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
Usually, to find a better crop variety, a few researchers measure a whole lot of varieties in a few places. A new approach from Bioversity International turns the standard agricultural trial on its head. Hundreds of farmers trial a few varieties each.
In 2011, Bioversity International scientist Jacob van Etten, inspired by examples of citizen science around the world, shared his ideas for a better way to research crop improvement. Rather than a few trials of hundreds of varieties, how about hundreds of trials of a few varieties each? And rather than a few scientists and technicians conducting the trials, how about working with the hordes of farmers who would ultimately decide whether to adopt the improved varieties? Five years later, that novel approach has borne fruit in the form of increased yields and greater food security as part of Bioversity International’s Seeds for Needs initiative in East Africa, India and Latin America.
The approach relies on the wisdom of crowds and some statistical analysis. Each farmer carries out a very simple experiment. They plant three varieties, assigned at random. As the plants grow, and when the time comes to gather, process and eat the harvest, they judge the varieties on a set of characteristics. Which is best? Which is worst? The technique is called ‘tricot’, for triadic comparison of technologies, because each farmer assesses three options.
Using the tricot technique, a group of farmers between them might assess ten different varieties. The researchers then take each farmer’s assessment of their three varieties and plug them into a statistical tool that reveals how all ten varieties differ among themselves in the different traits.
Not only does this provide valuable information from the most relevant test environment – the actual farmers’ fields – it also brings the farmers in as participating partners, giving them a stake in the research and the results, and encouraging them to act on the results they obtain.
Turning the original idea into a process that works on the ground was a lot of work for the multi-country team of Bioversity International scientists. One crucial element is a software program called ClimMob, which enables researchers to create the random sets of three that will ensure all the options are covered.
ClimMob also makes it easy to collect and analyze the farmers’ data. During 2016 the researchers created a series of training videos to help NGOs and others to use ClimMob. They also conducted workshops to present the tricot technique and ClimMob to agricultural professionals in Latin America, India and Ethiopia. Bioversity International gained valuable feedback that improved ClimMob, while the researchers were enthusiastic about the new tool.
One of the great strengths of tricot and ClimMob is that they make it relatively easy to collect large quantities of data in a single cropping season. For example, networks of robust weather stations can be set up to record daily information in the actual fields where the varieties are growing. This can give researchers unprecedented amounts of information about how each variety responds to environmental variables, making it possible to give farmers much better advice.
Even though the approach is already producing new insights for farmers and researchers, the work has not finished yet. Jacob van Etten bubbles with ideas. Farmers could give their answers via mobile phone; press 1 if you think variety A was better. Variety trials could be distributed by seed dealers; take part in this study for a discount on seeds next season. And of course tricot technology could be extended to other agricultural technologies besides crop varieties, such as fertilizers and other inputs or even post-harvest processes, like harvest storage or cooking and nutrition.
As van Etten says, “Tricot is a promising approach, and some of its benefits are already evident. But it is also evident that there is still a lot more it could offer.”
This research contributes to the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.
The Seeds for Needs initiative is also supported by: the McKnight Foundation, USAID, Sustainable Agricultural Intensification Research and Learning in Africa (SAIRLA), UKaid, India Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute, Mekelle University, the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute and Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna.