Skip to main content

Bioversity International’s research seeks to enhance the relationships between people, their food and the environment to the benefit of all three. One way we do this is by focusing our research on the agricultural systems and plants that have evolved over millennia, managed by the people who rely on them.

The heart of this research programme is to enable the women and men farmers who manage their crop diversity on a daily basis to benefit more directly from it by having strengthened food security, better diet quality, increased income, and more options in an uncertain world. By continuing and accelerating a millennia-old tradition of co-evolution of people and crops, we can provide options in which people benefit from their crops while crop diversity continues to provide the ecosystem and evolutionary services necessary for change.

On-farm management of agricultural biodiversity means that smallholder farmers select and develop the species they need to suit their diets, culture, markets and environment. The great variety of species and farming systems this results in—and the fact that they can be analyzed from different perspectives and at different levels—makes the measurement of diversity very tricky. Bioversity International is developing an innovative participatory approach for baseline assessments of crop diversity and their wild relatives on farm, in selected CGIAR Research Program priority sites. We are investigating what drives changes in these systems at different scales: from individual men and women to communities and internationally.

Our research will develop interventions that have a positive effect both on women and men’s livelihoods and on the conservation of biodiversity, and principles for identifying the best locations for these interventions. Another important research area studies the public benefits provided by the actions of individuals, for example investigating the functional relationships between amounts of crop diversity and the provision of ecosystem services in agricultural systems.

Successfully managing this agricultural biodiversity on people’s farms is a complex endeavour: it depends upon interlinked cultural, ecological, economic and political factors, making it ripe for systemic research which brings together a wide range of disciplines and methods. We have developed many participatory approaches which ensure that indigenous and traditional knowledge is integrated in our research and ensure that different voices are taken into account.

On the farm and on the wild side

Conserving plant genetic resources in farmers' fields so that they can evolve with changing conditions is often said to be a good thing, yet without very much evidence. A new study examines the case for in situ conservation, marshalls the evidence and raises important questions.


Find out more

Tropical Fruit Tree Diversity in Asia

In India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand we are working to strengthen the capacity of farmers in the community-based management of tropical fruit tees and their wild relatives. Our focus is on promoting good conservation practices and documenting the diversity of four important fruit species: mango, citrus, rambutan and mangosteen. Since 2012, we have been emphasizing the importance of custodian farmers, who actively maintain, adapt and disseminate agricultural biodiversity and related knowledge to their communities.

Read the publication featuring 20 custodian farmers or watch the video

Visit the website of our tropical fruit tree initiative

Featured publications

Related news

A pearl millet variety improved through participatory plant breeding. Chimukoko Farmer Field School, Zimbabwe. Credit: Bioversity International/R.Vernooy

A Resilient Seed Systems Handbook to support farmers adapt to climate change

Developed by a multidisciplinary team of Bioversity International researchers and research partners, the Resilient Seed Systems Handbook Second...

Read more

Ipomoea robertsiana, wild relative of the sweet potato. Credit: P. Moila

Bridging agriculture and environment: Southern African crop wild relative regional network

A new project funded by the Darwin Initiative is bringing together Southern African countries and international research organizations to establish a...

Read more

New Index outlines agrobiodiversity’s role in food system sustainability

The Agrobiodiversity Index is an innovative tool to calculate how well countries are conserving and using their agricultural biodiversity. The first...

Read more

IPBES recognizes why agrobiodiversity matters

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report, approved by more than 130 countries, recognizes...

Read more

Healthy Foods You Haven’t Heard Of (Yet): The Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition Database

A new database compiles nutrition information on over 185 neglected and underutilized food species and varieties, researched by partners of the...

Read more