September 13, 2012

Bringing Conservation and Agriculture Together

Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative Co-Organizer, Bioversity International has been participating in the  IUCN World Conservation Congress,  in Korea. Emile Frison, Director General, Bioversity International participated in the session: ‘From Competition to Collaboration between Agriculture and Conservation. In a blog post originally on the Bioversity website, he shares his thoughts about why it is so important for agriculture and conservation agendas to come together.

“For some time, agriculture and conservation have operated in separate worlds with separate agendas. Agriculture has been seeking ways to increase production to feed a growing population, while conservation has been in a race to save more land for preservation purposes.

At the same time, our world is reaching a tipping point – with an expected 9 billion people in the world by 2050 and climate change already having effects with major droughts and floods. We need to collaborate and find ways to prevent catastrophe and also insure our futures and those of generations to come.

What does this collaboration look like? For farmers in some of the world’s poorest areas, it includes adding more diversity on farms to diversify production and improve the resilience of food production systems, while at the same time increase pollination and maintain healthy soils. It means policymakers need to advocate for an ecological approach to farming and protecting smallholder farmers. It means farms are seen as parts of diverse mosaic landscapes including corridors that link natural ecosystems and allow wildlife to prosper at the same time as agriculture. It means approaching agriculture not for the short term, but for a sustainable future.

Bioversity International is working with partners to conduct more research and provide critical decisionmaking information in this area. This research will result in decisionmaking tools for policymakers, land managers, conservationists, and farmers – giving them more options in a world running out of time to meet production and conservation goals. Examples include EcoAgriculture Partners’ Landscapes for People, Food and Nature initiative, theNatural Capital Project, CGIAR’s Water, Land and Ecosystems research program, and of course this week’s workshops at IUCN.

Biodiversity is a significant factor in all of these examples, because it is in an excellent position to contribute to both agriculture and conservation. Farming systems have to transform, while conservation efforts need to ramp up to halt the everyday loss of biodiversity, including in agricultural landscapes and not just in protected areas.

Genebanks make up an important part of the efforts to conserve plant genetic diversity, but the world’s farms have to play a critical role in this effort through a dynamic form of conservation. Smallholder farmers in particular – many of whom are women – are the custodians and users of biodiversity. The choices they make in the varieties they plant, grow, harvest and sell directly also affect the diversity in our diets, our supermarkets and on our tables.

This approach is already under way, but needs more support. Research to provide healthy, resilient, sustainable ecosystem services is needed now. These services involve the entire interplay of social, cultural, ecological and financial dimensions. Interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral cooperation is vital. Become our partner in this effort.

Read Emile Frison’s introductory blog post for the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative.

Photo credit: Danny Hunter/Bioversity International
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