Click here for UK Food Group Home Page Click here to return to UKabc Home Page

UKabc Noticeboard

UKabc Noticeboard, Latest Updates [Alpacas watching out]

Sustaining Agricultural Biodiversity

Sustaining Agricultural Biodiversity, Agro-ecosystems and Production. & Introduction to Agricultural Biodiversity issues [Maragwa Seed Show 1998, Kenya]


Governance and Advocacy: the International Agricultural Biodiversity Agenda [Logos of FAO, WTO, CBD, CSD]

Genetic Engineering

Regulating Genetic Engineering, Biotechnology and Biosafety [GenetiX symbol in sunflower]

Benefit Sharing

Benefit Sharing, Intellectual Property, TRIPs [Women sorting seed potatoes in Peru]


Links to UK, European and International web resources [Artisanal fisherfolk launching boat in Kerala, India]

Contact UKabc

Contact UKabc through Patrick Mulvany, ITDG, - Intermediate Technology Development Group: Practical Answers to Poverty

11/06/2000 •

ITDG lobby @ COP 5



Workshop at the 15th Session of the Global Biodiversity Forum

Organised by ITDG with ELCI, IUCN East Africa and RIOD

The Workshop brought farmers directly into the debate on the management of the Agricultural Biodiversity resources they have developed and used for millennia to provide food and livelihood security for billions of people. It concluded that Agricultural Biodiversity must form a key dimension of any sustainable agriculture strategy and policy as well as environmental policies. Agriculture is the largest user of biodiversity and its components and farmers are the main ecosystem managers and must be key participants in any programmes of work. The Workshop recognised that Agricultural Biodiversity provides sustainable production of food, biological support to production, and ecosystem services. It is the basis of farming and it forms a large part of terrestrial biodiversity, not least in drylands.


Return to top

The Workshop brought farmers directly into the debate on the management of the Agricultural Biodiversity resources they have developed and used for millennia to provide food and livelihood security for billions of people. It concluded that Agricultural Biodiversity must form a key dimension of any sustainable agriculture strategy and policy as well as environmental policies. Agriculture is the largest user of biodiversity and its components and farmers are the main ecosystem managers and must be key participants in any programmes of work. The terms 'farmers' and ' farmers, herders and fisherfolk' used at this workshop included the women and men who gather and cultivate plants, fungi and so on; nurture and make use of the multiple products of forests; hunt, raise and herd animals; and farm, and harvest from the wild, fish and other aquatic species. The Workshop recognised that Agricultural Biodiversity provides sustainable production of food, biological support to production, and ecosystem services. It is the basis of farming and it forms a large part of terrestrial biodiversity, not least in drylands.

These 'Drylands are not Wastelands'. They are one of the most biodiverse areas of the world in terms of species per square metre. They provide local and national food security; large, sometimes the majority, production of key food items, such as meat; and a significant proportion of GDP. They provide livelihoods and food security for large numbers of people.

There is 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. It 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.

Industrial agriculture, while productive in the short term, is turning prime land and water resources into agricultural biodiversity wastelands and polluted lagoons. In particular, key northern-based financial instruments that are highly destructive of agricultural biodiversity and unsupportive of sustainable agriculture, such as the Common Agriculture Policy of the European Union, 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 (often smaller-scale) food production systems that support diversity and provide many goods and services from the multiple functions of agricultural biodiversity, as noted in Decisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

For these reasons the Workshop recommended that key areas of focus by the 5th Conference of the Parties should be on strengthening its work on agricultural biodiversity in all ecosystems, including drylands; that these programmes should be farmer-centred, providing the necessary incentives to enable farmers to carry out their Guardian Role of these precious resources and that COP V should send a strong message to the FAO to urge it to complete negotiations on the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources - the only international instrument to recognise Farmers' Rights and keep PGRFA in the public domain; and that Parties to the Convention should recognise the essential role of Consumers in supporting markets of products from sustainable farming, agricultural biodiversity and localised food systems, which add value locally.


Return to top

The Workshop, held immediately prior to CBD/COP V, was in a region, dominated by drylands ecosystems, 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 agricultural biodiversity in order to survive and prosper. It brought farmers from drylands ecosystems in both Eastern and Southern Africa 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 and for the implementation of the work programme on agricultural biodiversity at national and international levels.

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 and Structure of the workshop

  1. To demonstrate the practices, technologies and strategies used by farmers in drylands areas, in order to illustrate their interpretation of the 'sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity'.
  2. To bridge the 'policy gap' between the immediate guardians of 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 key points concerning the management of agricultural biodiversity in drylands, that are of direct relevance to farmers, for presentation to COP Delegates in formal and informal sessions and via the GBF Report.

The workshop put the direct experience and the grassroots perspective on managing agricultural biodiversity at the centre of discussions. It used a 'sustainable livelihoods framework' to examine three types of capital available to smallholder farmers and pastoralists:

  • 'natural capital', the biodiversity they manage;
  • 'economic capital', the economic value of that biodiversity; and
  • 'social and institutional capital' which, if appropriately strengthened, could enable people to achieve sustainable livelihoods from agricultural biodiversity.

The Sustainable Livelihoods framework presents the main factors that affect people's livelihoods and typical relationships between these. Agricultural biodiversity is an important part of natural capital, it can contribute to reduce vulnerability, increased food security, income and well being. Human and social capital are critical in allowing the effective use of agricultural biodiversity through indigenous and local knowledge, and various institutions to improve access to, and improve management of agricultural biodiversity.

Three sets of presentations and discussion group sessions examined these issues and a final plenary brought them together in a set of commonly agreed recommendations to COP V.


Return to top

Session 1 "COP V, agricultural biodiversity & drylands farmers"

Opening remarks by the co-Chairs,Tewolde Egziabher Debre, Ethiopia and Ulf Svensson, Sweden, built on their rural upbringings and emphasised the rapid changes that are taking place in rural areas the world over, and the resultant socio-economic and cultural impacts. These include threats to the agricultural biodiversity developed and refined by farmers over thousands of years from the multiple impacts of economic forces and technological developments. Inequitable land tenure, centralisation of power and the introduction of intellectual property rights (IPR) regimes are recent forms of disruption to local environmentally sustainable economies. Although Agricultural Biodiversity and the sustainable use of its components provides sustainable livelihoods to about 300 million households, they have had little or no political clout. It is absolutely essential for the food and livelihood security of millions of people that experiences of farmers be mobilised, in parti cular that the workshop draw from the participants' concrete experiences and use them to improve on activities contained in the work programme on Agricultural Biodiversity, up for discussion during COP V. While change is inevitable, the challenge is to turn this to advantage while also ensuring continuation of life.

Patrick Mulvany, food security policy adviser, ITDG, expanded on the key issues concerning agricultural biodiversity, and the links between them, in the COP V papers that will lead to Decisions at COP V, which will further the CBD's potentially positive impact on sustaining life and livelihoods. Over the past 30 years the thinking on, and governance of, agricultural biodiversity has developed from a focus on (mainly plant) genetic resources for food and agriculture, and voluntary international instruments, to the wider consideration of sustaining the functions of agroecosystems, supported by legally-binding instruments. In parallel, the Biotechnological, Economic and Trade agenda has developed potentially conflictive and damaging policy and practice, implemented through powerful trade rules. He outlined the two technology paradigms that dominate global food production systems. One sustains the integrity and functions of agroecosystems and sustains food production in the long -term. The other maximises the extraction of commodities from the natural resource base for as long as possible. The CBD's Decisions III/11 and IV/6 address this conflict. COP V must go further with concrete proposals, actions and obligations, especially to farmers. The challenge for the COP is, therefore, to make use of its institutional power to provide a countervailing force to the pressures for destructive and inequitable agricultural production and assert the importance of sustaining agricultural biodiversity and agro-ecosystem functions that provide for food and livelihood security, in practical programmes and policy development that will involve, and address the needs of, farmers - defending their Farmers' Rights.



"While I have life, I will continue this work because it is fundamental to the life of my community" Jose Duba, member of Tigbantay Wahig group, that works on agroecological improvement in Lantapan, Mindanao, Philippines

Shingairai Mapundu and Mishek Mutapwa, Zimbabwean farmers outlined their perception of what farmers need from policy makers to manage agricultural biodiversity. They are from Chivi district, a very difficult area for human survival. Despite hardships they survive through managing and utilizing dryland resources. Conservation of soil, water and local and imported crops and varieties are of paramount importance. They emphasised that farmers need: Support from outside and exchange visits to develop and improve their traditional systems; New seed types to add to those already grown to improve their farming; Fairer markets for their produce. "When we go to buy seed there is always a (high) price tag but when we market our seed there are no set prices and we receive little". There is a need to plough benefits back to farmers since the current set-up benefits consumers and intermediaries only. Although farmers are the producers of food, in this era of globalisatio n they are not the major players - they have been marginalised. They would also like to reassert control of their seeds. They were refused an Export Permit by the Zimbabwean authorities for seeds they wished to exhibit at the COP V Seed Fair. In conclusion, Mishek posed this question "I grow the seeds, therefore they belong to me and I should be able to decide if they are up to Exhibition standard. I need to be told the moral stand point of the Government's decision".

David Cooper, CBD Secretariat, emphasised that for many, agricultural biodiversity provides the most direct link between ecosystems and livelihoods and the CBD's programme of work on agricultural biodiversity provides space and an opportunity to bring these together. He outlined the programme of work that contains four elements covering: Assessments, Adaptive management, Capacity-building and Mainstreaming and integration of agricultural biodiversity in sectoral and cross-sectoral plans and programmes. Attention to the full range of goods and services provided by agricultural biodiversity in ecosystems is one of the features of the ecosystem approach being developed under the Convention. There is increasing realization of the importance of other components of agricultural biodiversity at the ecosystem level that are important in supporting agricultural production, such as soil-nutrient cycling, pest and disease modulation, and pollination of many crops, and in providing a wider range of "ecosystem services", which are important since agricultural ecosystems constitute major parts of watersheds, provide landscapes for recreation and tourism, and harbour important biodiversity in their own right. Application of the ecosystem approach also implies, inter alia, intersectoral cooperation, decentralization of management to the lowest level appropriate, equitable distribution of benefits, and the use of adaptive management policies that can deal with uncertainties and are modified in the light of experience and changing conditions.

Jean Pierre le Danff, CBD Secretariat, described the work plan on drylands which covers assessments, targeted actions in the response to identified needs, promotion of responsible resource management at appropriate levels and support for sustainable livelihoods. It complements and reinforces the Agricultural Biodiversity work programme emphasising among other things the value of the reosurces and the need for local markets, as well as the conservation and sustainable use, and the Fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from utilisation, of genetic resources of drylands.

Session 2 "Managing natural resources in the drylands"

Return to top

Barbara Gemmill, executive director, ELCI spoke about the natural resource context of Agricultural Biodiversity in Drylands. In a paper drawing on the outcome of the Regional Biodiversity Forum, she emphasised that Drylands may have some of the greatest diversity in the world in terms of species per metre square. Moreover, the coexistence of people and nature has a long and beneficial history in drylands: extensive grazing of livestock has been a pervasive and strongly positive influence in many semi-arid and arid environments. The world's most important domesticated food crops and livestock originated in drylands. Animals and livestock, insects and soil biota are also more diverse in Drylands. The challenges of dryland ecosystems are their unpredictability ,slow growth rates and the need to manage on a landscape level. Adaptive management is thus extremely important under the conditions of drylands. In a dryland context, where inputs are unpredictable, the two most common coping mechanisms are to grow slowly, and to migrate. Plants practise the first, and animals (and humans) the second. Farmers in dry areas often have seen erosion of their control over resources - especially land and water. Finally, she outlined two further features of dryland ecosystems that are of global significance - carbon sequestration and the maintenance of pollinator and predator populations. She concluded that there are many other ways in which human adaptations to drylands have fostered sustainable systems that we are in danger of losing.

Toribio Quispe's paper (read by Simon Munyao) emphasised the importance of potatoes in drylands agricultural biodiversity, especially in the high Andes. He described the 3 agro-ecological zones of the inter Andean Vilcanota valley, from 3,600 - 4,500 m above sea level, in Canchis province, Cusco department, Peru: (1) the valley floor, where the main crops are maize, broad beans and wheat; (2) hillsides, where the main crops are potatoes (modern varieties), barley, olluco and oca; (3) high mountain grassland and potato production which form part of the global centre of origin of the potato, where in a recent study by ITDG 256 ecotypes, from 14 of the 17 global genotypes, of potato were identified. Potatoes are the staple food of farmers in this region and the diversity of varieties is thus one of the main resources for their survival. The social organisation of farmers in the high mountains is based on the 'campesino' community, legally recognised by the state since 1933 but in fact dating back from several centuries before the European invasion. Andean campesinos maintain their traditional culture, including the Quechua language, and form 25% of the national population. With a typical annual income per family of just US$500, Canchis province has one of the highest levels of rural poverty in Peru.

In Quechua culture all agricultural activities are carried out under the protection and permission of the spiritual force of Mother Earth, known in Quechua as Pacha Mama. The thanksgiving ceremony to Pacha Mama is carried out at the start of harvest, when the head of the family presents an offering to the Goddess. This offering consists of coca leaves, wild flowers, and various other herbs and seeds, and is later buried in the centre or in a corner of the plot. Women play a principal role during harvest. They are responsible for selecting tubers for seed, using the following criteria: health, size, colour and variety. Once sorted in different piles the men then transport the potatoes, in sacks on their backs, for storage in the patio of their houses. Families use a number of agronomic and social practices to conserve a high level of diversity of native potato varieties.

In a study and inventory of native potatoes, carried out by ITDG, it identified that the biodiversity of potatoes is at risk because: the degeneration of native potato varieties due to virus infection transmitted from infected modern varieties; Local and regional markets ignorance of the nutritional and taste advantages of native potatoes; Development institutions do not take into account the possible negative effects that their interventions - for example the introduction of modern varieties - might have on the diversity of native varieties. Development interventions that involve consultation and dialogue with farmers, however, could have positive effects on the agricultural biodiversity of potatoes and hence the livelihoods of poor people in the region.

[Toribio Quispe, a Peruvian farmer, died tragically on the 8th May 2000 in a motor car accident in the Peruvian Andes on his way to Cusco airport to begin the long journey to Kenya to take part in the GBF and other events associated with COP V. He was looking forward to this as his first opportunity to "conocer a la biodiversidad del género humano" - to meet the biodiversity of humankind. His last words to the Workshop organisers were "Tupananchiskama Wayqey" (Until our next meeting). Click Here for the full paper]

Session 3 "Agricultural biodiversity as economic capital"

Return to top

Lucy Emerton, IUCN East Africa spoke about the economic value of drylands agricultural biodiversity in East Africa, especially in Eritrea and Tharaka, Kenya. At the national level: In Eritrea, agriculture supports about 75-80% of the population (arable, agro-pastoralist and pastoralist). Most of this is based on indigenous crop and livestock varieties. The use of wild and domesticated species by farmers is worth some US$ 250 million a year to the national economy (this includes direct and indirect values) - that's equivalent to about US$ 500 generated by each agricultural household. At the local level: In Tharaka, indigenous trees and woodlands form a vital component of farming systems. They generate products for subsistence and income worth about US$250 a year, or one eighth of total production. It is also a fallback when crops and livestock fail, when it rises to about 75% of household cash income and subsistence.

She asked: Why isn't on-farm biodiversity conserved if it is worth so much to people, at global, national and farm levels? It is really this question that lies at the root of the economics of on-farm biodiversity management. One reason why on-farm biodiversity is being lost is that, despite its high value, biodiversity conservation often doesn't make sound economic sense at the farm level. Many of the reasons that biodiversity conservation doesn't make economic sense at the farm level is due to manipulation of economic forces at other points in the economy, or due to distortions in the ways that wider policies, institutions and markets work. It is these forces and distortions that we must work to overcome if biodiversity is to made economically viable at the farm level. One of the major set of issues that give rise to this apparent contradiction are the economic dynamics influencing land use and livelihood decisions at the farm level, and again the situations in Eritrea and Tharaka illustrate some of these dynamics. Despite its high value, the costs of maintaining biodiversity on-farms often actually outweigh its benefits. High values do not necessarily translate into tangible gains for farmers, who continue to realise only a tiny proportion of potential values. In the face of other alternatives and pressing needs for cash income especially, on-farm biodiversity is a luxury they cannot afford. Land pressure and farming practices are changing rapidly at the expense of on-farm biodiversity. This involves both changes in farming systems and practices (e.g. spread of arable production into former rangelands, introduction of highland practices into dryland areas), as well as population increase and land pressure.

The macroeconomic forces that distort on-farm values include: Poor - or no- appreciation of the value of on-farm biodiversity and farmers' contribution to this; Perverse incentives in sectoral policies that subsidise arable agriculture, especially focusing on exotic crops and livestock and on expanding arable production into dryland areas; and Credit and marketing research and assistance ignores biodiversity markets: minimal value from biodiversity trade accruing to primary producers. The challenge, in dryland areas, is to maximise indigenous biodiversity values for farmers: Make it competitive: ensure that the benefits outweigh costs; Make sure that national policies reflect on-farm values by doing away with policy distortions. Develop local markets and prices and stop promoting the things that both destroy biodiversity and undermine livelihoods; Make sure that farm-level issues are prioritised.

Amina Njeru, Farmer from Tharaka, Kenya, spoke about how she ensures sustainable management of agricultural biodiversity: "what it costs us, how we can benefit". Agricultural biodiversity is of practical value to us farmers in dry-land areas. We depend on agricultural biodiversity to provide up to 90% of our survival requirements (food, medicine, energy, construction materials, etc). This is why we have maintained farm diversity for centuries. Unless agricultural biodiversity is of practical value to people, it cannot be preserved. To maintain agricultural biodiversity however, something has to give. There are many costs in terms of high labour costs, sophisticated crop management skills, and the loss of economies of scale and ability to use modern machines, if plots contain a high diversity of species and varieties. Extension services are also ill-equipped to provide advice and support to these systems. The benefits, however, include the spreading of risks, improvement to household food security and the nutrition of our families and to soil productivity, as well as better pollination (and honey) and better pest control. She emphasised that the Kinds of support she needs are practical initiatives that tackle the very real problems of our dry-lands from the bottom upwards - "not more interference from the paper-pushing industry!". She listed 6 demands covering practical support, incentive measures, protection of Farmers' Rights and the need for participation in forums and processes at local, national and international levels. Amina Njeru said:

"We need:

  • Support that releases us, especially women farmers from time consuming reproductive work loads such as grinding by use of stones and mortaring the maize so that we can spend more time on activities that promote conservation of agricultural biodiversity..
  • Our national governments and the international community to make conservation of agricultural biodiversity the top priority not only at the COP V but also on our farms.
  • Measures that recognize and protect farmers such as ourselves from activities that deny us our rights to control and own our traditional knowledge and agricultural resources such as seeds.
  • Protection from processes that make small-scale farmers such as us to be dependent on seed companies.
  • Measures that ensure benefits to communities of small-scale farmers involved in maintaining agricultural biodiversity.
  • Extension activities to provide forums such as seed fairs for farmers to disseminate their accumulated traditional knowledge on agricultural biodiversity."

Session 4 "Social and institutional capital "

Return to top

Blessing Butaumocho, ITDG Southern Africa, spoke about farmers' perceptions of biodiversity and their institutional support to manage it, based on an international research project on agricultural biodiversity conservation carried out by ITDG in Kenya, Peru and Zimbabwe. Its objectives were to find out the extent to which farmers want to maintain a number varieties and crops in their farming system; to find out the reasons for this; to find out the strategies farmers use to maintain a large number of varieties and crops; and to find out what forces affect farmers' sustainable use of their basket of crops and varieties. The study focused on crops of significance in the local farming systems and were also of significance of genetic diversity within the case study area: Peru: potato and other Andean tubers at least 19 different crops, each with from 1 to 256 varieties; Kenya and Zimbabwe: sorghum, pearl millet, cowpeas and gourds. In Kenya: at least 53 different crops and over 150 varieties and in Zimbabwe: at least 30 different crops and over 105 different varieties.

The main factors that influence crop diversity include: knowledge and skills for managing of Agricultural Biodiversity; the growing aspiration to be affluent: modernization, industrialization; land pressure resulting cropping of marginal land and fallow lands; existing traditional knowledge; informal local community information systems; informal seed supply systems. The strategies used by farmers for maintaining their crop diversity include: using traditional knowledge systems to select and store seeds and manage the crop successfully; mixed variety and crop planting; farmers in the same community growing different crops and crop varieties; sourcing seed from other farmers. In conclusion he identified that the main support that farmers had said they need to manage their crop diversity includes: improvement of local seed supply systems; local community capacity building; development of markets for indigenous crops; development of technologies and strategies for managing thei r agricultural biodiversity.

Farmers Perceptions of Agricultural Biodiversity

  • Peru: "an ecosystem of interacting elements with man at the heart of it all"

"plants, animals, man, each group and variety and the use or benefit derived"

"all kinds of all species, in other words all the breeds and varieties of animals and plants….and man as well"

"all groups and kinds of life that there are on earth"

  • Kenya: "Mithembe ya Vindo Vilia Vitumaga uturo uthii na mbere" meaning the different types of things that make life to go on. These include: Water, Livestock, Food crops, Trees, Wild animal, Bees, Mountains/hills, Rivers, Air, Forests, Rainfall, Fire, Houses, Birds, Sun, Soils, Panga, Money, Hoe, seed, man, Grass, Pastureland and Fruits
  • Zimbabwe: The variety of natural and artificial resources that farmers use to satisfy their different social, economic and physiological needs, including the diversity of the means they use to derive the benefits.

Venkat Ramnayya, RIOD, concentrated on drylands, its population and its biodiversity, highlighting the strategic position of drylands in maintaining and managing a large part of the ecosystem where the majority of the population live and eke-out their food through existing agricultural biodiversity and production systems. He attempted to answer the question: "What can COP V contribute to the Farmers' Agenda?"

He highlighted the various provisions of the CBD (especially Articles 8j and 10c) that were relevant to key participating farmers in their conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity in drylands. He advocated the increase in participation by farmers and their institutions and emphasised that the conceptual framework of understanding about participation and planning is thus an extremely crucial element to the success of the CBD. He quoted MS Swaminathan, "We live in this world as guests of green plants and some of our most important hosts originate in the drylands: wheat, barley, sorghum, millet, pulses, peanuts, cotton, and, also animals that have become so closely linked to the development of human civilizations - which populate these lands".

COP V's policy makers have two specific challenges: (a) how to encourage participation and create an enabling environment for participation; (b) how to conserve and sustainably use agricultural biodiversity in drylands based on local customs, cultures and traditions? In the absence of such a participatory agenda, the policy makers and negotiators would be questioned about whose agenda they are negotiating.

He highlighted the outcome of several participatory development projects that, although partially successful in meeting their development objectives in terms of the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity, lacked satisfactory outcomes in terms of institutional strengthening. For example, after one such 'empowerment' project a farmer said: "Thank you very much for your help, but what do you want us to do next?" This led to conclusion that the approach that had been adopted in the project so far actually served to strengthen villagers dependence on outsiders and could not lead to sustainable development in the long term. The process also indicated that formal planning and implementation are given more attention than continuous participatory management and evaluation, leading to repetition of mistakes, and conflicts among the participants not being addressed.

However, other examples presented, also including Integrated Pest Management techniques, were more successful and ultimately sustainable. The main policy lessons were the importance of official recognition of the important role of communities, their cultures and traditions and therefore the need to modify operational procedures and the attitudes and skills of government staff to reflect this. It also requires transparency in the process of development and an openness and flexibility in project design and management mechanisms for community based management. It requires significant changes and faith in the poor, allowing them to create ideas, their own institutions and implementing joint programme on collective basis. These shifts would certainly make programming more dynamic - a change that is long overdue, considering that farmers and their communities are the major stakeholders in the Convention.


Return to top

The discussions were highly participative and covered a wide range of issues from practical husbandry to Terminator Technology; from Indigenous Knowledge to Intellectual Property Rights systems; from agricultural economics to agroecosystems; from local communities to social institutions at all levels; from the perceptions of producers to those of consumers; and above all, how to challenge the negative impacts of industrial agriculture and help farmers to Sustain Life on Earth. In addition to the following recommendations, the workshop also agreed on textual amendments to the CBD/ COP papers on Agricultural Biodiversity and Dry and Sub-Humid Lands Ecosystems that emphasised farmer-centred approaches and actions. These textual changes and the following recommendations formed an important part of the COP V NGO lobby on Agricultural Biodiversity and were echoed by many Delegations from the introductory speech by President Moi to the last intervention by the Africa group in the final Plenary. It resulted in a number of changes to Decisions and reinforced, in the context of the CBD, the importance of farmers as the main users of biodiversity and key managers of terrestrial ecosystems, their need for genuine participation in decision making and programmes and their need for adequate incentives to ensure they maintain good practices that conserve and sustainably use agricultural biodiversity.


Return to top

The Workshop agreed 3 main recommendations for COP V Delegates:

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 urged 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 th eir 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. their contribution to 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.

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.