16 June 2012, Pontifica Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. At a session of the IIED Fair Ideas Conference, four speakers explain how in their regions, agrobiodiversity promotes resilience. Hivos and Oxfam Novib organised this session as part of their 3-year knowledge programme Agrobiodiversity @ knowledged.
“We need to put more efforts in empowering communities to manage these resources that improve livelihoods.” Andrew Mushita, Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT), Zimbabwe.
Andrew Mushita spoke about plant breeding and seed development, particularly within the context of CTDT’s activities.
- One of the activities on which CTDT focuses in their work with marginalised communities in Zimbabwe and Zambia, is agrobiodiversity. They support community seed banks and seed fairs. “Agrobiodiversity is location specific,” highlights Andrew. “It is farmers who have the knowledge to use and preserve agrobiodiversity.”
- Agrobiodiversity is under a lot of threat from monoculture systems and climate change. Communities are crucial in this area: they are not only recipients of technologies but contribute their knowledge in for example participatory plant breeding, creating new varieties that are more resilient to climate change.
- Seed fairs increase biodiversity in the area. They also function to increase awareness amongst not only farmers, but also researchers, policy makers, extension staff and the media.
- CTDT also supports on-farm breeding. Farmers start growing more crops, which is important for livelihoods and food security.
- There are many policies in place for plant breeders, but very little for farmers – who are even restricted from marketing certain seeds. The balance of the scale is tilted so much towards monocropping, with much financial support for research, but not for farmers.
- Andrew suggests a legislative framework that includes a national biodiversity authority, acknowledging community rights and traditional knowledge, and the establishment of a biodiversity fund.
“The point I am trying to drive home,” Andrew concludes, “is that farmers can produce good seed that can be marketed. It is often of much higher quality because it is produced in the own environment. We need to put more efforts in empowering communities to manage these resources that improve livelihoods.”