Sixth GROW training concludes, innovation contest winner announced


Ysa Calderón from Peru has won the 2023 GROW Agrobiodiversity in a Changing Climate innovation contest. Her project aims to protect biodiversity and addresses threats to pollinators such as climate change, pesticides and deforestation. The project emphasizes supporting women.

The annual GROW course “Agrobiodiversity in a changing climate” closed on 24 November 2023 with 29 participants from 20 countries. The two-week course equipped participants with tools, knowledge and understanding for enhancing agricultural productivity and improved marketing strategies in sustainable and resilient agricultural systems.

The course discussed how the reduced variety of crops on which commercial farming is based creates a reduced capacity for agriculture to adapt to environmental changes and stresses. The loss or lack of adaptive capacity in modern, commercial agriculture is a cause for concern in relation to the present and expected impact of climate change. This is particularly relevant to mountain areas, where mountain farmers are preserving many rare varieties of cultivars in functioning biodiverse agroecosystems, but the harshness of the environment and the effects of climate change increasingly pressure mountain communities to modify their traditional approaches to agriculture.

Instructors of the course emphasized the importance of biodiversity in agriculture for enhancing resilience and climate adaptability. Lectures illustrated principles and practices for gathering agrobiodiversity data through participatory diagnostic approaches and increasing resilience and adaptability to climate change.

Specific topics the course covered were the management of agrobiodiversity through genetic diversity, climate-smart agriculture, innovation and organic systems. Participants learned about traditional crop varieties, tool and methods for measuring diversity, the impact of policies on farmers, how to build trust and equitable collaboration, and some of the challenges and opportunities for agriculture in the face of climate change.

The course featured an innovation contest focused on the importance of biodiversity for creating jobs in agriculture. Calderón’s winning proposal featured a three-phased solution focused on research, restoration and conservation. So far, her project – which is already being implemented in Peru with plans to scale up – has preserved three species of native stingless bees and reforested 1 500 trees.

"The course helped me strengthen my knowledge of agrobiodiversity. It showed me the importance of generating resilient and adaptive initiatives in the face of the climate crisis. I now have a more comprehensive vision of how my small business venture ‘Sumak Kawsay honey’ can continue to positively impact the farmers in my local community," said Calderón.

Fellow participant Kazim Ali from Pakistan also said about the course, "I learned how to add value to traditional growing methods and underutilized food crops to access local and international markets. I also learned how important organic food production is and how it can be implemented in mountain agriculture."

The annual GROW training programme is organized by the Sapienza University of Rome, Department of Environmental Biology; Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT); the Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research; and the Mountain Partnership Secretariat. Technical support is provided by FAO. Scholarships were made available by Sapienza for a limited number of participants.

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