In addition to using them in breeding, people also gather species from the wild and cook them. Throughout Africa, for example, people eat wild cowpea species (Vigna spp.), while in Madagascar, wild yams (Dioscorea spp.) are a rich source of carbohydrates. These can also be sold, providing rural households with an additional source of income.
Unfortunately, occurring as they do in untended lands, Crop wild relatives are vulnerable to changes in land use patterns due to growing cities and climate change. Many are at risk of extinction. Their vulnerable position is compounded by the fact that crop wild relatives fall between the agricultural and conservation agendas: agriculture looks at tended lands, conservation does not focus on agricultural resources.
Bioversity International's research approach
Bioversity International supports and enables effective and efficient local, national and global in situ conservation and use strategies of targeted crop wild relatives.
These strategies are developed in priority sites through the participation and strengthening of local institutions and stakeholders, in the following three areas:
- Determining the conservation status of crop wild relatives and threats
- Management approaches to conserve crop wild relatives in priority sites in the most cost effective manner
- Developing long-term indicators and risk threshold levels which local people can use to monitor crop wild relatives for their own needs and which policymakers can use to define interventions for their conservation and sustainable use.
We also carry out research to identify valuable traits and understand how men and women understand and use crop wild relatives differently.