Environment Conventions and agreements

Posted April 1999

Report: Sustaining agricultural biodiversity and agro-ecosystem functions

Opportunities, incentives and approaches for the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity in agro-ecosystems and production systems

International Technical Workshop organized jointly by
the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity,
with the support of the Government of the Netherlands
2 - 4 December 1998, FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy


1. Introduction
2. Workshop context, terms and concepts
3. Workshop results
  Case studies:
  1. Conservation tillage, Brazil
  2.  Soil and pest management, Senegal
  3. Agro-ecotourism, Peru
  4. IPM, aquatic life management, Vietnam
  5. Niche marketing of cheese, France
  6. Eco-labelling, El Salvador

4. Conclusions and recommendations
Annex I: Participants
Annex II: Analytical matrix
Annex III: Priority issues, activities
Annex IV: Required actions

Report prepared by Wino Aarnink (FAO), Sally Bunning (CBD), Linda Collette (FAO) and Patrick Mulvany (ITDG)

Rome, 4 December 1998

CONSERVATION AND SUSTAINABLE USE of agricultural biodiversity are not only essential elements for the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity and other related conventions but also for food security and sustainable agriculture development. Agricultural biodiversity is therefore a major theme for CBD as well as FAO. Governments, international organizations and non-governmental groups have started a process to ensure that agricultural biodiversity will constitute an integral part of their respective policies, plans and programmes in the field of agriculture and natural resources. Valuable experiences are emerging on the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity at the local level, both in situ and ex situ.

Following recent international developments and relying upon national and local experiences, FAO and the CBD Secretariat, with the support of the Government of the Netherlands, jointly organized an International Technical Workshop on Agricultural Biodiversity from 2-4 December 1998, in Rome, Italy.("Opportunities, incentives and approaches for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in agricultural ecosystems and production systems")

The workshop resulted in a particularly useful set of provisional recommendations for the further development and implementation of an integrated Work Programme on Agricultural Biodiversity taking into account initiatives already in place and focusing on continued cooperation between governments, intergovernmental institutions, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

It is with great pleasure that we present the outcome of this workshop to you in this report. We are convinced that the report and the information associated therein cover an important part of the experience and expertise related to biological diversity of agro-ecosystems. We believe that it will be of direct use to those engaged in the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity at the national and local level.

We hope that this report will stimulate exchange of information and experience among countries as well as relevant institutions.

In addition we underline the need to strengthen the appropriate institutional mechanisms in support of the implementation of the above mentioned Work Programme on Agricultural Biodiversity. As such we consider the outcome of this workshop to be of major importance for the on-going processes and meetings in the framework of FAO, CBD and CSD among others.

We therefore recommend this report for consideration in the preparation for:

Henri Carsalade
Assistant Director-General
Sustainable Development Department
of the Food and Agriculture Organization
Hamdallah Zedan
of the Convention on Biological Diversity
Johan F. De Leeuw
Director-General for Agriculture,
Nature Management and Fisheries,
The Netherlands

Executive Summary


Agricultural biodiversity is essential for global food production, livelihood security and sustainable agricultural development. It is a major theme for implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In this context, the CBD Secretariat together with FAO, the lead partner for the implementation of agricultural biodiversity activities, and with the support of the Government of the Netherlands, organized an international workshop on agricultural biodiversity from 2 to 4 December 1998 in Rome, Italy. This workshop is a follow-up to the first joint CBD - FAO technical workshop on agricultural biodiversity "Farming Systems Approaches for the Sustainable Use and Conservation of Agricultural Biodiversity and Agro-Ecosystems" (June 1997, Rome).

Workshop purpose and process

Over 60 participants attended from 20 countries representing all regions and 15 international and regional organizations. A dynamic discussion and review process, facilitated through small working groups and plenary sessions, led to the identification of key issues and related opportunities and proposed actions, mechanisms and linkages. Focusing on agro-ecosystems and production systems levels, the workshop helped to identify the main elements required in order to provide enabling environments and technical, policy, institutional and legal incentives, from global to local levels, for the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity. It was also a contribution to the assessment of ongoing activities and instruments being conducted by the CBD Secretariat and FAO, in accordance with COP decisions III/11 and IV/6. The workshop was designed to:

Conclusions and recommendations

The workshop concluded that four sets of actions for the conservation and sustainable use of all agricultural biodiversity, especially at agro-ecosystem levels, should be prioritized. These are summarized under the headings: Information, assessment and indicators; Research and development; Awareness raising and capacity building; and Development of policies and instruments.

The workshop prioritized the following actions related to information, assessment and indicators:

Actions prioritized for research and development included:

Concerning awareness raising and capacity building, the workshop prioritized actions for:

In relation to the development of policies and instruments, the workshop prioritized actions for:

In the light of these priorities, and bearing in mind the opportunities, incentives and approaches discussed in the workshop, the participants made the following recommendations:


The workshop organizers in the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and FAO would like to thank the Government of the Netherlands for its financial support which made it possible to organize this workshop and which enabled the participation of technical experts from all regions.

Thanks are also extended to all the participants from 20 countries, Parties to the Convention, and 15 international and regional organizations, who invested time and energy to contribute expertise and valuable experiences to this two and one-half day consultation. The contributions of those who prepared and presented the diverse and valuable case studies, which provided an essential basis for discussion and reflection, are hereby gratefully acknowledged. The active participation by all concerned is reflected in this workshop report, which we trust does credit to the diversity of expertise covering the different components of agricultural biological diversity and a wide range of experience in agricultural ecosystems.

Thanks are also extended to all the support staff who provided tremendous assistance regarding workshop preparation and logistics with special thanks to Franca Zodda and Ione Anderson for their unfailing assistance as well as to Linda Harrigan and Rita Rabbath for the travel arrangements.

Special thanks go to Patrick Mulvany who as facilitator not only kept everyone well informed, but also ensured that, in view of the wide scope of the subject matter under review by the workshop, the intellectual energies were exerted in the intended directions. His contributions to the organizers in the report writing process were also greatly appreciated.

Finally, we would like to thank all those who provided contributions to, and editorial comments on, this report and especially to the editorial advisers: Xue Dayuan, China; Jean Marc von der Weid, Brazil; Zipangani Vokhiwa, Malawi; and Vera Minten, The Netherlands.

- Wino Aarnink (FAO), Sally Bunning (CBD) and Linda Collette (FAO)


CAP - Common Agriculture Policy (EU)
CBD - Convention on Biological Diversity
CGIAR - Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research*
CGRFA Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (FAO)
CHM - Clearing-House Mechanism (CBD)
COAG - Committee on Agriculture (FAO)
COP - Conference of the Parties (CBD)
CSD - Commission on Sustainable Development (UN)
CTE - Committee on Trade and Environment (WTO)
EIA - Environmental Impact Assessment
EC - European Commission
EU - European Union
GATT - General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
GEF - Global Environment Facility
GIS - Geographic Information Systems
GMO - Genetically Modified Organism
GOs - Governmental Organizations
GPA - Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (FAO)
ICIPE - International Centre for Insect Physiology and Entomology
IFOAM - International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
IPGRI - International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (CGIAR)
IPM - Integrated Pest Management
IPNS - Integrated Plant Nutrient Systems
IPRs - Intellectual Property Rights
ITDG - Intermediate Technology Development Group
IU - International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources [for food and agriculture]
IUCN - World Conservation Union
NGOs - Non-Governmental Organizations
OECD - Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
PBRs - Plant Breeders' Rights
PGR(FA) Plant Genetic Resources (for Food and Agriculture)
PIC - Prior Informed Consent
PVP - Plant Variety Protection
RS - Remote Sensing
SBSTTA - Subsidiary Body for Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (CBD)
SCBD - Secretariat to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
TRIPs - Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (GATT/WTO)
UNCED United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
UNDP - United Nations Development Programme
UNEP - United Nations Environment Programme
UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
UPOV - International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants
WB - World Bank
WFS - World Food Summit (FAO)
WIPO - World Intellectual Property Organization
WTO - World Trade Organization

*The 16 CGIAR centres include the International Potato Institute (CIP), International Centre for Research on Agroforestry (ICRAF), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and IPGRI.

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