Bioversity International: research for development in agricultural and tree biodiversity

Bioversity International supports CBD's call for mainstreaming biodiversity for well-being

02 Dec 2016

Bioversity International is gearing up to participate in the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 13) in Cancun, Mexico, which starts in a few days’ time. Ann Tutwiler, Director General of Bioversity International, blogs about the CBD - the most important global instrument promoting the conservation of biodiversity, its sustainable use and the fair and equitable distribution of its benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. 

As the only CGIAR centre with a core mandate for plant genetic resources and agricultural and tree biodiversity, the CBD COP is extremely important for Bioversity International. This year’s theme is particularly close to our heart: Mainstreaming biodiversity for well-being.

Mainstreaming is about integrating and using biodiversity in other sectors, such as health, agriculture, and tourism. It is about including biodiversity – at genetic, species, farm or ecosystem level – in the practices, programmes and policies of other sectors, for mutual benefit.

In a world where high levels of malnutrition prevail alongside environmental degradation and biodiversity loss, mainstreaming biodiversity promises to put us on a more sustainable path with win-win-win scenarios for nutrition, environmental health and conservation of biodiversity.

This is why Bioversity International is participating with partners in 15 side-events at COP13 to promote our key message:

“Mainstreaming agricultural and tree biodiversity in sustainable food and production systems is critical to nourish people and sustain the planet”

Mainstreaming biodiversity in sustainable food systems

Bioversity International will also be holding two side events to promote a new tool we are developing to help governments, the private sector and other decision-makers to increase the sustainability of food systems: The Agrobiodiversity Index.

The Index is designed to provide a consistent way to assess biodiversity in sustainable food systems, tracking change and measuring the influence that changes in agricultural biodiversity have on other issues and sectors. We will present our forthcoming book, Mainstreaming Agrobiodiversity in Sustainable Food Systems – Scientific Foundations for an Agrobiodiversity Index, which provides the scientific background for development of the Agrobiodiversity Index across four dimensions: healthy, diverse diets; productive and resilient farms and landscapes, farmers’ access to diverse, quality seeds; and conservation of agrobiodiversity to support diversity.

Bioversity International is holding the following events on mainstreaming biodiversity in sustainable food systems:

[More about Bioversity International’s work on the Agrobiodiversity Index]

Mainstreaming biodiversity in nutrition

Diversifying the diets of populations can reduce micronutrient deficiencies by providing a rich source of naturally available nutrients all the year round. We take a ‘whole of diet’ approach which means studying the diversity of all accessible local food sources for vulnerable populations, including ‘forgotten’ traditional foods, wild foods and foods available in local markets. We investigate how agricultural and tree biodiversity can be better used within food production systems, taking into account the benefits to humans and the environment.

Bioversity International studies the diversity present within local food systems. We work with partners to mainstream locally available food biodiversity for sustainable food systems and healthy diets into national policies and programmes on food and nutrition security.

Bioversity International is participating in the following events on mainstreaming biodiversity in nutrition:

[More about Bioversity International’s work on biodiversity for nutrition]

Mainstreaming biodiversity in forestry

Millions of rural people in the developing world depend on trees for food, cooking fuel, shelter, medicine and income. Of the thousands of wild tree species important to people for nutrition and livelihoods, many are becoming scarce. The drivers of forest biodiversity loss are well-known, for example: over exploitation, slash and burn agriculture, changing climate, invasions of exotic species and over-grazing by domestic livestock.

Bioversity International’s tree genetic resources research focuses on documenting the diversity within tree species that are important for people, analyzing the threats to trees and their genetic resources and learning how these threats can be addressed to achieve their conservation and sustainable use in protected areas, managed forests and woodlands.

We are working with partners to mainstream biodiversity in: 

  • Forest management
  • Restoration
  • Trees for livelihoods and nutrition
  • Resolving conflict over tree use
  • Gender-responsive forestry

Bioversity International is participating in the following events on mainstreaming biodiversity in forests and landscapes:

[More about Bioversity International’s work on biodiversity for healthy forests]

Mainstreaming biodiversity in agricultural development

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.

Bioversity International’s research 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.

Our research includes how to curb the loss of crop and tree biodiversity, and support systems that contribute to more diversity through: strategies, management and trait identification; information services and seed supplies; and policies, institutions and monitoring.

Bioversity International is participating in the following events on mainstreaming biodiversity in agricultural development:

[More about Bioversity International’s work on biodiversity in productive and resilient farms, forests and landscapes and on conserving genetic resources for agriculture and livelihoods]

We hope you will join us to ensure that the importance of agricultural biodiversity to nourish people and sustain the planet is recognized in the Ministerial Declaration on the 'Integration of Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity for Well-being', which will reflect the decisions reached at the High-Level Segment of the COP13 meeting.

See you in Cancun!

Ann Tutwiler


Follow the conversations from the CBD COP on Bioversity International's Facebook page or via Twitter and Instagram hashtags #COP13 #CBDCOP13 or following our tweets at @BioversityInt.

[Our COP13 events calendar]

Photo: Planting rice in Nepal, Credit: Bioversity International/Sriram Subedi, LI-BIRD, Lamjung