Today’s post is from Bioversity technical editor, Vincent Johnson, based in Bioversity’s Montpellier Office in France where he supports Bioversity’s work to conserve and promote the use of diversity on three ‘commodities’ of special importance to poor smallholder farmers – banana and plantain (Musa), cocoa and coconut.
I work as a technical editor for Bioversity International. At the UN Rio+20 Conference in Brazil in June 2012, the World will discuss reducing poverty, advancing social equity and ensuring environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet. The Conference will focus on two themes: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development. My colleagues will participate in the conference, addressing one of the seven critical issues to be discussed during Rio+20, that of food security and sustainable agriculture.
Around 2 billion people in smallholder farming households in developing countries rely on agricultural biodiversity for their livelihoods, producing around 60% of total global agricultural production. Benefits of using biodiversity to manage risk and uncertainty are widely recognised. In the light of unsustainable intensification, governments worldwide recognise that smallholder farmers are central to addressing the global challenges of improving nutrition, livelihoods and environmental sustainability.
I work in a programme focusing on three ‘commodities’ of special importance to poor smallholders- banana and plantain (Musa), cocoa and coconut. Aimed at conserving and promoting the use of diversity in these crops, the commodity genetic resources, productivity and value-chains programme is coordinated from Montpellier, France. Program implementation is supported via three genetic resource networks (one for each crop), four Musa regional research networks (Latin America and the Caribbean; Central and Southern Africa; West Africa, and the Asia Pacific) and a global Musa researcher network – Promusa.
In the context of sustainably harnessing the genetic resources offered by the rich agrobiodiversity inherent in Musa, cacao and coconut farming systems, our three genetic resources networks help underpin work for strengthening food security for millions of people in smallholder communities across the world:
The Musa genetic resources network – MusaNet – is a global collaborative framework for managing Musa genetic resources and a partnership of all key stakeholders, to ensure the long-term conservation on a cooperative basis, and facilitating the increased utilization of Musa genetic resources globally.
Musa is grown in more than 120 countries, with 85% global production by small-scale farmers for home consumption or for sale in local and national markets.
Cooking banana and plantain provide a staple food for over 400 million people, with great importance in Sub-Saharan Africa. Both as a staple and a fruit, banana and plantain provide a cheap and easily produced source of energy and are rich in certain minerals such as potassium and in vitamins A, C and B6.
The Cacao genetic resources network – CacaoNet - aims to optimize the conservation and use of cacao genetic resources, as the foundation of a sustainable cocoa economy (from farmers through research to consumers).
More than 95% of all cocoa growers are smallholders and more than 10 million rural families depend on cocoa for their income.
Benefits from improved planting materials and management, post-harvest technologies and new marketing opportunities are likely to accrue to the poorest of rural populations.
The International Coconut Genetic Resources Network – COGENT – promotes global collaboration to conserve and use coconut genetic resources. COGENT currently is made up of 39 countries members, responsible for more than 98% global production.
Coconut products provide food, shelter and energy to some 10 million farm households, and can be made into various commercial and industrial products. Fully developed and strategically used, it would increase food production, improve nutrition, create employment opportunities, enhance equity and conserve the environment.
The coconut faces several problems that can affect its production and competitiveness: low yield and yield security, and the unstable market for its traditional products, among others. Pests and diseases, repeated natural calamities, ageing of palms and genetic erosion further aggravate the dire situation.
For biodiversity to be deployed and used more effectively, it must be conserved and remain available for adapting to new and unforeseen challenges. Bioversity International investigates and promotes the use and conservation of agricultural biodiversity in order to achieve better nutrition, improve smallholders’ livelihoods and enhance agricultural sustainability.
Working in this way is central to addressing the Rio+20 issue of food security and sustainable agriculture.