Notwithstanding these improvements, there is still more to do, with an important role for policymakers. To address these long-standing issues, more effort and co-operation is needed between farmers, policymakers, and the agro-food value chain.
In addition, the twin policy challenge of ensuring global food security for a growing population while improving environmental performance will require raising the environmental and resource productivity of agriculture, enhancing land management practices, minimising pollution discharges, curtailing damage to biodiversity, and strengthening policies that avoid the use of production and input subsidies which tend to damage the environment. To help countries improve the sustainability of agriculture, the OECD has developed recommendations on how to develop cost-effective agri-environmental policies , how to manage water issues for agriculture , how to deal with climate change challenges , and how to preserve biodiversity and manage ecosystem services related to agriculture.
We have also developed insights on the potential environmental impact of agriculture policies by identifying possible policy mis-alignments and how to jointly address sustainability and productivity growth goals. To support this work and help governments assess whether the policies they have in place are most likely to boost productivity and minimise environmental damage, the OECD developed a set of agri-environmental indicators AEIs More specifically, the AEI database can be used to:.
The AEIs are freely available to access and download — you can either query the complete database , or explore a specific theme or country below.
Landraces and Crop Genetic Improvement
The relationship between agricultural support policies adapted from the OECD Producer Support Estimate PSE classification and a selection of environmental impacts are analysed in a range of country settings, using a farm-level and a market-level model. Read more The Indigenous Seeds Project in Zimbabwe is geared to strengthening farmer-based seed supply for indigenous crops in drought-prone areas of the country. Farmers, scientists and NGOs participate in seed collecting expeditions. Selected seeds are then planted on farms representative of the area's soil types. Crops are evaluated throughout the growing season.
The best seeds are bulked to form an improved population and redistributed to other farmers through local networks Mushita, , Research priorities An expert panel from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research CGIAR concluded that "while the Green Revolution took as its starting point the biological challenge inherent in producing new high-yielding food crops and then looked to determine how the benefits could reach the poor, a new revolution has to reverse the chain of logic, starting with the socioeconomic demands of poor households and then seeking to identify appropriate research priorities" FAO, , Research priorities need to shift from a focus on individual crops to complex farming systems.
Plant breeding efforts should expand their focus to include ecology, weed science, soil erosion potential, and nutrient use efficiency. Stuthman, , 6. Participatory breeding projects involving both scientists and farmers offer the potential to enhance the productivity of traditional agriculture and maintain a broader genetic diversity in our seed stock. Farmers evaluated the improved pest-resistant pea varieties with their local varieties using their own evaluation criteria.
The parameters considered by the women farmers went well beyond the conventional yield and pest resistance measurements used by most scientists FAO, , Community conservation Community seed banks and home gardens play an important role in conserving seed resources for locally-adapted material. Seed bank conservation at the local level helps insure that knowledge of the use and purpose of saved seed exists.
The security of genetic resource conservation is strengthened if farmers are actually using plant varieties and restocking the seed bank instead of storing seeds at distant locations. In Indonesia, community seed banks involve farmers. Each seed bank has income-generating schemes and training programs on how to cultivate traditional varieties.
The seed banks are focusing on rice and other crops which are threatened by displacement from hybrid varieties Soetomo, , Home gardens and orchards are living gene banks where indigenous germplasm thrive. The Huastics in Mexico manage agricultural and fallow lands, complex home gardens and forest plots which total over species. Areas near their dwellings are known to contain useful plant species, mostly native medicinal plants Altieri, , In Central Java, 45 species were cultivated in an orchard garden with 25 wild species of medicinal value growing nearby Qualset, , Farmers' Rights laws need to be implemented nationally to ensure equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of plant genetic resources.
With the advent of biotechnology, ownership of genetic resources has become a global issue of contention.
Farmers' Rights laws need to recognize the rights of farmer's to save seed and of traditional people to regulate outsider access to their knowledge of plants Dawkins, , 3. Farmers and farm communities need to be equitably compensated for their contribution to plant genetic diversity if we want that contribution to continue.
Government policies Government policies which discourage planting of traditional crops need to be eliminated. Programs which offer access to credit, crop loans and insurance are often linked to adoption of modern cultivars. Commodity programs may subsidize specific crops, imported foods and non-local commodities.
International agreements may require import quotas on food. All these mechanisms promote export agriculture and discourage production of local cultivars. Government seed regulations on variety release, seed certification and plant breeder's rights may hamper traditional seed exchanges. Indonesian policy discouraged community seed bank programs by declaring that conservation should not be managed by farmers, but was the responsibility of the government Soetomo, , In conclusion, the diversity of our plant genetic resources is rapidly disappearing.
For conservation to be successful, we must reverse forty years of agricultural policy which has promoted industrial agriculture and moved plant breeding off the farm. Instead we need to strengthen traditional institutions and cultures and support farmers in their efforts to conserve our genetic heritage. The diversity that we treasure is more than just unique combinations of genes, it is a community of life. Economic Botany Brush, Dr. Diversity 7: Cashman, Kristen. Warren, D. Michael Warren, Dawkins, Kristin. Intellectual Property Rights and the Privatization of Life.
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Zimbabwean Farmers as a Starting Point. Ortega, R. Prance, G. The Conservation of Botanical Diversity.
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Locally Based Crop Plant Conservation. March Ottawa, Ontario. June Salazar, Rene. Shiva, Vandana. Siripatra, Day-Cha and Lianchamroon. Soetomo, Didi. Sowing Community Seed Banks in Indonesia. Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture. Presentation at University of Minnesota, January Israel J. Kluwer, Dordrecht. Ingram, G. Williams, In situ conservation of wild relatives of crops.