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
Two initiatives promoted hands-on experiential learning and peer-to-peer support; one by studying influence of gender differences on forest management for a gender-responsive scientific approach, and the other by training future trainers on genetic processes that influence tree yield and adaptability.
The things that women and men know about useful trees differ not only between the genders, but also from place to place. In some communities, women identify more medicinal trees than men. Elsewhere, the reverse is true. There are also differences in the access women and men have to trees, to markets and to organizations that can help them improve their forest-based livelihoods.
These differences are often ignored by scientists working with forest communities.Partly to remedy the situation, in 2013, Bioversity International launched the Gender Research Fellowship Programme. The programme, funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, enabled five scientists from sub-Saharan Africa, central Asia, and south and southeast Asia to study the differences and complementarities between women and men as they relate to forests and trees.
The Gender Research Fellows published their results in an open-access issue of the journal Forests, Trees and Livelihoods dedicated to ‘Gender-responsive participatory research for social learning and sustainable forest management’.
Two themes emerge from the Fellows’ research, both showing the importance of a specific focus on gender.
First, not everybody in a community knows the same things about the ecosystem. Also, and perhaps even more importantly, knowledge about the ecosystem is not necessarily concentrated among those with more social visibility and power. Without a gender-responsive approach, scientists generally choose these more powerful social groups, often male elites, as research partners, thus missing out on valuable insights.
Secondly, if researchers do take gender into account in selecting groups to work with, participatory methods can promote knowledge-sharing and inclusive social learning. This social learning can lead to a change in behaviour, which can promote more sustainable resource management strategies.
After the successful conclusion of the Gender Fellowship Programme, Bioversity International researchers embarked on another training initiative in 2016 – this time training lecturers, trainers and project managers at workshops to understand the genetic processes that influence the productivity and adaptive capacity of trees. In October, this initiative brought more than 50 people who work in forest restoration across Asia and the Pacific to meet in Beijing, China, to get to grips with genetic diversity and what it means for conservation.
“On the surface, the two training initiatives probably couldn’t be more different. Nevertheless, both are founded on a similar paradigm: a belief in the power of hands-on, experiential learning and peer-to-peer support, and in the responsibility to make scientific knowledge approachable and applicable to the day-to-day situations that rural communities, forest managers and conservationists face,” said Riina Jalonen, Associate Scientist, Conservation and Use of Forest Genetic Resources at Bioversity International, who was involved in both the programme and training initiative.
The Beijing workshop introduced the practitioners to an open-access Training Guide on Forest Genetic Resourcesdeveloped by Bioversity International’s Honorary Research Fellow, David Boshier, who is also a forest geneticist at the University of Oxford. The guide, Boshier says, “gives ordinary forest managers and other practitioners tools to understand the genetic issues in their work, helping them to effectively manage and conserve forest genetic resources.”
During the workshop, with guidance from David Boshier and Riina Jalonen, the participants worked through the Training Guide. They learned how genetic erosion can rapidly reduce seed production in small populations; mapped out tree seed supply systems; identified bottlenecks that reduce genetic diversity; and came up with practical actions that help maintain seed genetic diversity. By the end of the four-day workshop, they had drawn up conservation strategies for threatened tree species.
Many of the workshop participants help train others in aspects of forest management. As a result, the training they received will be multiplied manyfold when they return to their countries and work with their new-found understanding.
"I can’t wait to go back and incorporate in our training programme what I learned about genetic conservation strategies,” said Hazel Consunji, affiliated with the Environmental Leadership and Training Initiative (ELTI); a view echoed by many of the other workshop participants.
The workshop was one of the first events organized by the Asia Pacific Regional Training Centre of Forest Genetic Resources, and was a joint initiative with the National Forest Genetic Resources Platform of China, the Chinese Academy of Forestry, the Asia Pacific Forest Genetic Resources Programme and the Asia Pacific Association of Forestry Research Institutions. A vital partner is China Happy Ecology Industrial Ltd, a private company working on tree breeding and ecological restoration, whose generous support made the Training Centre possible.
Bioversity International is already planning the next event at the Training Centre, which will take place in September 2017 and will again focus on ‘training the trainers’ in order to spread a better understanding of forest genetic resources more widely.
The Gender Research Fellowship Programme and related research is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors. The programme was executed by Bioversity International in collaboration with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the International Support Group (ISG), Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles in Burkina Faso (INERA), the Innovation Centre of Phytotechnologies of the National Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Department of Agriculture of Malaysia, the Department of Agriculture of Sarawak, LIFE Trust (Indian NGO), and the University of Freiburg.
The Asia Pacific Regional Training Centre on Forest Genetic Resources is funded by China Happy Ecology Industrial Ltd. and is a joint initiative of the National Forest Genetic Resources Platform of China, the Chinese Academy of Forestry, the Asia Pacific Forest Genetic Resources Programme (APFORGEN), the Asia Pacific Association of Forestry Research Institutions (APAFRI) and Bioversity International.