Third GROW Summer School ends, Innovation Contest winner announced


Another 30 young professionals and researchers join the ranks of the GROW alumni network as the third annual Summer School on Agrobiodiversity in a Changing Climate concludes. This year, participants tuned in to the virtual lessons from 18 countries across the globe. The course included lecturers from NaturaSi, IFOAM Organics International and Slow Food as well as a first ever innovation contest on “Improving smallholders’ livelihoods through agrobiodiversity and organic solutions.”

The GROW Summer School introduces students to the importance of biodiversity in agriculture – from its managament, to what it looks like on the ground, to its values as market drivers. GROW gives particular attention to agrobiodiversity’s role in enhancing the resilience and adaptability of cropping and farming systems to climate change. This is of particular relevance to mountain areas, where farmers preserve many of the rarest cultivars in functioning biodiverse agro-ecosystems.

In her closing remarks to participants, Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MPS) Coordinator Yuka Makino said, "I congratulate all of you for making it through these intense nine days. I hope that you will be able to immediately apply what you have learnt directly into your work in the field. And more importantly, I hope that you maintain the friendships and networks you have cultivated through this course and continue sharing your experiences with each other.”

The post-course survey revealed that many students found the course beneficial to their work and will be using the new skills they gained in their projects and research. Rommila Chandra, a Summer School student from India, shared, “GROW helped me understand adaptation mechanisms at local and regional levels for the exploration of livelihood opportunities through agrobiodiversity conservation and diversification. I have advanced my knowledge and thinking about the vulnerability and resilience of mountain ecosystems, with a view of developing future strategies for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”

In addition to the coursework, participants were invited to submit proposals for the innovation contest. "Small-scale organic family farming needs innovative ideas to get its due dignity and recognition in the run to feed the growing population while respecting the environment, people and animals," commented Carlo Murer from EcorNaturaSi, Italy’s largest organic food retailer.

Matthew Purkis from South Africa won the contest's Selection Committee Award with his proposal for developing a mobile app called Umlimi, designed for data collection and value chain development specifically focused on participatory guarantee systems (PGS) and agrobiodiversity.

"The Umlimi app has been designed and developed to connect and showcase the power of organic production and PGS. The opportunity to present the app to the Summer School has given it more credibility by winning the Innovation Challenge. We will integrate the biodiversity mapping into the surveys and contribute to the biodiversity data collection in South Africa and into the Southern African Development Community region," he said. Purkis will receive EUR 1000, offered by NaturaSì, as well as kick-off technical assistance to implement his proposal.

Additionally, Carolina Zamorano-Montañez won the Audience Award for her proposal on weeds as soil cover in small banana and plantain crops in Colombia, and will also receive kick-off technical assistance to implement her proposal.

The Summer School was organized by the MPS, in collaboration with Sapienza University of Rome and the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. Technical support is provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Sponsors and partners of the summer school included the Italian Development Cooperation, NaturaSì, Slow Food and IFOAM-Organics International and Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research.

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