Bioversity International: research for development in agricultural and tree biodiversity

Integrating agricultural biodiversity into farming systems is essential

10 Mar 2015

M. Ann Tutwiler, Director General, Bioversity International, advocates for greater use of agricultural biodiversity in farming systems at last week's Integrated Systems Research conference in Ibadan, where she also made a guest appearance on Nigeria Channels TV.

Taking a systems approach to agriculture was high on the agenda in Nigeria last week as a 4-day conference on Integrated Systems Research for Sustainable Intensification in Smallholder Agriculture took place in Ibadan.

The conference brought together agricultural scientists and researchers from 30 countries, including Bioversity International, to share and learn from research undertakings on integrated systems, with an emphasis on results. The conference was organized by CGIAR Research Program on Humidtropics, in collaboration with Dryland Systems and Aquatic Agricultural Systems.

During her opening remarks, M. Ann Tutwiler, Director General, Bioversity International, highlighted the role that agricultural and tree biodiversity can make to simultaneously address multiple problems including food security, nutrition security and improving ecosystems. She challenged participants to focus on synergies rather than trade-offs when taking a systems approach to meet multiple goals but recognized it is not always easy:  

"It requires, importantly, bringing together different disciplines ... and it requires different units at the farm level, at the system level, communities and nations to work together. In short it requires us to ... pat our heads, rub our stomachs, walk and chew gum at the same time".

Tutwiler then gave some examples of the different ways that Bioversity International's research is showing results working at different levels.

She highlighted work in Ecuador at the field level, where using mixtures of different varieties of beans has reduced pest and disease incidences, increasing farmers' yields by up to 32%. She also talked about research in Costa Rica to reduce the incidence of coffee borer beetle by using diversified landscapes round the coffee plots. For example, the beetles do not easily move through forest, so incorporating forest patches between coffee plots, rather than having interconnected coffee plots, creates a barrier to the beetles' movements. An additional benefit is that integrating forests into the coffee production systems also attracts birds that are major predators for the beetles.

Watch the full speech by clicking here or on on the video (top left, 15 mins long).

During her visit to Nigeria, M. Ann Tutwiler also featured on a TV programme, Earth File: Increasing Food Production Through Systemic Farming, shown on Nigeria's Channels TV. The programme featured comments given at a press briefing as part of the conference, where Tutwiler also stressed the importance of agricultural biodiversity as part of integrated system research approaches:

"We at Bioversity International believe that agricultural biodiversity - at the genetic level, the species level and the landscape level - is very important to helping us improve productivity over the long-term by providing genetic resources, helping to manage agricultural pests and diseases, by using diversity within species and ensuring landscapes can provide nutrition and improve our environmental quality. This systems thinking is, I think, really important to helping us resolve the very complex challenges of our time."

Watch the speech here

Watch the TV programme (in total 25 mins)

Read the press release from the Integrated Systems Research for Sustainable Intensification in Smallholder Agriculture Conference - 'Scientists call for systems research in agriculture to realize the sustainable goals