Gardens of Biodiversity

The Southern Caucasus region was paramount in the evolution and differentiation of various domesticated plant and animal species; moreover, the region saw the beginnings of farmers’ and pastoralists’ settlements in the early stages of agriculture. Throughout the ages, the region was home to many populations who learned how to make a living out of a rugged land, by developing skills and locally adapting techniques – such as selecting a wide range of crop varieties, livestock breeds and integrated crop-livestock systems – to adapt to cold winters, dry summers, pests, diseases and the introduction of alien species.

The valued genetic resources and variety of agricultural practices (from production to preservation) in family gardens support yearround household food security. Together, these ensure yields over the longer term, and contribute to sustainable agricultural production intensification, farmers’ livelihoods, healthy and diversified diets, healthy ecosystems and sociocultural stability.

Yet this sustainability, achieved through agricultural practices based on the conservation and sustainable use of local genetic resources in the Southern Caucasus, is at risk of being lost. Over the last few decades, changing biophysical and socio-economic pressures have increased risks from poor management of natural resources, loss of biodiversity, soil and water pollution and degradation, and vulnerability to climate change.

This book describes selected genetic resources and traditional management practices maintained by farmers and pastoralists in the gardens and landscapes of the Southern Caucasus, showing that understanding and building on local traditions can help these to be valued, and also help to capitalize on what they have to offer. A close, detailed study of local agro-ecological and social conditions can contribute to identifying solutions for global problems; in short, it is possible to build on the knowledge and selection of the best genetic resources and local practices combined with efficient technologies and science to transform and increase options for agriculture in the Southern Caucasus towards sustainable development.

The genetic material treasured in the Southern Caucasus is essential for the achievement of Millennium Development Goals 1 and 7 in the region and for the entire world; collective efforts need to be made to preserve and use it.

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