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You are here: Home Magazines Global edition Cultivating diversity

Cultivating diversity

last modified Jun 20, 2015 12:04 AM

Agricultural biodiversity plays a huge role in maintaining resilient local economies, balanced diets, strong family farms and healthy ecosystems. The rapid disappearance of agricultural biodiversity and the lack of measures to protect it are therefore great causes of concern. Although mainstream agricultural policies threaten such agricultural biodiversity, in recent years many promising initiatives have been launched around the world that aim to preserve and manage agricultural biodiversity.

Small-scale family farmers often play a central role in these initiatives. But other actors and institutions also play important roles: farmers and researchers are taking up joint research initiatives, and farmers’ organisations are engaging in dialogues with policymakers, pushing for policies that enhance agrobiodiversity.

Issue 30.1 of Farming Matters looks at these emerging initiatives and at the insights gained from the efforts to up-scale these experiences. It focuses on agricultural biodiversity from different angles, including the importance of local seeds and breeds, enabling policy landscapes, and creating resilient communities. In the International Year of Family Farming, this edition explores the close interconnection between agricultural biodiversity and family farming.

Watch also: Cultivating diversity video

Farming Matters | 30.1 | March 2014

Featured articles

Table of contents:

  • 2 - 2
    Deadline: June 15th, 2014
  • 3 - 3
    With seven other farming families, Ildi and Levente Haidu produce the 'Peasant Box' for customers in the city. In this way, they can distribute their many different, fresh and high quality products.
  • 5 - 5
    Biologists estimate current yearly losses of species to be 1,000 times higher than historic rates.
  • 7 - 7
    Farming Matters welcomes comments, ideas and suggestions from its readers. Please contact us via e-mail at or write to P.O. Box 90, 6700 AB Wageningen, the Netherlands.
  • 8 - 11
    In 1905, Einstein published the world’s most famous equation: E=mc2, which has since become a fundamental principle. A hundred years on, it’s time to propose another equation as a fundamental principle of the 21st century: A=bc2. Agriculture (A) equals biodiversity (b) multiplied by communities (c) squared – including both rural communities and the global community at large. While agrobiodiversity holds great promise for the future, unleashing its potential will require a deep transformation in agricultural policy, practice and knowledge sharing.
  • 12 - 15
    Rapidly increasing on-farm biodiversity is a matter of urgency in an era of climate change. Farmers often have limited access to genetic resources. Not only do they need greater access to the genetic material in research stations and gene banks, they also need to collaborate with scientists who are willing and able to work together with them to create new knowledge. The Evolutionary Plant Breeding programme in Iran is one example of what can be achieved when these challenges are overcome.
  • 16 - 18
    Interview > Phrang Roy - “If you look at a map of global agrobiodiversity hotspots you soon realise that they are identical with indigenous people’s habitats. There are 370 million indigenous people in the world and they have been custodians of agrobiodiversity for millennia,” says Phrang Roy, co-ordinator of the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty. “Regretfully, their practices, such as shifting cultivation and their selection of socially relevant local crops and breeds, are not understood by many development workers, researchers or governments.”
  • 19 - 19
    We see an erosion of knowledge about our agrobiodiversity all over Africa, Million Belay says. Culture is at the centre of agrobiodiversity protection, he argues, and Africa’s agriculture policies should support this. There is a better way to feed Africa while maintaining our cultural practices in harmony with nature.
  • 20 - 22
    In the Ecuadorian provinces of Bolívar, Chimborazo and Cotopaxi, family farmers are building new capacities to conserve and use the biodiversity on their farmland. They are gaining greater access to and control over their biological resources, increasing their resilience and food sovereignty. The key: individual farmers who are passionate about plants and seeds.
  • 23 - 23
    The current food system is exploiting the ignorance of consumers, while maintaining an old-fashioned image of the farmer. But this is changing, says young columnist Pavlos Georgiadis, as he explains how alternative systems for producing, distributing and appreciating food are advancing.
  • 24 - 25
    While there are examples of practices that successfully support biodiversity in agriculture, and even good international agreements, these practices are not spreading far and wide. There seem to be invisible walls, ceilings and floors that limit the spread of sustainable agro-biodiverse practices and their adoption into mainstream policies, practice and culture. What is stopping us from opening the doors and windows of this “glass house”?
  • 26 - 28
    Changing climate patterns and the associated ill-effects are inherently severe in the Federated States of Micronesia and are perhaps the most pressing challenge facing the nation as it seeks to nourish its people. Decreased rainfall and rising sea levels are disturbing the traditional taro patches, low-lying forestry systems and other ecosystems. In Yap, one of Micronesia’s states, combining traditional farming and scientific insights has brought fresh promise for biodiverse and sustainable food production systems.
  • 29 - 29
    Governments and intergovernmental agreements on agrobiodiversity do not improve farmer and indigenous rights, the team of GRAIN argues. The peasants who are keeping agrobiodiversity alive are under threat from the rapid expansion of industrial farming. We need to fight for food sovereignty to preserve local agrobiodiversity.
  • 30 - 33
    Increasingly, seeds are the domain of professional seed breeders, agribusiness and policy makers. They decide what makes a good variety and they establish legislation that excludes other varieties. Despite this, farmer organisations and social movements in Paraíba, Brazil, have managed to strengthen decentralised farmer-driven seed selection and distribution systems and public seed policies. They may well be opening the way for another seed regime.
  • 34 - 35
    Mountain farming is family farming / Reclaiming food security / Scaling-up agroecological approaches / Smallholders, food security and the environment
  • 36 - 39
    Ankole Longhorn cattle can survive in extremely harsh, dry conditions such as those in sub-Saharan Africa – which is becoming drier and hotter. In a context where herders are strongly encouraged to keep exotic and hybrid cattle, the innovative LIFE approach led Ugandan herders to revalue the Longhorns for their economic and cultural value.
  • 40 - 41
    All over the world we can find positive experiences where family farmers are working to maintain agricultural biodiversity, or are benefitting from it. Here are a four cases where farmers are making a conscious effort to conserve and market diverse crops.
  • 42 - 45
    In the Deccan region of India, over 60,000 women peasants are feeding their families, their culture and their pride with biodiverse farming practices. Their knowledge and successes have reached across national and institutional borders, and they have received recognition from around the world.
  • 46 - 47
    With the International Year of Family Farming in full swing, members of the AgriCultures Network are actively involved in a number of initiatives that strengthen family farmers and agro-ecology. Here are a few updates.
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