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
Find out how after two devastating earthquakes in Nepal, Bioversity International and partners worked with farmers in remote mountainous regions to rescue, conserve and repatriate 284 rare and endangered traditional crops.
When the two earthquakes hit Nepal in 2015, they killed and injured thousands of people, destroyed homes and food supplies, and left over 3.5 million people in urgent need of food, water, shelter and medical assistance. The most severely affected areas were the remote, risk-prone, mountainous parts of central and western Nepal, where many rural communities depend on already difficult terrain to cultivate the crops they depend on for food and livelihoods.
When disaster struck, the winter crops which were ready to harvest in the fields, such as wheat, legumes and barley, were destroyed. Carefully saved seeds of rice, millet, beans, buckwheat and summer vegetable seeds were damaged or lost forever.
Even when farmers were able to recover seed stocks from their damaged homes, they were unable to store them properly as many of these farmers and their families were now living in chaotic conditions in temporary tin-roofed shelters. This put the future viability of the seeds at risk.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN estimated that over 70% of farming households lost more than 60% of their seed stock. And while national government and international relief agencies focused on rescuing people, livestock and valuable assets, no one was rescuing the valuable native crop varieties and seeds. The situation was urgent.
In such an emergency situation, it is tempting to rush in seeds from elsewhere to secure food supplies and agricultural livelihoods. But acting in haste runs the risk of delivering seeds that are not adapted to the harsh remote conditions, resulting in potentially poor harvests and crops that are not appropriate for local dishes and tastes. With scarce labour and land resources, getting the right seeds to meet farmers’ needs is vital to avoid longer-term food insecurity, as well as to safeguard the local agricultural biodiversity for the future. For this to happen, the farmers must become part of the selection and evaluation process.
Bioversity International in partnership with the National Genebank of the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) and local implementation partners the Local Initiative for Biodiversity Research and Development (LI-BIRD) got to work to rebuild the local seed systems of native crop varieties in earthquake-affected areas through rescue collections, conservation and repatriation. At the same time, the research group saw an opportunity to develop and validate methodology that could be adopted by others faced with future disaster recovery efforts.
The first step was a workshop to strengthen the capacity of the rescue mission team. This multi-disciplinary team, which included plant breeders, agronomists, social scientists and other researchers and development professionals, would work hand-in-hand with rural communities to rapidly detect, collect, save and disseminate farmer-preferred varieties in the ten districts areas most affected by the earthquakes or identified as high risk.
It was very important to do more than just identify and collect the seeds. Recording local knowledge about the rare indigenous varieties cultivated for thousands of years in remote, harsh, farming landscapes was also critical. The research team visited farm households in severely affected areas, collecting native endangered seeds and traditional knowledge. A farmer, Mr Karna Maila Gurung reported: “I was very happy and surprised to see researchers visiting our remote village to learn and rescue our endangered seeds, conserved by our forefathers over generations.”
The next step was to develop and validate ways to conserve the collected seeds and related traditional knowledge, along with climatic and geographical data. Some seeds were put safely into genebanks. Seeds that did not meet standard genebank requirements were conserved by being planted out in field collections. Planting was also critical to multiply stocks so that they could be delivered back to the farming communities who urgently needed them.
To make the repatriation effective, the team prioritized four native crops and their landraces based on farmer demand – rice, foxtail millet, lentils and naked barley. They also trained community members to establish and manage community seedbanks to help rebuild the local seed systems. Mr Gyan Jirel, a farmer from Jungu, commented that after attending the training, he now understood the importance of community seedbanks “to get our preferred seeds of locally adapted varieties at planting time.”
The research team regularly monitored replanting efforts to assess the seeds’ suitability for the local conditions. They also supplemented and validated the data gathered on the rescued seeds by reviewing national and international literature, carrying out field characterization, and holding evaluation and consultation meetings with relevant stakeholders at the local and national level.
“Altogether we rescued 284 rare and endangered crop landraces from farm households and fields,” explains Devendra Gauchan, National Project Manager, Bioversity International, and lead author on the recently published paper about the mission. “These crops are now conserved in the National Genebank as well as in community seedbanks located in the earthquake affected areas of Lamjung and Dolakha (Jungu village). We have also multiplied the crops and shared them back with the communities who depend on them for their food and incomes, and facilitated seed exchanges between the farmers. What was remarkable to the researchers was that over 90% of the collected and shared seeds in the affected local communities were not on the national list of crop varieties or in national genebank collections.”
“The process has now linked the national genebank with community seedbanks and farming communities in risk-prone mountainous areas as well as enhanced local skills when it comes to safeguarding the unique agrobiodiversity which is so critical for their future,” explains Dr. Bal Krishna Joshi of National Genetic Resources Centre (Genebank), NARC, Kathmandu, Nepal. "The roadmap that this effort established and the lessons learned will help inform disaster recovery missions,” he concludes.
Devendra Gauchan, National Project Manager, Bioversity International is the lead author on this paper which was co-written with authors from: the National Agriculture Genetic Resource Center (NAGRC), NARC, Khumaltar, Lalitpur, Nepal; Food Research Division, NARC, Lalitpur, Nepal; and the Local Initiative for Biodiversity Research and Development (LI-BIRD), Pokhara, Nepal.
Citation: Gauchan, D.; Joshi, B.K.; Ghimire, K.H.; Poudyal, K.; Sapkota, S.; Sharma, S.; Dangol, D.M.S.; Khatiwada, S.; Gautam, S.; Sthapit, S. (2018) Rebuilding local seed system and safeguarding conservation of agrobiodiversity in the aftermath of Nepal 2015 earthquake. Journal of Agriculture and Environment 19 p.130-139. ISSN : 2091-099
This work is part of the GEF/UNEP Project: Integrating Traditional Crop Genetic Diversity into Technology: Using a Biodiversity Portfolio Approach to Buffer against Unpredictable Environmental Change in the Nepal Himalayas; the Global Crop Diversity Trust/Bioversity International/Nepal Agricultural Research Council Project: Rebuilding local seed system: Collection, conservation and repatriation of native crop seeds in earthquake affected areas in Nepal and Netherlands; the Genetic Resources Policy Initiative/Bioversity International project: Rebuilding Family Farming in earthquake affected areas in Nepal. It is carried out with support from the Local Initiative for Biodiversity Research and Development (LI-BIRD) and the Nepal Agricultural Research Council.
This work was implemented as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), which is carried out with support from the CGIAR Trust Fund Donors and through bilateral funding agreements. For details please visit ccafs.cgiar.org/donors
- Rebuilding local seed systems of native crops in earthquake-affected areas of Nepal, Proceedings of a National Sharingshop 18 Dec 2017, Kathmandu
- Matching seeds to needs in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquakes
- Deploying crowdsourcing and seed diversity in disaster recovery efforts in Nepal
- Why getting Nepal the right seeds after the earthquakes matters – National Geographic