Genetic conservation initiatives in mountain areas promote climate resilience


Indigenous Peoples and local communities engage in vital efforts to preserve plant genetic resources (PGR) at their centres of origin, ensuring the conservation of diversity. However, there lacks a standardized system for preserving PGR on Indigenous Peoples' and local communities' land.

On 23 November 2023, experts working on the ground presented examples of how conservation initiatives are effectively preserving agrobiodiversity at a side event during the Tenth Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture at the Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters in Rome, Italy.

Krystyna Swiderska from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) opened the event, reminding participants that the seeds and knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and local communities hold cultural value and form a complex system. IIED, a Mountain Partnership member, promotes sustainable development with a focus on biodiversity, biocultural heritage and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Alejandro Argumedo from Asociación ANDES in Peru shared the successes of Potato Park, a project started in 2000 that preserves 1 400 varieties of potatoes in Peru. The project presents an alternative approach to conservation efforts and contributes to the international debate on conservation. Alejandro explained how their approach bridges the gap between in-situ and ex-situ preservation. Asociación ANDES, a non-profit Indigenous Peoples' and an MP member, supports Indigenous Peoples' rights, biodiverse and resilient food systems, and the development of community enterprises.

Askarsho Zevarshoev from Nabzi Sayor in Tajikistan presented the successful conservation of 151 wheat varieties from 7 species at their centre of origin in Tajikistan. The Wheat Park and Apple Park, along with seed banks, play a vital role in preserving biodiversity. Nabzi Sayor is a non-governmental organization based in Tajikistan, working primarily in the Pamir Mountains to provide a robust platform for a unique approach to biodiversity and seed conservation.

Yiching Song from the Farmers Seed Network (FSN) in China explained how projects in China are revitalizing traditional terraced farming and farmer seed systems. Yiching emphasized the importance of the bio-cultural heritage system for mountain communities, stating that seeds are a root for local culture, food systems and livelihoods in adaptation and evolution. FSN, a non-governmental organization in China, preserves and protects farmer seeds through in-situ and ex-situ collaboration projects with farmers and scientists across 10 Chinese provinces.

Nori Ignacio from the Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) discussed local initiatives for climate resilience and the protection of farmers' rights in Southeast Asia. Diversity in upland and mountain ecosystems can include agroforestry, sloping agricultural technologies and multi-storey cropping. SEARICE is a non-governmental organization that implements projects in Southeast Asia to promote a rights-based sustainable food system through biological and cultural diversity conservation.

A closing panel provided supportive concluding remarks. Hannes Dempewolf from the Global Crop Trust presented a study that examines the powerful combination of ex-situ and in-situ preservation methods. Isabell Fragnière from the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture emphasized the importance of farmer leadership and biodiversity to the Government of Switzerland, highlighting that 8 000 varieties from 200 species have been targeted. Sara Elfstrand from SwedBio reminded the audience that resilience can be built through connection and called for a human rights approach to biodiversity and conservation efforts. Rosalaura Romeo, Coordinator of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, shared the great work done through the Mountain Partnership Products Initiative in supporting over 18 000 farmers in 8 countries. She closed the event by stating, "Indigenous Peoples are stewards of knowledge and are at the heart of mountain conservation."

Watch the event recording (Passcode: IPSC2023+)

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