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11/06/2000 •

ITDG lobby @ COP 5

15th GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY FORUM: Agricultural Biodiversity Workshop

Agricultural Biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods:the case of Drylands Ecosystems

Nairobi, 12-14 May 2000

Organised by ITDG with ELCI, RIOD and others

14 May

A workshop bringing grassroots perspectives on agricultural biodiversity to bear on policy issues in the programme for COP V.

This workshop brought farmers from drylands ecosystems into the international policy dialogue, examining how they sustain livelihoods through the management of diversity, and the implications of their experience for aspects of the COP V agenda, for the implementation of the work programme on agricultural biodiversity and for Parties’ national plans.


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Delegates to COP V will be coming to a region where the food security of a majority of the people, and the livelihoods of millions, are based on the activities of small scale producers who help to shape, manage and develop the region's agricultural biodiversity.

Their interest is in how to survive and prosper through managing biodiversity to its maximum benefit. Nowhere is this more true than in dryland areas where both the land and the livelihoods derived from it are marginal.

While agricultural biodiversity is addressed in a separate programme at COP V, the issues surrounding its use for sustainable livelihoods cut across most areas of the CBD’s work. They integrate genetics, species and ecosystem management with concerns for Farmers’ Rights, access, benefit sharing and biosafety.

What meaning will the COP discussions have for the farmers and pastoralists in drylands areas? And how can farmers and pastoralists’ perspectives on biodiversity influence the understanding of delegates to the international meeting?

This workshop will bring farmers and pastoralists from drylands ecosystems into the international policy dialogue, examining how they sustain livelihoods through the management of diversity, and the implications of their experience for aspects of the COP V agenda, for the implementation of the work programme on agricultural biodiversity and for Parties’ national plans.

All relevant abstracts and papers were made available at the workshops, but please note: this was a dynamic and participative workshop, not a paper-based one.

Purpose of the workshop

To bring the direct experience and perspectives of those who use and manage agricultural biodiversity to bear on international policy discussions affecting its in situ conservation.

Aims of the workshop

  1. To demonstrate the practices, technologies and strategies used by farmers and pastoralists in drylands areas, in order to illustrate the meaning to them of ‘sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity’.
  2. To bridge the 'policy gap' between the immediate stakeholders in agricultural biodiversity at the grassroots level, and those who take forward policy at international levels, by putting the direct experience of stakeholders at the centre of policy discussions.
  3. To produce a statement of principles on the position of immediate stakeholders in the formulation and adoption of international policies affecting the management of agricultural biodiversity.
  4. To inform and influence the COP V discussions on the adoption and implementation of the work programme on agricultural biodiversity and related issues, via the report from the GBF, as well as through other subsequent activities such as side meetings.

Workshop content

This workshop which will put direct experience and the grassroots perspective on managing agricultural biodiversity at the centre of discussions. It will use a ‘sustainable livelihoods framework’ which is capable of examining three types of capital available to small farmers and pastoralists:

The workshop will:

Both farmers/pastoralists and policy makers will be asked to examine the natural capital and the economic capital involved in in situ conservation. These sessions will lead to an in-depth discussion of the social capital issues, particularly those involved in strengthening farmers’ (and others’) capacity both to manage positively their agricultural biodiversity, and to interact with national and international plans which may affect it.

Finally we will arrive at a statement of principles led by the grassroots perspective to inform the deliberations of the Parties on all agenda items having an effect upon agricultural biodiversity.

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Friday 12 May 2000

Session 1

15.30 – 17.30

“COP V, agricultural biodiversity & drylands farmers”

Format: Plenary

Aims: To explain the dynamic and participatory nature of the workshop

To outline the key themes of the workshop

To inform participants as to the frameworks for the next day’s discussions

Joint Chairs: Ulf Svensson, adviser on agricultural biodiversity to the government of Sweden

Tewolde Egziabher Debre, director, Environmental Protection Agency, government of Ethiopia; and spokesperson for the Africa Group

Presentations: Farmers’ Rights, livelihoods and the COP V’s decisions on agricultural biodiversity

Patrick Mulvany, food security policy adviser, ITDG

What farmers need from policy makers to manage agricultural biodiversity

Mrs Mapundu and Mishek Mutapwa, Zimbabwean farmers

Sustainable livelihoods and agricultural biodiversity

David Cooper, CBD Secretariat

Saturday 13 May 2000

Principal chair: Ulf Svensson

Format for the day: The first three sessions will hear two short presentations, following which delegates will break into two small groups for discussion. The same groups will be kept for all three sessions to enable participants to take issues through the day, and form a basis of mutual understanding. Each group will be facilitated. The final session in plenary will seek to draw together the issues and questions.

Session 2

09.00 – 10.30

“Managing natural resources in the drylands”

Format: Presentations followed by small group discussions

Aims: To examine the sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity in drylands

Presentations: The CBD Work Programme on drylands, SCBD

Agricultural biodiversity in drylands: what’s in it for farmers

Barbara Gemmill, executive director, ELCI

Threats and opportunities for farmers making use of drylands agricultural biodiversity

Toribio Quispe, Peruvian farmer (Toribio died in a road accident on Monday on the way to the airport – his paper will still be presented)

Discussion: What helps or hinders farmers in their daily practice of on-farm management of drylands agricultural biodiversity?

Session 3

11.00 – 12.30

“Agricultural biodiversity as economic capital”

Format: Presentations followed by small group discussions

Aims: To examine the use of agricultural biodiversity as economic capital which can support farmers and their communities and contribute to national food security

Presentations: The economic value of drylands agricultural biodiversity in East Africa

Lucy Emerton, IUCN East Africa

Sustainable management: what it costs us, how we can benefit

Amina Njeru, Farmer, Kenya

Discussion: What are the costs and what are the economic opportunities to farmers of engaging in on-farm conservation?

Session 4

14.00 – 17:00

“Social capital and institutions”

Format: Presentations followed by small group discussions

Aims: To examine how farmers perceive, and how policy makers can respond to, the need to build capacity for in situ conservation

Presentations: Farmers’ perceptions of biodiversity and their institutional support to manage it

Blessing Butaumocho, ITDG Southern Africa

How does the COP V agenda address farmers’ needs for support?

E. Venkat Ramnayya, RIOD

Discussion: How can institutions at all levels work for the sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity?

Session 5

17.00 – 17.30

“Bridging the gap: what farmers require from policy makers”

Format: Plenary, with possible break into two new groups: stakeholders and their intermediaries; and policy bodies

Chair: Ulf Svensson

Aims: Dynamically to draw together key issues arising from the workshop

To produce a priority list of desired actions at the levels of policy formulation and implementation, involving the participation of, and for the benefit of, grassroots communities

Presentation: Key issues from the two groups summarised

Discussion: agreed priorities

Sunday 14 May 2000

Session 6

09:00 – 10.30

Working session: preparation of report

Chair: Patrick Mulvany, ITDG

Discussion: Agreement on text for GBF plenary

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15th Global Biodiversity Forum: Workshop 3

Agricultural Biodiversity and Sustainable Livelihoods:

the case of Drylands Ecosystems

"Drylands are not wastelands".

Biodiversity policy is often silent on drylands - this COP should change that!

Our workshop concluded that there was a need for a major strategic shift required by decision makers on the development and transformation of subsistence and traditional agriculture. This sector, which already contributes significantly to national food security in most countries and is a dominant land use especially in drylands, should be developed on its own terms by seeking ways of integrating it into the market in ways which secure the livelihoods and aspirations of small-scale food producers. This sector draws on the knowledge, innovations and practices of billions of female and male farmers, herders and fisherfolk, and provides the underpinning of the food security of the whole world. It should not be subjected to unfettered challenge and transfer of technologies and systems from industrial, globalised agriculture.

This industrial agriculture, while productive in the short term, is turning prime land and water resources into biological diversity wastelands and polluted lagoons. In particular, key northern-based financial instruments highly destructive of biological diversity and unsupportive of sustainable agriculture, such as the Common Agriculture Policy of the European Union, and should be reviewed urgently. Policy should, rather, transform the negative practices and impacts of industrial agriculture, range management, forestry and fisheries towards practices of a sustainable agriculture, and strengthen the positive attributes of smaller-scale food production systems, as noted in Decision III/11 of this Convention.

The Workshop came to 3 main conclusions:

1.Agricultural Biodiversity has to be a major area for action by the Parties in implementing this Convention. Agricultural Biodiversity must form a key dimension of any sustainable agriculture strategy and policy. Agriculture is the largest user of biodiversity and its components and farmers are the main ecosystem managers. Farming is based on agricultural biodiversity and it forms a large part of terrestrial biodiversity, not least in drylands. Agricultural biodiversity provides sustainable production of food, biological support to production, and ecosystem services. Therefore COP 5 needs to adopt strong operative programmes of work on agricultural biodiversity and drylands and seek productive collaboration with key implementing agencies such as FAO and Convention to Combat Desertification. .

Agricultural biodiversity is under immediate threat. Around 1.6 billion people depend on farm-saved seed, yet up to 75 per cent of varieties of some key crops have already been lost this century. The rate of loss may well increase as global trade rules, intellectual property rights regimes, the concentration of agricultural research and development on inappropriate technological ‘solutions’, and now the introduction and promotion of genetically engineered products, all combine to erode local resources from the fields of smallholder farmers.

The Workshop urges the COP to reinforce its concerns over the development of Varietal Genetic Use restriction Technologies (V-GURTs or Terminator Technologies) as measures for limiting access to germplasm and raise serious questions over the ethical, moral, economic and environmental impacts of T-GURTs (Trait specific). Furthermore it should call for a balancing on research into modern biotechnology, in favour of a redirection of research and development resources into sustainable, environmentally-friendly technologies that sustain poor people’s livelihoods, agricultural biodiversity and agro-ecosystem functions.

In this context the workshop recognised the importance of farmer-derived Agricultural Biodiversity that includes the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms which are necessary to maintain the structure, processes and key functions of the agricultural ecosystem for, and in support of, food production and food security.

2.The two Programmes of Work on Agricultural Biodiversity and Dry and Sub-Humid Lands must be farmer-centred. COP must stress that in the implementation of these programmes, Parties ensure continuity of farmers’ guardian role for a major part of global biodiversity. Thus, the Convention and its Parties should give full support to actions by farmers that conserve and sustainably use / maintain agricultural biodiversity and reflect such actions in their National Reports. The empowerment of farmers is crucial in counteracting the spread of unsustainable agriculture technologies and practices, that pose a major threat to agricultural biodiversity, by an increasingly powerful trans-national ‘Life Industry’ that is making multi-billion investments in technologies and inputs including genetic modification. Parties should work with the private sector to promote farmer-driven research and development. This Convention must actively collaborate with farming communities and their institutions as key partners, in the further development of the programmes of work.

The Parties to the Convention must send a strong message to FAO to rapidly complete the harmonisation of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources with this Convention to include forceful Articles on Farmers’ Rights; a multilateral system of Access, outlawing proprietary ownership through patents and Plant Variety Protection of all designated materials and their derivatives; and Benefit Sharing related to end use i.e. food security.

The Workshop recognised that dryland ecosystems are under increasing pressure to support a growing population and that agriculture is dependent on water availability. Farmers in drylands have developed mechanisms for coping with water stress through migration with their livestock (nomadism and transhumance) and the use of drought-resistant crops and varieties and technologies for conserving rainwater. The Workshop emphasised the need to balance agricultural water requirements with those of ecosystems at water catchment levels in order to maintain the totality of biodiversity.

3.The Parties to the Convention should support actions to raise consumer awareness to support sustainable farming, agricultural biodiversity and localised food systems in all ecosystems particularly in drylands. By the promotion of improved markets, which add value locally, consumers can increase the transfer of resources to producers: e.g. support for niche markets, organic farming; increased access to national and international markets. The COP should recognise and facilitate this.

Specific Recommendations on Textual changes to the COP Draft Decisions, by the Global Biodiversity Forum to COP 5 on its Decisions on Agricultural Biodiversity and Dry and Sub-Humid Lands Ecosystems.

Agricultural Biodiversity

The draft Decision supports the implementation of the four elements of the Programme of Work. The COP should develop these programme elements to reflect the need for the Programme of Work to be farmer-centred, if it is to be effective, as follows:


Requests the Secretariat to carry out an assessment of farmer knowledge, innovations and practices in sustaining agricultural biodiversity and agroecosytem functions for, and in support of, food production and food security and report to COP 6. Major inputs should be solicited from local farmers and their communities.

2.Adaptive management:

Requests the Secretariat to proactively seek inputs from farmers and their communities including local farming communities embodying traditional lifestyles, in the implementation of these activities.

3.Capacity building:

Promote cooperation of farmers and their institutions in particular at the local level in actions to promote conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity.


Change the Operational Objective to read:

“To develop national plans and strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity and ensure their mainstreaming and integration in sectoral and cross-sectoral plans and programmes, in particular in national agricultural policies.”

Requests the Secretariat to carry out a study on the demands by farmers for support by governments of their action to conserve and sustainably use agricultural biodiversity. This study should be carried out in close consultation with farmers and their institutions and be submitted to COP 6.

Dry and Sub-Humid Lands Ecosystems

The COP should further develop its Programme of Work to include:

· Assessment:

Requests the Secretariat to carry out an assessment of farmer knowledge, innovations and practices in sustaining dry and sub-humid lands ecosytems for, and in support of, food production and food security and report to COP 6. Major inputs should be solicited from local farmers and their communities.

· Targeted actions:

The proposed programme of work should be expanded to include three new paragraphs, under Activity 8, as follows:

8 (e) Adapting national development strategies to the needs of pastoralists in full consultation with them and other stakeholders;

8 (f) Adopting measures for integrated management of catchments (including wetlands and forests), ensuring a balance between human and ecosystem needs of water;

8 (g) Implementing biodiversity-friendly and equitable land tenure systems.

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