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FAO calls for preservation and sustainable use of biodiversity for food and agriculture

FAO calls for preservation and sustainable use of biodiversity for food and agriculture

On International Day for Biological Diversity (IDBD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) calls for stronger actions to address the rapid and steady decline of biodiversity that are essential for food and agriculture.


This year’s celebration of the International Day for Biological Diversity on 22 May focus on biodiversity as the foundation for food and health and a key catalyst to transforming food systems and improving human health. In February 2019, FAO released the first-ever report of its kind, State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, which presents evidence that the biodiversity that underpins food systems is disappearing – putting the future of food, livelihoods, health and environment under severe threat. The report calls on governments and the international community to do more to strengthen enabling frameworks, create incentives and benefit-sharing measures, promote pro-biodiversity initiatives and address the core drivers of biodiversity loss.


In the Philippines, FAO has been implementing the “Dynamic Conservation and Sustainable Use of Agrobiodiversity in Traditional Agroecosystems of the Philippines” project to help respond to these issues. Funded by the Global Environment Facility and jointly implemented by FAO, the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) with partner local government units, the project is working to enhance and promote the sustainable use of agro-biodiversity (ABD) in traditional agro-ecosystems.


The project currently works in Hingyon and Hungduan in Ifugao Province, and Lake Sebu in South Cotabato Province, which are known for their rich crop diversity conservation initiatives and  heirloom farming practices using traditional and natural methods.


“Fighting hunger means ensuring food security through the availability of healthy, safe, and nutritious food. FAO supports and works with various stakeholders, including indigenous communities, to promote sustainable food production and enhance the conservation and sustainable use of agro-biodiversity. Through this project, we underscore the importance of preserving heirloom and traditional crop varieties because they are important sources of quality and nutritious food,” said José Luis Fernandez, FAO Representative in the Philippines.


“Providing farmers more opportunities to earn higher incomes can encourage them not only to help in conserving agrobiodiversity in their area, but also to continue farming and save agricultural heirloom products,” Mr Fernandez said.


In addition to the signature heirloom rice, which are produced by indigenous communities, taro, banana, tomato, ginger and abaca are just some of the products that can promote agrobiodiversity conservation.


FAO is helping communities to get the most out of these products through value-adding activities such as direct selling of fresh taro in wholesale markets, rope making for abaca and food processing for tomato (dried tomato), taro (chips) and bungulan banana (chips).


In Barangay Baang in Hungduan, Ifugao, the farmers have started to produce ginger candies and a woman farmer says these products can fetch up to Php600 (USD11) per kilo in the market, as opposed to selling these as fresh  ginger for only Php20 (USD0.38) per kilo.


In Lake Sebu, women farmers have also started to earn more from processing or drying tomatoes into candies. Many of the community’s tomatoes used to end up getting spoiled or rotten as many of the farmers opted not to sell them anymore due to low buying price, and high transportation costs in bringing these to the market. With FAO support, the farmers were assisted on market study and food processing and they have now increased their production of tomato candies. Farmers can earn as much as Php1,015 (USD19.48) per crate, as opposed to only Php200-400 (USD3.84 – 7.68) per crate of 20 kilograms.


The DA-BAR is already exploring what interventions can be introduced to continue what was already started through one or both of its flagship programs: Community Participatory Action Research (CPAR) and Technology Commercialization Program. The DA-BAR is considering to provide extended support to the Hingyon and Hungduan indigenous communities by increasing farm productivity, as well as through continued product development and improved product packaging.


“We want to come up with interventions that are meaningful and responsive to needs,” says Joell Lales, head of the DA-BAR Program Development Division. “We’re looking at practices and studies that are specific to certain situations. The technology can lead to diversified products from particular crops that can augment the income of farmers.”


FAO’s State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture report is available at: http://www.fao.org/3/CA3129EN/CA3129EN.pdf #