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Biodiversity

Country action

FAO values biodiversity as the connective tissue driving sustainable development. FAO works through its programmes and projects to support countries in sustainably using and conserving biodiversity. Some of the main programme include FAO’s Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems Programme, the Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management, FAO's Sustainable Wildlife Management Programme and FAO’s work on Forest health and Invasive species: impacts on forests and forestry among many others.

These programmes, implemented in specific sites around the world, sustainably provide multiple goods and services, food and livelihood security for millions of small-scale farmers. The following provides a snapshot of the work of the Organization as it supports countries and partners in mainstreaming biodiversity and protecting our ecosystems. 

Crops

After a series of crop pollination failures, intensive agriculture and increasingly scarce pollinators, the future of pollination was in jeopardy. FAO responded with the Conservation and Management of Pollinators for Sustainable Agriculture, through an Ecosystem Approach. Its objective is to follow sustainable practices that will prevent the loss of pollination services and improve food security, nutrition and livelihoods.

Biodiversity in farms serves as an “insurance policy” against crop failures and food insecurity. Countries that are part of an International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture have agreed to make readily available their plant genetic diversity through the Treaty’s Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-Sharing. The treaty is a key policy instrument to facing climate change, conserving crop diversity and achieving zero hunger. It is also the only legally binding agreement that recognises the vast contribution of local indigenous farmers and communities in stewarding the land.

Livestock

The world’s livestock diversity is at risk. Many breeds are in danger of extinction owing to indiscriminate cross-breeding, use of exotic breeds and weak policies. To support countries in protecting their livestock breeds, FAO developed and maintains the Domestic Animal Diversity Information Systems (DAD-IS) - a worldwide database of breed-related information, which allows countries to meet international obligations for reporting on the status of animal genetic resources.

Hosted at FAO, the Livestock Environmental Assessment an Performance (LEAP) is a multi-stakeholder initiative that is committed to improving the environmental performance of livestock supply chains, maximise biodiversity benefits and mitigate losses whilst ensuring its economic and social viability.

Fisheries

Lao People’s Democratic Republic has always enjoyed a rich aquatic biodiversity found in rice fields, which provide the nutritional and food security needs of the population. However, farmers needed innovative strategies to provide a buffer during dry seasons. Responding to this need, FAO worked with extension officers and communities on an integrated aqua-culture agriculture where farmers constructed simple yet effective earth ponds in which to grow fish seed for food, which tided them over during dry seasons.

Capture-based aquaculture is a practice in Indonesia that began as fisherfolk saw a drop of Napoleon fish in their reefs. It is where tiny juvenile Napoleon fish that left in the wild have high mortality rates, are caught to farm and manage until adulthood. Although in early stages, this practice combines livelihood requirements of the fishing communities with conservation efforts that will see greater numbers of Napoleon fish return to Indonesia’s reefs.

Referred to as Earth’s ‘last great wilderness’, Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) are waters beyond the national limits of the coastal shelf of States that, despite extreme temperatures and complete darkness, host a huge diversity of living and non-living resources that support human wellbeing. Recent decades of unsustainable deep sea fishing and mining posed a danger to marine biodiversity. In response, FAO issued the FAO Deep-sea Fisheries Guidelines  which has helped to shape the regulatory frameworks concerning the deep seas marine ecosystems.

Freshwaters are increasingly fragile ecosystems owing to unsustainable practices by humans. FAO has developed global best practice documents for the precautionary approach for introduction of new species, as well as for responsible movement of live aquatic animals. FAO’s technical guidelines for responsible inland fisheries, rehabilitation of inland fisheries and for responsible recreational fisheries are designed to help improve the well-being of poor and disadvantaged communities in developing countries and to achievement of several of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Forestry

FAO works to improve the knowledge on sustainable forest and wildlife management, and supports the development  and implementation of appropriate policies and practices to ensure forest and wildlife protection in order to maintain or improve their capacity to produce wood and non-wood products, sustain wildlife populations, conserve biodiversity, safeguard wildlife habitat, mitigate climate change, and protect soils and watersheds.

Traditional farmers in Eastern Côte d’Ivoire and Western Ghana pre-emptively cut down economically valuable trees on their cocoa farms. While their productivity suffers as a result, they do so to prevent forest-logging firms from destroying their farms. Financed by GEF, FAO set about improving production landscapes and mainstreaming biodiversity into agricultural development processes by training farmers in best practices and alternative off-farm livelihoods, as well as in human-wildlife conflict resolution. As a result, tree coverage increased by 30 percent, landscapes were transformed for the better as were the livelihoods of farmers.

With over 60 percent of its territory covered by forests, the sheer size of Brazil makes it the most biodiverse country in the world, with a mosaic of habitat types, species and priority areas for conservation.  The mammoth task of monitoring its forest resources led the Brazilian government in 2011 to request FAO‘s support to establish a national forest monitoring and assessment system.  This system has helped Brazil respond to environmental threats in a timely manner, and make better informed decisions to protect its biodiversity, and conserve and enhance its carbon stocks.

Land and water

One of the priorities of FAO’s Blue Growth initiative was to reforest the mangroves areas in Kenya. Multifaceted, this project incorporated strong agroecological elements that aimed at improving the ecosystem services, food, nutrition and livelihood security by raising the awareness of the local community of the importance of agrobiodiversity.

Established in 2012, the Global Soil Partnership aimed to enhance collaboration and synergy for sustainable soil management and to raise awareness of the role of soil in safeguarding biodiversity. FAO manages the secretariat of the Global Soil Partnership to monitor the state of the soil, deliver capacity development to stop pollution and is endorsed by the World Soil Day.

Mountains

Mountain farmers are preserving many of the rarest varieties of cultivars in functioning biodiverse agro-ecosystems, while the harshness of the environment as well as the effects of climate change increasingly pressures the mountain communities to modify their traditional approaches to agriculture.

Through the Mountain Partnership hosted in FAO India, received support for the production of two indigenous rice varieties, including advice on production techniques, agrobiodiversity and sustainable food systems, as well as group management and leadership, accounting, storage and marketing.

Drylands

FAO’s Action Against Desertification Programme supports the restoration of degraded drylands in Burkina Faso where over 4 200 hectares of degraded land have been planted to start their restoration since 2016. For 2018, an estimated 2 000 hectares of land will be planted for restoration.