Biodiversity is important for the resilience of our planet. Smallholders depend on biodiversity for their livelihoods and survival, and they are its main guardians. Farming practices which use and enhance this diversity are common, yet agriculture can also be the greatest destroyer of biodiversity. Can we add insights and evidence to the debates? This is the basis of a knowledge programme that has recently been started by Hivos and Oxfam Novib.
It aims to develop concepts and ideas about agricultural biodiversity, smallholder livelihoods and climate change, building on and adding value to existing resources, and also leading to change. This is a three-year programme that includes action research, network development and the establishment of a platform for public debates.
Over the past few months, the Stockholm Resilience Centre has been working to provide us with an overview of the theory and praxis with regards to agro-biodiversity and smallholder resilience, and to identify possible knowledge gaps. One of their main observations was that farmers’ knowledge and experiences in agricultural biodiversity have not (yet) been adequately translated into the policies and strategies relevant to development organisations working in the South. A related constraint is that existing policies are often perceived as inadequate, or even conflicting, while the lack of technical knowledge was rarely mentioned as a constraint.
The outcomes of this initial exercise were discussed at a workshop in Kenya, which sought to identify areas where improvements could be made. One image that emerged from the discussions was that of a “glasshouse” that is limiting the scaling up, institutional embedding and horizontal extension efforts of an approach to agriculture that promotes biodiversity and resilience.