Closing summer school on Agrobiodiversity


The first Summer School on Agrobiodiversity in a Changing Climate ended this week. Held at FAO in Rome, Italy, the course hosted high profile speakers from NaturaSi, IFOAM Organics International and Slow Food and looked at ways to enhance productivity and improve marketing strategies in sustainable and resilient agricultural systems.

“We know that today agriculture is unsustainable and that something has to change”, said Giorgio Grussu, Mountain Partnership Secretariat officer at the closing session of the school. “Markets have put agriculture under huge strain, increasing yields reducing the variety of crops and their capacity to adapt to climate change especially in fragile ecosystems such as mountains, islands and drylands.”

Agrobiodiversity in a changing climate is relevant to mountain areas. 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. Selvaraju Ramasamy FAO’s environment officer said: “Climate change may be global, but the impacts are local and personal. We face it in day to day life”.

Federico Mattei from Slowfood International during his lecture on agrobiodiversity driving rural development highlighted how “It is crucial to understand how individual and collective consumption choices shape food production systems, including in mountain ecosystems”. The course analyzed the economic value of agricultural biodiversity in food systems as an incentive to conservation. Adriana  Ignaciuk FAO’s senior economist emphasized that ”well working markets are key in helping farmers adapt to climate change”.

During the session dedicated to effective and equitable techniques and distribution processes with low environmental impact Fabio Brescacin, President of NaturaSi, Italy’s largest organic food retailer said:  “the challenge for the future is to have a different relation between farmers, traders and consumers to get the right price. The interests of farmers should be the same interests of consumers.”

Participants remarked on how effective the course was for their work back at home. Tuvshinjargal Ganbaatar office at the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Mongolia said: “When you work in the government you’re not really exposed to grassroots.  The most practical thing the course gave me is that now I am able to communicate with the farmers, to speak the language of agriculture.”

Jirlyne Katharpi, Research Associate at FAO India added: “Sometime we lack information even at FAO. This course proved me with a lot of practical knowledge to make the right impact on the ground”.   

The two week course was held in collaboration with Sapienza University of Rome, Department of Environmental Biology; Bioversity International; Mountain Partnership Secretariat and with the technical support from the FAO. The Summer School was sponsored by Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Naturasi, Slow Food international, IFOAM organics international and the University of Torino.

Photo by Roberto Cenciarelli

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