“Carrying out superficial repairs to our existing food systems will no longer suffice. We need disruptive change within and across today’s varied and complex food systems. To be sustainable, food system policy choices must focus on environmental as well as nutritional and health consequences.” This was the stark warning from experts at the 44th Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS44) in October 2017.
That this disruptive change needs to include agricultural biodiversity was the central message in Bioversity International’s flagship book published this year. Mainstreaming Agrobiodiversity in Sustainable Food Systems: Scientific Foundations for an Agrobiodiversity Index presents the most recent scientific evidence on how to use agricultural biodiversity in diets and in production systems to help achieve sustainable food systems.
In Bioversity International's 2017 Annual Report, we celebrate our science, our partners, and how #agrobiodiversity nourishes people and sustains the planet @JMartonLefevre @AnnTutwiler @BioversityInt
Agricultural biodiversity is the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms that are used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture.
Bioversity International's vision is that agricultural biodiversity nourishes people and sustains the planet. Our mission is 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. Below are some research highlights from 2017 linked to our four strategic objectives which are to diversify diets, production systems, seeds and planting material, and to safeguard agricultural biodiversity.
In the research highlights section of the Annual Report, you will find ten stories based on scientific papers produced by Bioversity International scientists working with partners.
These highlights represent just a small selection of the 169 papers produced in 2017.
Bioversity International works with partners around the world including a wide range of funders and research partners who share our vision and mission 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.
Bioversity International is proud to be a CGIAR Research Centre. We participate in six CGIAR Research Programs and two Platforms supported by CGIAR Trust Fund members in close collaboration with the other 14 CGIAR Centres and hundreds of partner organizations, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia and the private sector.
We thank all of our partners for their critical and continued support.
Mobilizing funds for international agricultural research remains challenging. Nonetheless, Bioversity International’s overall revenue from bilateral grants has grown by 21% since 2012 – the highest level of bilateral funding ever! We thank all of our funders for their critical and continued support.
In 2017, our relationships with the governments of Belgium, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Peru and Switzerland were further strengthened. Our partnerships with multilateral organizations keen to mainstream agrobiodiversity in sustainable food systems such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), European Commission (EC), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Environment and the Global Environment Facility have also been strengthened, as has our support from foundations. These commitments are complemented by many other supporters of our work who are listed in this report.
We would also like to highlight important additional in-kind contributions of facilities and experts from Belgium’s Katholieke Universiteit of Leuven and the governments of China, Germany, India, and Italy among others. We estimate the value of in-kind contributions amounted to at least $5 million in 2017.
For more information, download our 2017 Financial Statements
Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias
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
Writing: Arwen Bailey, Jeremy Cherfas, Samantha Collins, Mirna Franic, Marta Millere, with contributions from many of our scientists
Contributors: Nora Capozio, Oonagh Darby, Maria Garruccio, Karen Harmann, Annie Huie, Allison Poulos
Design: Pablo Gallo
Web Editor: Carol Blay
Project Manager: Samantha Collins
For most countries, the role of community seedbanks to help farmers adapt to climate change is simply not yet on the radar. A new study highlights why this invaluable resource for safeguarding and sharing locally-adapted seed diversity deserves a place at the policy table.
Climate change is affecting agricultural productivity and food security globally – the IPCC* predicts a 2% decrease in global production every decade between now and 2050. Global warming results in increased temperatures, severe droughts and floods and increased incidences of crop pest and disease outbreaks.
One strategy for adapting to climate change, both now and in the future, is to mobilize a wide range of genetic diversity that is resistant to these challenges now, or that will grow well in predicted future climatic conditions. Concrete suggestions include: diversifying crop species and varieties, re-appreciating plant species that have become underutilized and neglected, and improving farmers’ access to diverse seeds from local, regional and global sources.
Community seedbanks are locally governed and managed institutions, whose core function is to conserve seeds that are often adapted to local conditions for local use. The farmers who run community seedbanks handle local diversity of major crops, minor crops, and neglected and underutilized species.
Community seedbanks have existed for about 30 years, originally as seed-saving and storage operations. Recent research carried out by Bioversity International with partners has found that these seed resources are a valuable source of genetic variability to adapt to climate change. They make seeds available and accessible – especially when powered up by linking to each other or to formal public genebanks – and are places where farmers can exchange and deepen knowledge on how to select, treat, store, multiply and distribute seeds.
A recent study of 35 community seedbanks found that 14 were paying particular attention to actual or expected impacts of climate change. In countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Honduras, India, Mali, Mexico, Nepal, South Africa, Uganda, USA and Zimbabwe, they are being established to store and multiply farmers’ favourite climate-tolerant varieties.
One newly established community seedbank in India found that half of the 92 varieties of 20 different crops conserved have good potential to adapt to local climate stresses.
The Kiziba community seedbank in Uganda was established by farmers and scientists to promote bean diversity as a means of controlling pests and diseases. It serves over 1,000 farmers in 10 villages. In the last 8 years, the collection has increased from 25 varieties to 70, including 5 bean varieties prioritised by farmers as the most important for climate change adaptation. To ensure a sustained supply of seed, farmers who borrow seeds from the community seedbank return double the amount after harvesting. Each farmer is trained in seed production and management to ensure that seed received is of good quality.
Looking to the future, researchers have also developed a novel methodology to identify seeds from genebanks in other parts of Uganda, other countries and international collections, suited to the climates predicted in Kiziba in 2050. Farmers are testing 11 bean varieties suited to the current climate from Ethiopia, Kenya and other parts of Uganda and 7 suited to 2050 from Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and other regions of Uganda. The varieties that get the thumbs up will be conserved by the farmers in the community seedbank and made accessible to the 1,000 farmers who currently use the community seedbank.
Seedbanks also play a role as a learning hub to better manage, multiply and promote seeds. In Dang, Nepal, the community seedbank has become an important place for farmers to access quality seeds locally, and serves as a learning centre for other farmers in the western Terai region of Nepal.
Women often play key roles in community seedbanks as seed custodians, managers and entrepreneurs. Maintaining crop diversity on-farm not only supports their households in terms of food supply but also gives them satisfaction and community status. In some cases, it also allows them to earn incomes from selling seeds.
For most countries, the role of community seedbanks to adapt to climate change is simply not yet on the radar. We need to shift the focus from looking at climate-smart seeds, to looking at the institutions that can support these seeds and make them accessible to rural households. For example, policies and laws should encourage conservation of local plants and varieties in their communities, building capacity to manage them, and rewarding individual and collective efforts to safeguard them. Community seedbanks are an important repository of both genetic resources and their associated traditional knowledge, which can be used by breeders.
Though each individual seedbank may be small, the potential effect of thousands of community seedbanks each tailored to serve the changing local needs of thousands of farmers is a powerful way to increase the resilience of farming communities worldwide most affected by climate change.
*Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2014) IPCC WGII AR5 Summary for Policymakers in: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 44 p.
This paper was co-authored by Bioversity International scientists Ronnie Vernooy, Bhuwon Sthapit, Gloria Otieno and Arnab Gupta, with partners from the Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD) in Nepal.
Citation: Vernooy, R.; Sthapit, B.; Otieno, G.; Shrestha, P.; Gupta, A. (2017) The roles of community seed banks in climate change adaption. Development in Practice 27(3) p. 316-327. ISSN: 0961-4524; http://hdl.handle.net/10568/80874
For most countries, community #seedbanks are not yet on the radar for #climatechange. A new study highlights that they should be. @CGIARClimate @BioversityInt @PIM_CGIAR
Recent research carried out by @BioversityInt with partners finds that community #seedbanks are a valuable source of genetic variability to adapt to #climatechange. @PIM_CGIAR @CGIARClimate
Bioversity International’s research on community seedbanks receives support from a number of donors, including the Benefit Sharing Fund of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources, the Global Environment Facility, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Government of India, the Government of the Netherlands, the Darwin Initiative and RSF Social Finance.
It is carried out in collaboration with many partners from around the world including national genebanks (e.g. Bhutan, Ethiopia, Nepal, South Africa, Uganda), national research organizations, international and national non-government organizations and farmer organizations (e.g. China Farmers’ Seed Network, Programe Campesino a Campesino in Nicaragua).