Winner of GROW Summer School agrobiodiversity innovation contest announced


Jyoti Patil from India has won the GROW Summer School innovation contest focused on improving smallholders’ livelihoods through agrobiodiversity in fragile ecosystems.

The GROW Summer School is an annual training programme for young professionals focusing on agrobiodiversity in a changing climate and is organized by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat and partners, with technical support from FAO.

Patil’s winning proposal outlined how the prolific use of machine-made synthetic fibres for rope-making are compromising traditional knowledge and biodiversity in remote areas of India, where indigenous communities historically cultivated diverse trees and shrubs for their fibres.

Patil’s proposal to study, document and promote traditional methods of rope-making using local and natural fibres aims to enhance biodiversity by conserving native trees and plants, revive the traditional skill of rope-making and create an alternative source of livelihoods for rural populations.

“The GROW course has given me a greater theoretical understanding of agrobiodiversity and has revived my interest in local biodiversity. I plan to take concrete steps to consolidate my idea of developing traditional products and encouraging the community in my small mountain village to grow the shrubs and trees required for rope-making,” said Patil.

Participants at the GROW Summer School submitted their contest proposals before the course began and continued to develop them further by applying their newfound knowledge and skills. Final proposals were presented on the last day of the course and the winner was voted based on innovation, feasibility and sustainability.

Since winning the innovation contest last year, 2020 winner Matthew Purkis of South Africa has gone on to realize his idea for an app, Umlimi, for data collection and value chain development focused on participatory guarantee systems and agrobiodiversity. His team integrated biodiversity mapping into the app to contribute to biodiversity data collection in South Africa and the Southern African Development Community region. He recently presented his app at IFOAM-Organics International’s Organic World Congress, and is raising funds to continue development.

Innovative tools for a changing climate

Thirty young professionals from 21 countries attended this year’s two-week-long GROW Summer School, held online, which introduces students to the importance of biodiversity in agriculture and, in particular, agrobiodiversity’s role in enhancing the resilience and adaptability of cropping and farming systems to climate change in fragile ecosystems such as mountains and islands.

The effects of climate change are putting increasing pressure on mountain and island communities to modify their traditional approaches to agriculture.

The two-week course equips practitioners with the necessary tools, knowledge and understanding to enhance productivity and improve marketing strategies in sustainable and resilient agricultural systems.

Participant Edelweiss Hildebrand from Guatemala said: “The innovative tools they have presented to us in GROW will be useful for developing studies that conserve edible plant species produced on small-scale, climate-smart farms in Guatemala.”

GROW is organized in collaboration with La Sapienza University of Rome; the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT); and the Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research. Sponsors and partners of the summer school include the Italian Development Cooperation, NaturaSì, Slow Food and IFOAM-Organics International.

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News by FAO Forestry

Photo: ©Jyoti Patil

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