2018 was a tough year. Seemingly every day another headline appeared in the international news media on the increasing urgency of the climate change or biodiversity loss emergencies. When the newspapers were not talking about the planet’s increasingly fragile health, human health came under the spotlight, in particular the rise of diet-related illnesses and premature deaths. It’s easy to get despondent at what appears to be a lack of policies and action to tackle these problems.
So I am going to buck the trend and serve up some good news – a hero of the hour has arrived to save the day! Biodiversity can provide the tools and pathways to get us out of trouble, to a safe operating space for humanity. By eating it and planting it, we not only improve dietary diversity for people, but also the health of the farming systems that provide food and income security for millions of people around the world. The even better news? By using more of it in diets, markets and production systems, we will safeguard it for the future.
Today’s global challenges of poverty, malnutrition, climate change, land degradation, and biodiversity loss call for new solutions, innovations, and stronger partnerships that can deliver higher impact.
To respond to these challenges, and building on their complementary mandates and long collaboration, in 2018, Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) committed to joining forces to create an Alliance.
Healthy diets from sustainable food systems
Productive and resilient farms, forests and landscapes
Effective genetic resources conservation and use
In the research highlights section of the Annual Report, you will find stories based on scientific papers and tools produced by Bioversity International scientists working with partners.
These highlights represent just a small selection of the 145 papers produced in 2018.
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. Supported by CGIAR Trust Fund members and 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, in 2018 Bioversity International participated in:
- Three Agri-Food System CGIAR Research Programs (Forests, Trees and Agroforestry; Grains, Legumes and Dryland Cereals; and Roots, Tubers and Bananas)
- Four Global Integrating Programs (Agriculture for Nutrition and Health; Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security; Policies, Institutions and Markets; and Water, Land and Ecosystems)
- Two Research Support Platforms (Genebank Platform; and Platform for Big Data in Agriculture)
We thank all of our partners for their critical and continued support.
In 2018, total revenue was US$30.5 million and expenditure $32.3 million, resulting in a deficit of $1.6 million. This deficit was purposefully incurred as part of the 3-year development plan for the period 2017–2019, which applied reserves to invest in the growth of Bioversity International by incurring operational deficits in those three years. 2020 will be planned and managed to result in a breakeven position. Despite the deficit recorded, operational reserves remain at a healthy level, equivalent of 127 days of average expenditure, well above the minimum target of 90 days set by the Board of Trustees. This application of reserves has allowed strategic maintenance or increase in staff capacity in key areas, and to shift the income portfolio to increase financial resilience.
For more information, download our 2018 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:
Trish Malloch Brown
M. Ann Tutwiler
Doug van den Aardweg
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
Trish Malloch Brown
Writing: Carlo Angelico, Nora Capozio, Jeremy Cherfas, Samantha Collins, with contributions from many of our scientists
Contributors: Maria Garruccio, Annie Huie, Allison Poulos, Consuelo Tenente
Design: Pablo Gallo
Project Manager: Nora Capozio
The capacity of men and women to benefit from agricultural innovations is influenced by social and gender norms. Within banana farming communities in sub-Saharan Africa, Bioversity International and partners are shedding light on these hidden norms to design more effective banana disease-control strategies.
Why gender matters in banana farming
Fresh, cooked, fried and processed to be served as baby food, juice and beer, bananas provide livelihoods to more than 70 million Africans, both as food and as a source of income. Although not originating from this region, it is believed that bananas have been cultivated in East Africa since 2000 BC. Thus, it is not surprising that banana farming practices are intertwined with rituals, habits and social rules, including gender norms – a set of unwritten rules and beliefs on how men and women should behave.
In sub-Saharan Africa, where banana is a major staple food, Bioversity International scientists are working to shed light on these hidden norms that shape decision-making and access to resources within banana farming communities, influencing men's and women's capacity to adopt and benefit from agricultural innovations. The objective is to trigger innovative agricultural practices that deliver benefits fairly and efficiently, contributing to gender equality.
A study led by Bioversity International revealed that, across the eastern African highlands, planting a semi-perennial crop such as banana on a field has a symbolic value – it is perceived as a claim to the land. Given that in most of the region land is still firmly in the hands of men, this explains why it is primarily men who own and control banana plantations. The underlying gender norm generally prescribes 'money' and 'income generation' to be a male business.
Such a norm is based on the belief that it is the husband's responsibility, as head of the household, to decide and provide for the family. In turn, women owning money are frequently considered as threats to their marriage, since it is assumed that they would not respect the authority of the husband.
Even though it is relatively rare for women to own banana plantations, they are expected to dedicate part of their time to work on their husbands' fields and crops, in addition to their domestic chores. The involvement in the day-to-day management of banana fields gives women across the region an important role in controlling banana diseases.
In addition to tenure and financial arrangements, gender roles also influence the ability of women and men to access the necessary information and resources to manage crop diseases, such as the banana bunchy top disease (BBTD) – one of banana's biggest enemies. The BBT virus, which stunts the plant and ceases fruit production, is sweeping across sub-Saharan, West and further into East Africa, threatening 6–12 million smallholder households.
To make disease-control interventions more effective, an international team of CGIAR researchers,1 including Bioversity International's scientists, took a closer look at gender norms and practices related to banana farming in BBTD-affected areas of eight sub-Saharan countries.
Through surveys, focus groups and interviews with key informants, scientists found out that men own banana fields in 80% of the households. Men and women are both involved in banana production activities but have different roles. For example, activities that require physical strength – such as uprooting of infected plants – are likely to be done by men, while women are usually responsible for weeding. However, decisions related to banana production are a male prerogative in 65% of the households.
"Despite their important role in the daily management of banana gardens, married women have limited ownership of land as well as decision-making power," comments Anne Rietveld, Sociologist, Bioversity International and Gender Focal Point for the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas. "Often, women do not reap full benefits of their work, as men control the income derived from both raw and processed banana. This lack of control over financial benefits, coupled with the heavy workload, prevents women from investing time and resources on pest control," explains Rietveld.
In this context, it is clear that any rural development intervention that ignores gender roles and needs is limited in its impact, and risks worsening the well-being of rural households, increasing poverty and workload. Insights from the study conducted in sub-Saharan Africa provide robust empirical evidence for the need of strategies that can reshape the dynamics between men and women in ways that guarantee more equitable outcomes.
A revolutionary road
To facilitate the efforts towards gender-responsive interventions, the GENNOVATE project, a breakthrough CGIAR initiative,2 developed a guidance document that identifies key issues to consider when integrating gender into banana research for development in East Africa.
The guide is based on six case studies led by Bioversity International in the eastern African highlands – covering rural communities in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. The research engaged around 80 individuals from 6 different communities.
The resulting document provides evidence-based recommendations to help scientists, development practitioners and policymakers design customized and less biased interventions, to deliver targeted technologies and lasting impact.
In conclusion, the findings from this research are fostering an in-depth understanding of the underlying gender norms that shape banana production in sub-Saharan Africa. The ultimate goal is to promote equitable sharing of both workload and economic and social benefits between men and women.
 CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) is a partnership collaboration led by the International Potato Center and including four CGIAR research centers – Bioversity International, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) – as well as the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD).
 GENNOVATE, or ‘Enabling Gender Equality in Agricultural and Environmental Innovation,’ is an unprecedented collaboration between 11 CGIAR Research Programmes and 9 research centers that carried out 137 qualitative case studies in 26 countries. The research studies were conducted in the framework of the CGIAR Research Programme on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) and the Humidtropic CGIAR Research Programme, led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
Towards Gender-responsive Banana Research for Development in the East-African Highlands
The development of this guidance document was led by Anne Rietveld, Bioversity International Sociologist, in the framework of the CGIAR GENNOVATE Project.
Citation: Rietveld, A. & Farnworth, C.R. 2018. Towards gender-responsive banana research for development in the East-African Highlands. GENNOVATE resources for scientists and research teams. CDMX, Mexico: CIMMYT.
Recovering Banana Production in Bunchy Top-affected Areas in Sub-Saharan Africa: Developing Gender-responsive Approaches (Postprint version)
This paper was co-authored by Biovesity International scientists Susan Ajambo, Anne Rietveld and Aman Bonaventure Omondi, with partners from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the Institute of Agricultural Science of Burundi (ISABU), the University of Kisangani, the University of Burundi and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Ajambo, S., Rietveld, A., Nkengla, L.W., Niyongere, C., Dhed'a, D.B., Olaosebikan, D.O., Nitunga, E., Toengaho, J., Kumar P. Lava, Hanna, R., Kankeu R. Sufo and Omondi, A. (2018). Recovering banana production in bunchy top-affected areas in Sub-Saharan Africa: developing gender-responsive approaches. Acta Hortic. 1196, 219-228
- Gender at the centre of our research - Find out more
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- Beyond trees: Land restoration to enhance gender equality in Burkina Faso
- From agronomic practices to gender norms and agency in banana disease management
- Understanding gender norms and innovation processes to foster gender-equitable opportunities in forest landscapes