GROW Summer School begins at FAO headquarters


Participants from 18 countries are attending the Agrobiodiversity in a Changing Climate second annual GROW Summer School at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) headquarters in Rome. The two-week course provides practitioners with the necessary tools, knowledge and understanding to enhance productivity and improve marketing strategies in sustainable and resilient agricultural systems.

“Training is an engine for promoting change, that’s why the Mountain Partnership believes in education for the future. We are proud to launch the second edition of GROW Summer School on Agrobiodiversity in a Changing Climate,” says Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MPS) Programme Officer RosaLaura Romeo. 

The GROW course focuses on the importance of biodiversity in agriculture, with particular attention paid to its role in enhancing resilience and adaptability of cropping and farming systems to climate change.

The course analyses the economic value of agricultural biodiversity in food systems as an incentive to conservation.

Giorgio Grussu, MPS Project Manager and Coordinator of the GROW Summer School, stated, “I am excited to see the Summer School grow from one edition to the next. We are looking forward to the outcomes of GROW 2019, and hope to continue offering the course in the years to come.”

Management aspects along the agricultural value chain are investigated, ranging from production to marketing and consumption. The course also illustrates the best agroecology practices promoted by the FAO around the world, with a specific focus on climate smart agriculture and fragile ecosystems, and showcases case studies from specialized organizations and the private sector on agrobiodiversity values as market drivers.

The training includes joint lectures given by speakers from various national and international organizations - such as Slow Food, IFOAM-Organics International and NaturaSì - and a field trip to a nearby farm, which provides hands-on experience in relevant practices. Lecturers will illustrate principles and practices for gathering agrobiodiversity data through either participatory diagnostic or empirical approaches, and for their utilization to develop management approaches that improve resilience and adaptability.

Lecturer Devra Jarvis from Bioversity International explains the innovative nature of the Summer School: “The GROW course brings the use of intra-specific crop diversity into the future of our food system, not just choosing one variety of a crop species for the production system, but including many varieties of the crop into the solution.”

The topic of agrobiodiversity is particularly relevant to mountain areas. Mountain farmers preserve many of the rarest cultivars in functioning biodiverse agro-ecosystems. Yet, the harshness of the environment, as well as the effects of climate change, increasingly pressures mountain communities to modify their traditional approaches to agriculture.

Twenty-five participants are attending the course, three of whom are Mountain Partnership members: Gabriel Chaman from Red de Agroindustria Rural del Perú (REDAR Perú); Ashmita Lama from Organic World and Fair Future (OWF) Nepal; and Asan Alymkulov from the Federation of Organic Development "Bio-KG", Kyrgyzstan. The participant ratio included 44 percent of women students.

GROW participant Esraa Gabal, from Egypt, explains that the course’s multidisciplinary approach is what enticed her to take part. “Being interested in agrobiodiversity, I believe that the GROW course is important to better understand almost all the agrobiodiversity aspects including genetic tools, conservation techniques and management, as well as addressing policies concerning agrobiodiversity. All materials are supported by case studies and provided by professional experts in the field, making it an advanced course for getting more knowledge and to deepen up my understanding.” Gabal is a student assistant at Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany.

The Summer School was organized by Sapienza University of Rome, Department of Environmental Biology; Bioversity International; and the MPS, with the technical support of FAO.

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Photo by FAO/Sara Manuelli

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