Bioversity International: research for development in agricultural and tree biodiversity

Global Landscapes Forum - A movement worth building

22 Dec 2017

Bioversity International participated in several activities during this year's Global Landscapes Forum held in Bonn on 19-20 December, where the President of Mauritius emphasized the need for an Agrobiodiversity Index. 

While Christmas spruces, firs and pines may decorate the festive center of Bonn, their future with that of other trees, as well as water, soils and agriculture was being carefully discussed just a few kilometers away, at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF).

To discuss landscapes from the Andean mountains to the peatlands of Indonesia – addressing the themes of restoration, financing sustainable landscapes, rights and equitable development, food and livelihoods, and measuring progress toward climate change and development goals – is to cover much ground. A great platform for sharing, learning and planning, the forum offered a variety of formats in which scientists, activists and leaders of organizations shared ideas, presented case studies and called to action. The GLF is the world’s largest science-led platform on sustainable land use. And now, in its seventh edition, the outreach was massive. Around one thousand attended the event in person and thanks to the livestreams online, the total audience reached is estimated at 21 million people. Also, the address by world-famous actor and activist, Alec Baldwin, didn’t hurt.

The radiant stage in the Plenary ensured all chairs were filled, and all eyes and ears focused on the lineup of inspirational speakers, ranging from the Former President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, to yogi-environmentalist and spiritual guide Sadhguru to Robert Nasi, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Barbara Hendricks, the Federal Minister of German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), said the idea behind GLF is to share innovative ideas that can then be implemented on the ground: “The overarching goal is to learn from one another and take action together.” Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment, warned that we must put landscapes first as “they allow us to kill three birds with one stone: take care of the climate, biodiversity and reduce pollution and haze.”

The forum also emphasized the important role of indigenous communities and their knowledge and experience in finding holistic solutions to land degradation, reforestation, food security and the future of clean water sources. “We’re not looking for saviors,” said Roberto Borerro, Programs and Communications Coordinator of the International Indian Treaty Council, “but need to have a seat at the table” as a partner with solutions.

President of Mauritius, Ammenah Gurib Fakim, delivered an impassioned keynote speech on the need to forcibly address and mitigate the inexorable loss of species, which is most evident in Africa. She reiterated the importance of supporting traditional knowledge systems related to sustainable agriculture adding to this the imperative of empowering women as stewards of ecosystems and the equitable sharing of benefits.

Fakim particularly emphasized the need for more research, which she regards not as an “expense but an investment in our common future”. In her speech, she went on to staunchly stress the vital role of agrobiodiversity conservation in attaining sustainable agricultural systems and talks of the first International Agrobiodiversity Congress held last year and the Delhi Declaration on agrobiodiversity management. A scientist by training, she made a loud and clear call for a universal Agrobiodiversity Index stating: “Solutions require knowledge and knowledge starts with good data”. She maintained that such an index will be an important step towards developing a common understanding necessary to finding global solutions to today’s challenges.

Bioversity International had its own booth in the busy Restoration Pavilion in addition to several representatives and a couple of presentations. Ewa Hermanowicz from EUFORGEN presented on the success attained in afforesting Iceland during a Landscape Talks session, the format of which was modeled after TED Talks. And, Chris Kettle and Riina Jalonen co-organized with the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration (GPFLR) a vibrant discussion entitled Why Diversity and Why Now - Seeding resilient restoration

The seats might not have been plentiful but it didn’t stop people from gathering around to listen in on the importance and challenges of collecting quality and diverse seed to enable resilient reforestation. The panelists included experienced professionals with diverse backgrounds, having worked on restoration projects all over the world including the US, Rwanda and Malaysia. The session was framed around several critical questions, such as: are we adequately considering diversity and restoration; what are the critical bottlenecks in delivering diversity; how can we monitor diversity - just to mention a few. The panelists’ divergent perspectives and experiences enriched the discussion and encouraged a lively exchange with the audience. 

As vital as it is, genetic diversity has been hard to maintain and, if lost, even harder to obtain. This is also true of diversity in landscapes. The forests, mountains, soils, waters and peatlands are all a prerequisite to a chance at a future of health and prosperity across the globe. Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as replacing our Christmas pines with the steadily diminishing African cherry tree. The GLF is thus an important platform at coming up with innovative solutions as well as an attempt at a movement; one that according to the professionals and activists, including Alec Baldwin, is “a movement worth building”.  

Take a look at our photos from the event.

This work is carried out in collaboration with the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, and is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors

Photos from top to bottom:

Plenary during the Global Landscapes Forum. Credit: Bioversity International/M.Franic

Indian mystic leader and environmentalist Sadhguru in conversation with the Executive Director of UN Environment, Erik Solheim at the Global Landscapes Forum. Credit: Bioversity International/M.Franic

Panel discussion by Riina Jalonene and Chris Kettle on Why Diversity and Why Now - Seeding resilient restoration. Credit: Bioversity International/M.Franic

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