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I. Foreword - R. B. Singh

Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

The Food and Agriculture Organization upholds the creed that assisting rural women to improve farm production can be an effective means to achieve farm productivity and national food security. Rural women contribute to agriculture and food production, beginning with seed management to value addition in post-harvest processing. Hence rural women are the driving forces to achieve sustainable food security. But we are yet to recognize their critical role in one aspect of natural resource management, that is management of plant diversity in the local communities.

Rural women have played a major role in conserving the indigenous variability and they possess knowledge on their variable uses. The genetic treasure needs to be conserved for today and tomorrow’s use and rural women must play a leading role in this direction. Recognizing the urgency of safeguarding the national endowment, several countries are creating regulations and laws on genetic resources. The roles of rural women should be clearly recognized in these regulations. Those countries that have regulations should develop actions focused on supporting women in sustainable use and conservation of these resources. However, the passive approach to assisting rural women should be discouraged and an active approach to partnership with rural women should be encouraged. Partnership with rural women will be a valuable collaboration for the scientists who aim to achieve the goals of sustainable natural resource management and productive agricultural systems.

The FAO consultation on “Expert consultation on agrobiodiversity conservation and the role of rural women” was organized to address these contemporary concerns with tripartite collaboration. The partners were FAO regional office for Asia and the Pacific, the International Potato Centre - Users’ Perspectives With Agricultural Research and Development (CIP-UPWARD), and SEAMEO Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEAMEO-SEARCA). Specifically, the consultation explored gender concerns in agrobiodiversity management in the context of local knowledge systems and local community rights for natural resources and women’s right to these resources. This publication is the outcome of the consultation that had the participation of regional experts who are directly involved in the programmes for community-based agrobiodiversity management.

I am convinced that this publication will facilitate the achievement of FAO’s objectives in this techical area. These are, implemeting policy for field action to stregthen rural women’s roles in managing agrobiodiversity resource; and, fostering partnership of scientists with rural women as stewards of local biodiversity systems and together creating an effective policy interface to guarantee women’s right to local resources and right to share in the benefits derived from the use of local resources.

R.B. Singh
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Bangkok, Thailand
February 2002

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