemic management to increasing productivity and marketing.
This research is implemented by Bioversity International and the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO-Uganda) in partnership with the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) of participating countries in East and Central Africa, funded by The McKnight Foundation and contributes to the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.