Bioversity International: research for development in agricultural and tree biodiversity

Productive and resilient farms, forests and landscapes

Productive and resilient farms, forests and landscapes

A Bioversity International Initiative

The challenge

In order to feed the projected population of 9 billion people by 2050, how can food production be sustainably expanded by 60% globally and up to 100% in developing countries?

This is the global challenge ahead of us.

Productive, profitable farms and associated ecosystems rely on a few key factors to address the challenges of rural poverty, natural resource degradation and global food security: environmental factors – light, water, soil and a vast array of biodiversity; genetic factors – seeds and planting materials suited to farmer conditions; and management – the choices farmers make about how they manage their fields and farms. Rural communities are further challenged, as their farms are burdened by biodiversity loss, salinity and degraded soils, weather variability and continuous pressure from pests and diseases.

Our solutions

This Bioversity International Initiative studies how both agricultural and wild biodiversity can improve soil characteristics, increase water quantity and quality, regulate pests and diseases, and enhance pollination to increase productivity and livelihood benefits, now and into the future.

The initiative works through two approaches:

Ecological intensification and diversification

This area of work focuses on how agricultural and tree biodiversity improves resilience at the field and landscape level.

Our research produces biodiversity-based technologies and decision-support tools that will be used to address farmers’ needs. How? Through appropriate seeds, planting materials and management approaches that boost farm productivity, reduce pests and diseases and improve livelihoods.

Landscape restoration and management

Working with communities, this research focuses on biophysical, social and institutional mechanisms that influence the flow and delivery of ecosystem services.

We investigate how practices, behaviour, institutions and different incentives can be used or improved to increase ecosystem services and better distribute their benefits to people, with an emphasis on promoting gender and social equity.

Examples of our research

Mix it up! Biodiversity bugs pests

Assorted beans and pulses (Phaseolus vulgaris, Lens culinaris). Credit: Bioversity International/C.Zanzanaini

Pests and diseases are a natural part of any ecosystem. What farmers fear are the outbreaks that can cause high yield losses. What role could crop biodiversity play in pest and disease management? Since 2006, Bioversity International has been working with national partners in China, Ecuador, Morocco and Uganda to see how planting different varieties of the same crop in mixtures, can reduce pest and disease damage.


  • Recent findings from our trials with the National Agricultural Research Organization in Uganda show that mixing varieties–often local crop varieties–resistant to certain pests and diseases, with those that are more susceptible, greatly reduces the incidence of that pest or disease
  • With common bean, we found this to be most effective when at least 50% of a resistant variety is mixed into a plot. For bananas, farmers have reported a 75% reduction in the presence of weevils in their mixtures.

No trees, no honey

Climbing trees to harvest honey in the Niassa Reserve, Mozambique. Credit: Bioversity International/L. Snook

Bioversity International works with Mozambique’s Niassa Reserve managers and other partners to find ways to meet the livelihood needs of local people while supporting tree and ecosystem conservation through improved management and use of natural resources. Forestry researchers discovered that destructive honey collection methods were threatening trees and honey production in the reserve. Income made from selling honey was dwindling as people were cutting down trees that were up to 200 years old in order to collect honey from hives.


  • Combining scientific research with the empowerment of local people can ignite change: Bioversity International empowered a local honey hunter (the man on the left in the image above) to share his know-how of traditional, nondestructive techniques based on tree climbing and the use of special plants, with other honey hunters in the reserve.
  • The adoption by local honey hunters of these sustainable harvesting techniques is conserving trees, reducing fires, and providing long term options for consumption and the sale of honey.