Reinforcing the resilience of the rural poor through on-farm conservation

Biodiversity International

General Information

Please provide some information on the geographic context (i.e., location, type of agriculture involved; significance in the local, regional, and national economy, investment in agriculture, etc.)

This IFAD-supported Project (IFAD NUS3) is being implemented in a number of sites across Nepal, India and Bolivia and deals with traditional crops (neglected and underutilized species/NUS), on farm conservation and climate change (see ). Agrobiodiversity is the most strategic ally of farmers in their quest for more resilient production systems and its conservation is thus fundamental to sustainable agriculture and ultimately to ensuring the world’s food security. Unfortunately R&D efforts insofar have been directed mainly towards major crops and the 1750 ex situ gene banks conserve currently a very modest representation of traditional crops whose resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses is widely acknowledged by farmers. Agrobiodiversity today is thus maintained by and large by farmers who hold also invaluable indigenous knowledge associated to their cultivation and use. This project addresses ways to strengthen farmers’ ability to conserve agrobiodiversity for reinforcing their capacities to cope with climate change. Its ultimate goal is to facilitate more effective use, management and conservation of local agrobiodiversity by communities and stakeholders, in the context of food security, nutrition and income generating potential and adaptation to climate change. The project explores how to support the work of custodian farmers and develop opportunities to enhance competiveness of local crops as incentives to their conservation. Novel methods for the community-based documentation and monitoring of agrobiodiversity are also being tested out.

What is the timeline?


Who is involved?

Global coordination is carried out by Bioversity whereas national coordination is done by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation – MSSRF in India, the Local Initiative for Biodiversity, Research and Development -LIBIRD in Nepal and the Fundación Promoción e Investigación de Productos Andinos -PROINPA in Bolivia. Other national research Agencies and NGOs/CBOS are also involved.


What is the primary objective (e.g., increased production; climate change adaptation and/or mitigation; food security)? What are secondary objectives, if any?

The Project’s goal is to facilitate more effective and sustainable use, management and conservation of local agrobiodiversity by communities and stakeholders, in the context of food security, nutrition, income-generation potential and adaptation to climate change.

Its 4 objectives are as follows: 

  1. Develop and test new methods and tools in close partnership with farmers and value chain actors aimed at enhancing their capacities to sustainably conserve traditional crops and associated knowledge at the farm level;
  2. Explore ways of integrating the monitoring of diversity on-farm, along with use-enhancement goals, through inter-disciplinary and multi-sector approaches;
  3. Promote a more balanced complementary conservation agenda in national programmes, based on the need to combat genetic erosion and to meet the needs of agrobiodiversity users; and
  4. Provide useful findings to guide further research related to climate change and its impact on species and varieties deployed in local production systems.

What, if any, are the anticipated co-benefits (e.g., food security; additional investment in agriculture; capacity building)?

Enhanced on farm conservation of local crops will strengthen climate change adaptation; Community based documentation and monitoring will help farmers in better management of their resources and guide conservation strategies by countries; enhanced used of local crops will strengthen income generation of community members; technology transfer and training courses will boost capacities oof farmers and value chain actors; special focus on women will help contributing towards their own empowerment, greater self esteem and exit out of marginalization; strengthening the networking among custodian farmers will help sharing of valuable germplasm and IK.


IFAD and European Union main funding sources. National Agencies also supporting implementation in the long term.

Capacity Building and Community Involvement

What types of capacity building has this involved and how did you manage those activities?

There are two main types of interventions: 1) those aiming at reinforcing national partners’ capacities in assessing situation and promote best practices and approaches in target communities and 2) those directed specifically to community members and aiming at enhancing their capacities in the sustainable conservation and use on farm of traditional crops. Capacity building of experts is being done through inter-regional and national workshops in which lessons and best practices are shared. Capacity building of community members is carried out through participatory workshops, courses and technology transfer.

Defining Success

How would you define success and/or measure progress for this effort?

Ex ante and ex post impact assessment are being carried out to assess benefits generated by the project in terms of availability of crop species/ varieties, enhanced capacity of value chain actors, women empowerment, conservation of genetic diversity and IK etc.

Did you develop a methodology? If so, briefly explain the development process and how the methodology is being implemented.

Methods for participatory documentation and monitoring of agrobiodiversity have been identified during an international workshop held in Germany in June 2011 (see proceedings at These were then further refined during national stakeholder workshops. Novel methodology for red listing of cultivated species has been developed and presented at the IUCN Congress held last September in Korea

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

Has the project/strategy resulted in any outcomes or changes to date?

Because of the recent start of the activities, it is too early to see outcomes. Changes are being however emerging in the area of linking ex situ with in situ and in the establishment of networks among custodian farmers (particularly in Bolivia).

What lessons have you learned thus far that might be useful or applicable to others?

Surveys insofar have confirmed perceptions of farmers regarding the role of traditional crops in copying with climate change and the different views held by women and men with regard to climate change, its impact and solutions needed.

What are some of the barriers or challenges? How are you overcoming those?

The on farm conservation is a highly fragmented community which has also little or no voice at all within international fora. The project is bringing issues relevant to on farm conservation debate in various conferences and meetings around the world (e.g. participation to preparatory Rio+20 meeting in India- Feb 2012; IUCN 2012 Congress in Korea; organization of international Conference for NUS in Cordoba, Spain in Dec 2012; Participation to FAO-EPSO Expert meeting in July 2012; organization of Pan African Conference on NUS in Ghana in 2013; training courses on value chain of NUS in Africa in 2012; etc)

Are you currently sharing information with internal and/or external partners? If so, how?

Regular emails, Project web site, tweets, blog

Are there components of the project that could be scaled up (nationally; regionally; etc.)? What would be the challenges in doing so? How is this being done?

Yes, several components. Negotiating with IFAD opportunities for doing that through their Loans (Agriculture Investment Projects).