An increasing number of projects promote the role of farmers – smallholders, herders, forest people, fisherfolk and other local resource users – in conserving natural resources and agricultural biodiversity. However, these projects often do not recognise the efforts made by local people themselves to make new uses of and enrich genetic resources. The long history of indigenous domestication, selection and breeding of plants and animals is acknowledged, but much less attention is given to farmers’ current activities in domesticating wild species and in selecting and breeding plants and animals in view of changing conditions and new opportunities.
Farmers are exploring new ways of using biodiversity in a sustainable way with a view to spreading risks, enhancing food security and improving their livelihoods. Especially poorer farmers are innovating in biodiversity management in order to increase their options to cope with variable environmental conditions and to exploit micro-environments (“niches”) in their agro-ecosystems. Prolinnova is giving attention to the current innovativeness of local people: not only how their ancestors developed local varieties and breeds, but rather the current dynamics of indigenous knowledge: how farmers, on their own initiative, develop new ways of managing genetic resources. Such endogenous (from within) processes are often overlooked when outsiders intervene in efforts to conserve biodiversity. Indeed, some interventions may unknowingly undermine local creativity and energies. Prolinnova partners are seeking ways to support initiatives of local people who are innovating in agrobiodiversity management. The paper “Recognising and enhancing local innovation in managing agricultural biodiversity” [Recognising and enhancing local innovation in managing agricultural biodiversity] provides some encouraging examples and highlights policy implications of lessons from these examples, as well as practical implications for development cooperation. The paper includes an annotated bibliography on this theme.
Prolinnova partners actively involved in promoting local innovation related to managing agrobiodiversity are:
- LI-BIRD (Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development), Nepal (www.libird.org); contact Pushpa Raj Tiwari (ptiwari at libird.org)
- PROINPA (Promoción y Investigación de Productos Andinos), Bolivia (www.proinpa.org); contact Edson Gandarillas (eg.gandarillas at proinpa.org)
- Mekelle University, Ethiopia; contact: Fetien Abay (fetien.abay at yahoo.com).