The Global Landscapes Forum, taking place alongside the COP19 global climate talks in Warsaw, is momentous and important, especially as we look for meaningful answers to the question of our time.
How can we nutritiously and sustainably feed 9 billion people by 2050, while adjusting and not contributing to climate change?
We need an integrated and inclusive approach to address this challenge successfully, moving beyond zero-sum strategies that tackle one problem and worsen another. The landscape approach offers this opportunity.
Landscapes are the stage where sectors and disciplines meet. They are where people work to provide for their families, find productive land and clean water, seek shelter, and grow and develop as individuals.
Today at the opening plenary of the second day of the Global Landscapes Forum, I spoke about how agricultural biodiversity can help improve landscape management and address food security and nutrition challenges, while meeting the needs of the farmer and society on the whole.
At present, of more than 50,000 edible plant species in the world, only a few hundred contribute significantly to food supply. Just a few crops, such as wheat, rice and maize dominate the global energy supply - as well as CGIAR’s own research budget. Biodiversity provides options – at the genetic, species and landscape level – and greater focus on them can only be constructive.
We must not put all our eggs in one basket. The loss of biodiversity limits the capacity of agriculture to respond or adapt to changes in demand, resources and climate.
Bioversity is also a part of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative which places ecosystems and the services they provide as the entry point for sustainable development. In addition, Bioversity launched the Bridging Agriculture and Conservation Initiative in 2013, working with global partners to meet production and conservation goals.
The diversification of land use and ecosystems also provides a buffer against weather-related stress, as diversity in crops helps in resilience and adaptability to the changing climate. It ensures soil regeneration and fertility over time, and supports the variety of pollinators that contribute to the production of over 75% of the world’s most important crops. Biodiversity is one of the best ways of achieving results in pest and disease control, as predators and organisms keep these in check.
A great example of biodiversity’s integral role in the landscape approach can be found in Begnas, Nepal, a group of mountain villages where Bioversity has been working for over ten years. In Begnas – recently declared an Agrobiodiversity Conservation Area by local authorities forests are sustainably managed by community members to guarantee that everyone has access to greater fuel, fodder and forest cover. A cooperative manages the lake, so that both upstream and downstream communities interact with the watershed equitably and sustainably. The villages have integrated animal and crop production at household level, so risk is spread out and diversified. The network of perennial crops, fruit orchards and agroforestry in Begnas allows greater market value, lower labor and enhanced resistance to weather stress. Moreover, the network provides a wide range of environmental services across the landscape, adding to its structural complexity.
The timing and awareness is ripe for new solutions and broader acceptance of the landscape approach to deal with our growing population and changing environment. Biodiversity is part of that solution.
This blog was originally published on the Global Landscapes Forum blog (www.landscapes.org), 18 November 2013