Building interlinkages between biodiversity and agriculture - Success Stories from WFO

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The agriculture sector is a significant determining factor for the future status of terrestrial, coastal and freshwater biodiversity. Biodiversity and ecosystem services are a critical foundation for food production, and the agricultural and food sector is in itself an important provider of ecosystem services and contributor to human well-being.

Since 1993, the Trondheim Conferences have advanced a scientifically informed dialogue on critical issues on the agenda of the Convention.

WFO brought a strong voice through the voice of its President, Dr. Evelyn Nguleka, during the panel dedicated to the analysis of selected practical examples on how the relationship between biodiversity and agriculture has being addressed in different contexts.

Better integration of biodiversity and agriculture will help provide solutions for the challenges we will face between now and 2030, as part of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by governments in September 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Agriculture is strongly connected to the achievement of the goals, in particular Goal n. 2 on End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

It includes a series of targets such as doubling the agricultural productivity and income of small-scale food producers, ensuring sustainable food production systems and implementing resilient agricultural practices, and maintaining the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild relatives.

On the other hand, SDG 15 aims to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”. Among others, some of the targets included under this goal refer to reducing the degradation of natural habitats, integrating ecosystem and biodiversity values into development processes, and promoting fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources.

The current loss of biodiversity and its potential impacts on ecosystem services is recognized as one of the most serious challenges for humankind. Therefore, the agricultural sector, including crop and livestock production, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry, will be a significant determining factor for the future status of terrestrial, coastal and freshwater biodiversity. Biodiversity and ecosystem services are a critical foundation for food production, and the agricultural and food sector is also an important provider of ecosystem services and contributor to human well-being.

Multiple stakeholders, such as FAO and the Committee on World Food Security, are working on a range of aspects linked to sustainability throughout these stages.
Farmers, as key actors responsible for managing biodiversity and making everyday decisions with respect to the food that is being produced around the world, have a deep understanding of the practices that may support the implementation of recovery programmes for protection of biodiversity. Farmer are indeed critical actors for the success of policies or programmes that aim to promote sustainable agriculture, particularly the one in which biodiversity is at its core. They are also ready to collaborate with decision-makers and experts from governments, private sector, academia, United Nations agencies, civil society and non-governmental organizations for the creation of favorable conditions for protecting biodiversity at local and global levels.

As World Farmers’ Organisation we have developed strategic partnerships with FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Bioversity International, the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plant – UPOV - to look for innovative ways to strengthen the protection of biodiversity.

WFO Case Study 1 – “Plant Breeding and Biodiversity”. National Farmers’ Organization of Congo, OPICA in collaboration with the Government

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Photo Credit: UNESCO

The Democratic Republic of Congo is considered one of the most important African countries when it comes to biodiversity. Thanks to his geographic location next to the equator, this country has a large climate zone (equatorial climate, tropical and humid climate, tropical climate during dry seasons etc.) which, together with the different conditions of the mountains and the land, leads to different biomes, ecosystems and habitats. Generally speaking, in this country there are four floristic regions which change according to the presence of mountains and the proximity to the Cuvette Centrale (large area which covers the center of the country and both sides of the Equator):

• A narrow strip of wooded and grassy savannah in the north (Soudanienne region) located on the northern part of the Centrale Cuvette;
• A large strip of wooded and grassy savannah with different kinds of forests (Miombo and Mujulu) on the southern part of the region, that is to say the Zambezienne region;
• Guineo-Congolese rain forests in the Centrale Cuvette (GuineoCongalian region);
• Afromontane forests located on the eastern part of the country, on the African graben characterised by many lakes. In this area it is possible to recognize some efaphoclimatic varieties on the forest’s southern surface: mangrove (located on T the western part of the rain forest’s south surface in the Guineo- Congolese region, on the mouth of the river Congo) and periodically flooded papyrus (dembos). General evaluation of the elements characterizing biodiversity (flora and fauna).

The data collected in the national monograph are often uncompleted or non-updated. A taxonomic hierarchy changing according to the different situations taken into account is essential to provide data concerning biodiversity. Therefore, it is pivotal to carry out further investigations concerning recent works, together with land maintenance in order to realize systematic studies and collecting statistic data related to the ethnobotany and the ethnozoology of national biological resources. The data related to micro-organisms (algae, bacteria, fungi and lichens) are still hard to collect. They do not cover the entire country and they are often unclear and contradictory. During the colonial area, the National Institute for Agronomy in Belgian Congo (INEAC) carried out many studies concerning the spermaphyte flora.

Starting from 1948, the INEAC published ten volumes of documents describing up to 3.000 species. After the proclamation of the independence, the enterprises working for the Botanic Garden of Maize (Brussels) continued to carry out a study called “Central Africa’s Flora” which will be able to develop a better knowledge concerning the pteridophyte. Fauna and flora’s general overview The Democratic Republic of Congo has roughly 145 million hectares of natural forests, which represent about 10% of the total amount of rain forests throughout the world and more than 47% of Africa forests. Forests play an important role when it comes to preserve biodiversity. The Democratic Republic of Congo, among other African countries, presents the highest number of biodiversity. It hosts endemic species such as the okapi, the white rhinoceros, the Grauer gorilla, the bonobo and the Congolese peacock.

The forest Code of the Democratic Republic of Congo, issued by law n°011/2002, aims at organizing forests and their exploitation. Forests are divided into three categories: classified forests, protected forests and forests with a continuous production. Flora of the Democratic Republic of Congo is divided into different protected areas, that is to say 8 national parks and 63 reserves, hunting areas and forests with a continuous production. The 8 national parks, including the Salonga Park located on the equator, are considered to be the biggest forest reserves of the planet managed by the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation. Forests are also fundamental from a socio- economic point of view for the local population and natives whose lives depend on them. Armed conflicts’ impacts on biodiversity, in the Democratic Republic of Congo is an intact country where nature has always been respected not only thanks to a natural protection but also thanks to legal measures for promoting security. However, after the war in Congo, natural parks were victims of poaching and other abuses caused by the war. For instance, the weakness of troops, the local populations upraise the existence of a double administration and the lack of equipment.

Today, a monument made of stone built at the entrance of the Virunga national park represents the sacrifice of the twenty-three guards who died while protecting the animals from the poachers. They must be an example for the guards of the entire world. However, this sense of loyalty is disappearing because of the increasing demotivation and insecurity. Despite the war, there are also other phenomena such as poverty. The income of the majority of the population comes from forests, which are essential for growing Encephalactos septentrionalis, Diospyros grex, Eremospatha haullevilleana, Pericopsis elata, Sclerosperma mannii, Gnetum africanum, Milletia laurentii, Juniperus procera, mushrooms and fruits. Furthermore, the slash-and-burn technique used in agriculture jeopardizes the life of some species such as rats and games. Protection strategies Updating data concerning flora and biodiversity; carrying out actions for raising populations awareness; developing activities to help the population reducing pressures on biodiversity; taking stock of the endogenous knowledge regarding the protection of the ecosystems.

The Congolese country and the international community must join their forces to ensure that future generation will benefit from a rich and healthy nature. Therefore, the government, together with the international community, must safeguard biodiversity, an important heritage that includes the unique species in world. Safeguarding flora and biodiversity, educating the population and establishing efficient strategies in order to fight against poverty are other three top priorities.

WFO Case Study 2 – National Farmers’ Organization of Malaysia, NAFAS in collaboration with the Government

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Photo Credit:2009 Biotropics Malaysia Berhad. By S.C. Shekar

The term biodiversity was coined only in the late 1980s. It is an abbreviation for “biological diversity”. Biodiversity combines the concepts of plants and animal as genetic resources, the diversity of species and the habitats which they live, in one term. The present usage of the term is that biodiversity is the totality and variety of living organisms on earth. This encompassing definition is accepted in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and is also used in the country’s Assessment of Biological Diversity in Malaysia in 1997. Hence, biodiversity includes diversity at the gene, species and ecosystem levels.

The diversity of the species and the habitats and ecosystems within which they live, such as the terrestrial rainforests, the freshwater lakes and river systems, the coral reefs and marine ecosystems, all form the background to discussions on biodiversity in Malaysia.

According to the World Development Indicators, while Malaysia has only 0.2% of the world’s land mass, its diversity of flora and fauna species makes it one of the richest countries in the world in terms of biodiversity per unit area, second only to Indonesia in South East Asia.

The 2001 Global Diversity Outlook recognized Malaysia as one of the 12 mega- diversity countries in the world. Malaysia is rich in biological diversity. It harbors some 185,000 species of fauna, more than 15,000 species of flowering plants. Of about 1,500 genera to be found are over 2,500 tree species, 3,000 species of orchids, 500 species of fern, 60 species of grasses and bamboos, and many others. However, only a handful of the 15,000 species have been utilized for food production.

It has been reported that only about 300 species native to the T country have been exploited and utilized. The focus of genetic diversity has traditionally been on agricultural biodiversity. Farmers had been selecting varieties of plants and animals for thousands of years, ever since origins of agriculture. Plants and animals selected were those that are suited to human needs and adapted to local environmental conditions. Apart from rubber, oil palm and cocoa, other crops of importance are rice, fruits such as papaya, pineapple, banana and starfruit, and some vegetable crops like chilli pepper and eggplant.

Much of the plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) used in rice breeding are from IRRI in the form of advanced breeding lines or accessions which contain certain desirable traits for use in breeding for disease resistance or eating quality. In vegetable crops, much of the improvement was made through selecting superior plants out of local land races. Several open pollinated varieties of chilli pepper, long bean, luffa and several others have been developed using this methods. Similarly, noticeable progress has been made in improving durian (Durio zibethinus) and rambutan (Nephellium lappaceum), again through selecting superior genotypes from the existing indigenous land races.

Some introduced by the PGRFA - Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, were used to improve mango (Mangifera indica), and starfruit (Averrhoa carambola). Both local and foreign PGRFA were used to improve the current cultivated banana (Musa spp). Available information on animal genetic resources relate to livestock or farm animals.

Malaysian jungle fowls, wild pigs, swamp buffaloes, Kedah-Kelantan cattle and local goats are considered true indigenous animals of Malaysia. Non-indigenous animals are mainly breeding chickens, pigs, cattle and goats, which have been imported into this country from all over the world. Importation of these animals has enriched the gene pool of the different species considerably.

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