The 1st International Agrobiodiversity Congress held in New Delhi, India, from 6-9 November, 2016 was attended by over 900 participants from 60 countries. Congress delegates discussed various aspects of conservation, management, access and use of agrobiodiversity in 16 technical sessions, four satellite sessions, a genebank roundtable, a public forum, a farmers’ forum and poster sessions. Based on detailed deliberations, the delegates unanimously adopted the following declaration in the concluding session on November 9, 2016:
- Agrobiodiversity includes crop varieties, livestock and fish breeds, and agriculturally useful insect and microbial species. Significant progress has been made towards the documentation, collection, conservation and use of agrobiodiversity related genetic resources, yet much more needs to be done towards their sustainable use, greater exchange and knowledge and technology transfer.
- If conserved and used sustainably, agrobiodiversity could make an important contribution towards resolving problems of hunger, food insecurity, malnutrition and climate change, thus help in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Aichi Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
- Limitations in policies, investment, infrastructure, technical capacity as well as cross-sectoral coordination and partnerships have often prevented efficient use of agrobiodiversity. This is particularly alarming since it is projected that the world, where almost 795 million people go hungry today, will need 70% more food to feed 9.6 billion people by 2050 (FAO, 2015). Hence, high priority and policy support by world leaders and organizations is warranted for enhanced use of agrobiodiversity.
- The world is also facing rapid loss and extinction of biodiversity. It is estimated that species are being lost at 1,000 to 10,000 times the rate at which natural extinction took place at any time during the past 66 million years mainly due to explosive population growth and overexploitation of natural resources. Extinction of agrobiodiversity and associated traditional knowledge is an irreversible process and hence must receive priority attention. In fact, loss of a gene is a major loss for our future generations.
- We call upon nations to accord top priority to the shared vision of agrobiodiversity conservation and sustainable use towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Aichi Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity addressing poverty alleviation, food, nutritional and health security, gender equity and global partnership.
- We recognize the importance of traditional agrobiodiversity knowledge available with farm men and women, pastoralists, tribal and rural communities and its central role in the conservation and use for a food secure and climate resilient world. We, therefore, call upon countries to develop the necessary legal, institutional and funding mechanisms to catalyze their active participation.
- We urge researchers and the policymakers to initiate, strengthen and promote complementary strategies to conserve agrobiodiversity through use, including greater emphasis on using crop wild relatives. We call for them to ensure a continuum between ex situ, in situ, on-farm, community-based and other conservation methods with much greater and equal emphasis on each.
- We propose that researchers employ modern technologies including, but not limited to, genomics, biotechnology, space, computational, and nano-technologies for genetic resources characterization, evaluation and trait discovery. The aim must be to achieve efficiency, equity, economy and environmental security through diversified agricultural production systems and landscapes.
- We reemphasize the necessity of global exchange of plant, animal, aquatic, microbial and insect genetic resources to diversify agriculture as well as our food basket and to meet the ever-growing food and nutritional needs of all countries. To ensure this, nations need to be catalysed to adopt both multi-lateral (as envisaged in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture) and bilateral (as per the Nagoya Protocol) instruments to facilitate the exchange of genetic resources, while ensuring equitable access and benefit sharing opportunities.
- Countries are also expected to harmonize their existing biosecurity systems, including phytosanitary and quarantine, and enhance their capacities to facilitate safe trans-boundary movement of germplasm.
- We also expect that the governments and civil societies lay much greater emphasis on public awareness and capacity enhancement programs on agrobiodiversity conservation in order to accelerate its effective and efficient use.
- We recommend the development and implementation of an Agrobiodiversity Index to help monitor on-going genetic resource conservation and management efforts, with particular emphasis on agrobiodiversity hot spots.
- It is also urged that public and private sectors and civil societies henceforth actively invest in and incentivize the utilization of agrobiodiversity to mitigate malnutrition, increase the resilience and productivity of farms and farming households and enhance ecosystem services. Such efforts should lead to equitable benefits and opportunities, with particular emphasis on women and youth.
- We urge countries to reprioritize their research and extension with increased investments to support the conservation and use of agrobiodiversity. Furthermore, we strongly recommend to create an International Agrobiodiversity Fund as a mechanism to assist countries and communities in scientific in situ and ex situ conservation and enhanced use of agrobiodiversity.
- We urge the United Nations to consider declaring a ‘Year of Agrobiodiversity’ in order to draw worldwide attention and catalyse urgent actions for effective management of genetic resources by the global community.
- Finally, we recommend that the International Agrobiodiversity Congress be held every four years, with Bioversity International playing the facilitator's role, to maintain the momentum gained in 2016 and continue emphasizing the need to implement the 'Delhi Declaration on Agrobiodiversity Management' and monitor the progress so made by the different stakeholders and countries.
Visit the official website of the Congress http://www.iac2016.in/
Photo: PM Modi inaugurates the first-ever International Agrobiodiversity Congress. Credit: The Hindu