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The diversity of local crops and their wild relatives plays a significant role in the livelihoods of many smallholder farming communities in developing countries.

Smallholder farmers can use diversity of crops as a resource to adapt their crops to environmental changes. In their fields and in the nearby wild areas, there is a huge diversity of plants, which continue to evolve and adapt to changing conditions and so can be used to provide useful genes for new crops.

Genebanks – where seeds and other planting materials are safely managed and stored – are also a crucial back-up system. However, the sheer numbers of species and varieties in the world means that genebanks alone cannot safeguard crop diversity for future use. Protecting the world’s agricultural biodiversity resources in the places where it continues to evolve is both an outcome in itself and a crucial resource for the future.

Unfortunately, the diversity of local crops and their wild relatives is being lost at an alarming pace as a result of changing markets, farming practices, environmental degradation and many other factors. Often they are being lost even before they are completely documented, and certainly before they have been studied by formal research, leading to their name ‘neglected and underutilized species’.

Understanding the status of the diversity of local crops and their wild relatives on farms and in wild areas and how they are used and managed by men and women is a priority research task for Bioversity International, in collaboration with other CGIAR and national partners, in order for these resources to be effectively and efficiently valued, used  and conserved. Our research will help ensure that these key resources remain available for smallholder farmers and breeders both now and in the future.

Where we work

Bioversity International’s research is carried out in areas where development needs are acute and biodiversity is under greatest threat. We prioritize geographical areas where our research contributes to the CGIAR Research Programs: providing biodiversity inventories and biodiversity-based interventions for the CGIAR Research programs on Drylands, HumidTropics, and Aquatic Agricultural Systems; investigating how institutions and policies affect the biodiversity maintained by communities in the CGIAR Research Program on Policies Institutions and Markets; researching local varieties and  crop wild relatives of commodity crops, and with useful traits for climate change scenarios, for the CGIAR Research Programs on Roots Tubers and Bananas and Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security.

Research highlights

Community Seedbanks: Origins, evolution and prospects

The latest book in the 'Issues in Agricultural Biodiversity' series, published by Earthscan/Routledge in association with Bioversity International, provides the first global review of the development of community seedbanks and provides many case studies from around the world.

The book is edited by Ronnie Vernooy, Genetic Resources Policy Specialist and Bhuwon Sthapit, Senior Scientist at Bioversity International with Pitambar Shrestha, Program Officer with Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD).

Download it for free from the Bioversity International website.

Download the book: Community Seedbanks

Managing crop diversity on farm

At the heart of Bioversity International’s research on on-farm management of agricultural biodiversity is to enable farmers who maintain crop diversity to capture more direct benefits from their management of this diversity – such as food security, dietary quality and income.

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Crop Wild Relatives

Developing indicators, guidelines, data sets and incentive mechanisms to foster in situ conservation of crop wild relatives.

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Economics of agricultural biodiversity conservation and use

Research to understand the economics of agricultural biodiversity and investigate the instruments, interventions and incentive mechanisms that could be used to enhance its conservation.

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Featured publications

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