Loss of agrobiodiversity threatens the planet’s future


A side event in the margins of the second International Agrobiodiversity Congress examined how enhancing agrobiodiversity in mountains can help improve human nutrition, human health and the health of ecosystems as well as make agriculture more sustainable and resilient to climate change.

“Global food systems must face a transformation towards greater economic, environmental and social sustainability,” said moderator Giorgio Grussu, Project Coordinator at the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The food we eat and the way we produce it have an impact on both human and planetary health, and the loss of agrobiodiversity is a heavily underestimated problem. As of today, 75 percent of agricultural crop varieties have disappeared, and three quarters of the world's food comes from just 12 plant species and 5 animal species. Moreover, agriculture contributes to a third of anthropogenic global greenhouse gas emissions.

This dependence on such a limited number of varieties poses many risks for humankind, particularly in the face of climate change as it limits the adaptation capacity of farmers. This is even more evident in mountain areas, where smallholder farmers have built their resilience over centuries on a richness of agrobiodiversity. This traditional scheme is quickly disappearing as farmers abandon traditional crops to grow more commercial varieties.

Organized by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat in collaboration with IFOAM - Organics International, Slow Food International, NaturaSì and Fundación Pasos, the side event “Agrobiodiversity in a mountain environment” on 17 November 2021 explored best practices and experiences on preserving agrobiodiversity and strengthening livelihoods without decreasing agricultural productivity.

Speakers shared experiences in promoting positive interactions between what is grown for production purposes and the natural life forms present in the agroecosystem, with a particular focus on mountain areas.

Carlo Murer, Agricultural Marketing Expert at NaturaSì, noted, “From the private sector’s point of view, trust between farmers and consumers is essential for a sustainable market. The creation of ecological niches and corridors on farms can increase ecological complexity without sacrificing productivity.”

Edith Martinez Guerra, Technical Project Manager at Fundación Pasos in Bolivia, added, “Strengthening producers’ organizations – in particular women producers’ organizations – is critical to support livelihoods in mountains and other fragile ecosystems. It is also important to certify and promote high-value, agrobiodiverse mountain products to communicate their cultural and environmental values to consumers.”

Louise Luttikholt, Executive Director of IFOAM - Organics International, discussed how repurposing subsidies could support more sustainable approaches in agriculture instead of creating unhealthy incentives that promote the loss of agrobiodiversity and incentivize imports from other countries.

An unfortunate cyber-attack prevented the continuation of the event and forced its early closure, prior to Slow Food Secretary General Paolo di Croce’s closing remarks on the role of consumers as co-producers, shaping food systems through their consumption choices.

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Learn more about the 2nd International Agrobiodiversity Congress 

Photo: ©Pema Yangden Lepcha 

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