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 project targeting Mauritius, South Africa and Zambia witnessed success in enhancing the link between conservation and the countries’ use of crop wild relatives, which hold the key to making our crops more nutritious, resistant to pests and diseases, and adaptable to new climates.
They may look like weeds. You may not even notice them, hidden among other plants in the wild. But these species, despite their humble appearance, hold the key to making our crops more nutritious, resistant to pests and diseases, and able to withstand the vagaries of climate change. Known as crop wild relatives, they are plants species closely related to our crops. Worldwide, their contribution to improving food production is estimated to be worth US$115–120 billion.
These precious plants, many of which are at risk of extinction due to climate change, habitat loss and environmental degradation, have been the focus of a 3-year project that ended in 2016. Co-funded by the European Union, it was implemented through the ACP-EU Co-operation Programme in Science and Technology.*
The aim of the project was twofold. First, to develop scientific expertise in three countries in the Southern African Development Community – Mauritius, South Africa and Zambia – to conserve crop wild relatives and identify traits potentially useful to enabling agriculture to adapt to climate change. Secondly, to ensure that the conservation of these species does not remain a hopeful wish, but is translated into reality by incorporating it into National Strategic Action Plans (NSAP) adopted by national governments. Together, these two aims would enhance the link between conservation and use of crop wild relatives in the three partner countries and within the region, as a means of underpinning regional food security and mitigating the predicted adverse impact of climate change.
“Through the project, we trained more than 50 people from 14 Southern African Development Community countries. The scientists and breeders who participated now have a better understanding of crop wild relatives in situ conservation, characterization and pre-breeding,” said Ehsan Dulloo, Senior Scientist and Programme Leader, Bioversity International. “The project has also developed a toolkit on conservation planning and a number of templates that can assist other countries to prepare national conservation and use strategies and actions.”
Another crucial milestone of the project was the assessment of crop wild relatives status in the partner countries – Mauritius, South Africa and Zambia. Each country team developed a checklist of crop wild relatives occurring on their territory, prioritized the crop wild relatives for conservation and analyzed hotspots of crop wild relatives distribution, richness, and conservation gaps.
The analysis of crop wild relatives distribution and status wasn’t limited to the three partner countries. The University of Birmingham and Bioversity International undertook a study in this regard across the Southern African Development Community region, which revealed that half of the priority crop wild relatives are not conserved ex situ at all, and of the 55 that are in protected areas, 22 are present in 5 or fewer populations. Nine have only a single protected population. This indicated that there is a need to protect this important genetic diversity in the region.
Based on this analysis, the teams identified priority conservation areas and actions to feed into their country’s NSAP. In South Africa and Zambia, the NSAP has already received official approval. In Mauritius, it has been submitted to the office of Permanent Secretary for endorsement.
The aim of the project was twofold. First, to develop scientific expertise in three countries in the Southern Africa Development Community – Mauritius, South Africa and Zambia – to conserve crop wild relatives and identify traits potentially useful to enable agriculture to adapt to climate change. Secondly, to ensure that the conservation of these species does not remain a hopeful wish, but is translated into reality by incorporating it into National Strategic Action Plans (NSAP) adopted by national governments. Together, these two aims would enhance the link between conservation and use of crop wild relatives in the three partner countries and within the region, as a means of underpinning regional food security and mitigating the predicted adverse impact of climate change.
“Through the project, we trained more than 50 people from 14 Southern Africa Development Community countries. The scientists and breeders who participated now have a better understanding of crop wild relatives in situ conservation, characterization and pre-breeding,” said Ehsan Dulloo, Bioversity International senior scientist and project leader. “The project has also developed a toolkit on conservation planning and a number of templates that can assist other countries to prepare national conservation and use strategies and actions.”
One benefit of the project is that the agricultural and environmental sectors had to work together to develop the NSAP, which enhanced their understanding of one another and of the importance of agricultural biodiversity. In addition, the NSAP process, along with awareness-raising events organized by the project helped key policymakers appreciate the significance of crop wild relatives in agriculture and climate change. As a result, crop wild relatives and agriculture might find a more favourable position in other environmental policies.
“The work we have carried out with partners in the Southern African Development Community region is a good example of how countries can take the lead in bridging the gap between the agriculture and environment sectors to effectively safeguard crop wild relatives. The methods, approaches and tools used and developed in this initiative can be replicated in other regions of the world to achieve a global impact,” concludes Dulloo.
*‘In situ conservation and use of crop wild relatives in three African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries of the Southern African Development Community region’ (short name - SADC Crop Wild Relatives) is a 3-year project (2014-2016) co-funded by the European Union and implemented through the ACP-EU Co-operation Programme in Science and Technology (S&T II) by the ACP Group of States. Grant agreement no. FED/2013/330-210.
SADC Crop Wild Relatives project partners:
Bioversity International, Rome, Italy (coordinating institution)
University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius
Directorate of Genetic Resources, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, South Africa
Zambia Agriculture Research Institute