Link to Professional

From WikiEducator
Jump to: navigation, search
                                                                                Issue 52
                                                                           December 2009
  Farmers in Burkina Faso                             GIS helps preserve
                          A multimedia database
  use multimedia tools to                             livelihoods and conserve
                          records the biodiversity of
                                                      wildlife in Tanzania
                          the Cook Islands
  teach fellow producers



2 Editorial

                                                                               Survival of the most
    Survival of the most adaptable

3 Perspectives

    Food security through diversity
    Cary Fowler


                                                                                   2                                           withstand future environmental changes.
                                                                                        009 is the 150th anniversary of the

4 Farmers teaching farmers However, many of these wild relatives

                                                                                        publication of The Origin of Species,
    Miep Lenoir                                                                                                                face extinction. Scientists have to
                                                                                   in which Charles Darwin outlined his
                                                                                                                               quickly find and collect samples –
                                                                                   theory of evolution. In the first chapter,

Opinion usually seeds – before these species

                                                                                   on variation under domestication, he
                                                                                                                               disappear forever.
                                                                                   says, ‘Variability is the source of all the

7 Eco-efficient agriculture The International Centre for Tropical

                                                                                   choicest productions of the garden’. This
    Andy Jarvis                                                                                                                Agriculture (CIAT) is now using
                                                                                   statement holds true today, as the
                                                                                                                               geographic information systems (GIS) to
                                                                                   variation in domesticated crops is still

Case studies identify locations where these vulnerable

                                                                                   used by plant breeders to emphasize
                                                                                                                               species might be found. CIAT then enters
                                                                                   desirable characteristics such as drought

8 Pastoralists picture land use the data into GPS devices so that

                                                                                   tolerance or pest resistance. Breeding for
    Massimiliano Rossi and Italo Rizzi                                                                                         collectors out in the field can locate the
                                                                                   these traits helps farmers to maintain a
                                                                                                                               plants and gather the seeds for storage.
                                                                                   productive agricultural system and

9 A balance of life and livelihoods It is not only plants that suffer from

                                                                                   provide food security. And, to ensure
    David Williams                                                                                                             the increased pressures on the land. In
                                                                                   that crops can continue to survive the
                                                                                                                               the Elerai region of Tanzania, the Maasai
                                                                                   ever-changing environment, ICTs are

10 A base for biodiversity data communities felt their pastoralist

                                                                                   now increasingly used to record,
    Gerald McCormack                                                                                                           livelihood was becoming increasingly
                                                                                   monitor, promote and preserve
                                                                                                                               constrained. One option was to give up

Q&A their traditional lifestyle and turn their

                                                                                      Throughout history, food production
                                                                                                                               land over to agriculture. The community
                                                                                   has steadily risen to meet the needs of

12 The richest natural resource was reluctant to do this and instead

                                                                                   the world’s growing population. Until
    Kwesi Atta–Krah                                                                                                            sought a way to make use of the variety
                                                                                   quite recently, that increase in
                                                                                                                               of life around them. They collaborated
                                                                                   production came mostly from the
                                                                                                                               with the African Wildlife Foundation
                                                                                   expansion of farmland. Then, in the mid
                                                                                                                               (AWF) and used GPS receivers to record
                                                                                   1980s, more than 50% of the increase
    ICT Update                                                                                                                 important land features, such as the
                                                                                   came from intensified agricultural
                                                                                                                               location of households, grazing lands,
                                                                                   production; using crop varieties that
                                                                                                                               water points and wildlife numbers.
                                                                                   provided a higher yield to get more from
                                                                                                                                   With an accurate picture of their land
                                                                                   the existing land.
 ICT Update issue 52, December 2009.
                                                                                                                               resources, the Elerai Maasai were able to
                                                                                      In the Sissili region of Burkina Faso,
                                                                                                                               work with AWF experts to develop a
                                                                                   the Federation of Farmer Organisations
 ICT Update is a bimonthly printed bulletin with an
 accompanying web magazine
                                                                                                                               plan for the region. They decided to lease
                                                                                   of Sissili (FEPPASI) worked with
 ( and email newsletter.
                                                                                                                               part of the land for the construction of
                                                                                   scientists at the Environmental and
 Each issue of ICT Update focuses on a specific theme relevant
                                                                                                                               an ecolodge, where tourists can stay to
                                                                                   Agricultural Research Institute in
 to ICTs for agricultural and rural development in African,
 Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, and includes feature
                                                                                                                               view the wide array of animals that roam
                                                                                   Ouagadougou to test fertilization and
 articles and annotated links to related web resources and
                                                                                                                               the area. The extra income ensures that
                                                                                   seed multiplication techniques for a
 projects. The next issue will be available in January 2010.
                                                                                                                               the Elerai community can continue their
                                                                                   number of crop varieties. The research
 Publisher: CTA Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural
                                                                                                                               traditional way of life and, by making
                                                                                   identified the varieties that would be
 Cooperation (ACP-EU). CTA is an institution of the ACP Group
 of States and the EU, in the framework of the Cotonou
                                                                                                                               the area a nature conservancy, they have
                                                                                   specifically suited to the environment
 Agreement and is financed by the EU. Postbus 380,
                                                                                                                               helped to protect the movement of
                                                                                   around Sissili.
 6700 AJ Wageningen, the Netherlands. (
                                                                                                                               wildlife between a number of other
                                                                                      FEPPASI then trained a group of
 Production and content management: Contactivity bv,
                                                                                                                               connecting parks and farmland areas
                                                                                   farmers to use video and digital cameras
 Stationsweg 28, 2312 AV Leiden, the Netherlands.
 (                                                                                                        that run across the border between
                                                                                   to produce agricultural training
                                                                                                                               Tanzania and Kenya.
                                                                                   materials. The group of trainers now use
 Coordinating editor: Rutger Engelhard / Editor: Jim Dempsey /
 Copyediting: Tim Woods (English), Patrice Pinguet (French) /
                                                                                                                                   Conserving biodiversity helps to
                                                                                   the videos and photographic images to
 Layout: Anita Toebosch / Translation: Patrice Deladrier / Cover
                                                                                                                               protect livelihoods and can ensure that
                                                                                   advise fellow farmers on improved
 Photo: Wayne Hutchinson / Alamy / Editorial advisory
                                                                                                                               our agricultural systems can adapt and
                                                                                   growing techniques for the new crop
 committee: Peter Ballantyne, Oumy Ndiaye, Dorothy Okello,
 Kevin Painting
                                                                                                                               remain productive in the future. After all,
 Special thanks to Luigi Guarino, senior science coordinator at                                                                as Darwin explained all those years ago,
 the Global Crop Diversity Trust.
                                                                                   Relative loss                               ‘It is not the strongest of the species that
 Copyright: ©2009 CTA, Wageningen, the Netherlands                                                                             survives, nor the most intelligent that
                                                                                   All of these new, domesticated crop                                                                                                      survives. It is the one that is the most
                                                                                   varieties originally came from wild
                                                                                                                               adaptable to change’. And, without the
                                                                                   plants. And these crop wild relatives, as
                                                                                                                               rich source of diversity for farmers and
                                                                                   they are called, are still a source of the
                                                                                                                               plant breeders to draw on, our future
                                                                                   genetic material that will allow for the
                                         This license applies only to the text
                                         portion of this publication.
                                                                                                                               food security is uncertain. ■
                                                                                   development of crop varieties that can
                               ı                        ı
 2         December 2009 ICT Update issue 52
                                                                                                                   There are a small number of                Technology also plays an important
                                                                                                                scientists around the world who            role in the preservation of crop
                                                                                                                specialize in breeding crop varieties,     biodiversity. At the Global Crop
                                                                                                                crossing one variety with another to       Diversity Trust we are now using a
                                                                                                                try to combine them in a way that          combination of technologies to create
                                                                                                                would make the crop good for farmers       predictive computer models. If we
                                                                                                                to grow. This is because the modern        know where a particular variety of

Cary Fowler varieties of most of our agricultural crop originally came from we can ( is the crops have a limited life-span. After a then predict some of the executive director of the Global Crop while they fall prey to pest or diseases, characteristics of that variety. For Diversity Trust ( or they don’t do so well in the example, if the variety comes from an

                                                                                                                environment, or a new, higher yielding     arid area then we could test that for
                                                                                                                variety comes along.                       drought tolerance rather than a

Food security through diversity W Crop yields have increased sample that came from a very wet or

       hen people think of biodiversity,
                                                                                                                tremendously in the last few decades       tropical country.
       they usually think of the
                                                                                                                and that is largely due to plant              Computer modelling also helps us to

diversity of species, the range of

                                                                                                                breeders using this diversity to create    make climate change and development

animals and plants inhabiting the

                                                                                                                new varieties. And while I believe that    projections, which can help to pinpoint

world. In agriculture, we usually talk of

                                                                                                                the world needs a highly productive        varieties that are endangered through

crop biodiversity, which is slightly

                                                                                                                agricultural system, it also needs one     rising water levels or expanding urban

different. Farmers deal in domesticated

                                                                                                                that is resilient and sustainable. The     environments. The models would tell

crops, and the raw material for plant

                                                                                                                variety of crops grown in the field has    us that we have to quickly collect

evolution is the diversity within any

                                                                                                                an impact on the long-term future of       samples from that area.

given crop.

                                                                                                                agriculture, especially if that variety       These are early days for putting ICTs
  There are, for example, more than
                                                                                                                needs a lot of water, pesticides or        to use for preserving biodiversity, we

200,000 different varieties of wheat,

                                                                                                                fertilizer.                                are only now starting to take

and each of them has a unique set of

                                                                                                                   But productivity and sustainability are advantage of the technology. In the

characteristics. Some varieties have the

                                                                                                                currently under threat, and agriculture is near future, we will be able to use

potential to produce higher yields

                                                                                                                facing probably the greatest challenge of  mobile phones and other

others may be resistant to certain pests

                                                                                                                its history, a history that dates back to  communication networks to offer crop

and diseases or be able to adapt to

                                                                                                                Neolithic times. Twenty years from now,    varieties to farmers in a much more

changes in the climate. This diversity

                                                                                                                as our climate changes, it is very likely  targeted way. We can use the

within a species, which at its most

                                                                                                                that we will need new varieties of crops,  technology to provide information on

basic level is genetic diversity, contains

                                                                                                                varieties that we don’t have right now.    the best varieties for very specific

the richness of traits and characteristics

                                                                                                                There is going to have to be a massive     conditions, and locations to give the

that the crop has to offer. It contains

                                                                                                                effort to locate the genetic diversity in  best yield and protection from pests,

the ‘options’ that the crop has for

                                                                                                                our agricultural crops, the traits for     diseases and the changing

future development.

                                                                                                                extreme heat resistance or extreme         environment.
                                                                                                                drought tolerance, and to move those          I cannot imagine how society is
                                                                                                                into the plant breeding pipeline so that   going to adapt to climate change if

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

                                        Rex FeAtuReS / MARI teFRe / GlobAl CRop DIveRSIty tRuSt / Rex FeAtuReS
                                                                                                                farmers have them when they need           crops don’t also adapt. I cannot
                                                                                                                them.                                      imagine how we are going to save the
                                                                                                                                                           tropical rainforests if we have an
                                                                                                                Global solutions                           unproductive agricultural system. I
                                                                                                                This, however, is one world problem,       cannot imagine how we can deal with
                                                                                                                perhaps the only one, that we can          water shortages in the future if we
                                                                                                                solve. The enormous amount of              don’t have a productive agricultural
                                                                                                                diversity that exists in most              system, since irrigated agriculture
                                                                                                                agricultural crops is like a gigantic      already uses 70% of the world’s
                                                                                                                toolkit of options for the future          freshwater supplies.
                                                                                                                development of agriculture. We know           It is not a solution to every problem,
                                                                                                                how to conserve that diversity and we      but I think preserving crop diversity
                                                                                                                have the institutions in place to do it.   can solve and certainly contribute
                                                                                                                There are now a number of important        some answers to many issues affecting
                                                                                                                seed banks throughout the world that       the planet today. We have the tools and
                                                                                                                preserve samples of hundred of             raw materials for an agricultural
                                                                                                                thousands of varieties, and they are       system that will guarantee future food
                                                                                                                backed up by the Svalbard Global Seed      security, the question is: are we going
                                                                                                                Vault in the Arctic.                       to be smart enough to conserve it? ■
                       W                                                                                      In four years, FEPPASI’s advisors
                                                                and video cameras, to document the
                               hen FEPPASI, the Federation of
                                                                                                           have trained about 2,500 farmers in
                                                                tests of crops varieties in the field and
                               Farmer Organisations of Sissili,
                                                                                                           innovative production, food processing
                                                                to create training materials.
                       started its activities in 1998, the
                                                                                                           methods, marketing skills, the
          Feature      organization wanted to find out which
                                                                Spreading local practices                  production of organic fertilizers, and
                       crop varieties and production techniques
                                                                                                           techniques for the sustainable
                                                                FEPPASI initially trained a group of 20
                       were most suitable for the specific soil
                                                                                                           management of natural resources,
                                                                farmers as advisors, who could then go
                       and climate conditions of Sissili
                                                                                                           using videos, photos and digital
                                                                on to train and advise other farmers in
                       province, in south-central Burkina Faso.
                                                                                                           presentations. For example, one photo
                                                                their respective districts. Since the
                       Until then, farmers depended on
                                                                                                           stream explains the step-by-step
                                                                advisors are farmers from the same
                       knowledge and techniques passed on
                                                                                                           process of turning yams into flour.
                                                                area, the trust and acceptance levels
                       orally from generation to generation,
                                                                                                              According to FEPPASI, the use of
                                                                are very high compared to an advisor
                       without having access to new
                                                                                                           these support materials has considerably
                                                                from the capital city. This group of
                       developments and innovations in the
                                                                                                           reduced the length of workshops and
                                                                advisors were subsequently trained in
                       sector, and without having the
                                                                                                           enhanced their impact. There are many
                                                                basic ICT skills and how to use these to
                       opportunity to experiment.
                                                                                                           success stories to tell. Monitoring and
                                                                create training materials.
                          Assistance from government
                                                                                                           evaluation data reveal that the farmers
                                                                    ‘Previously, people fell asleep during
                       extension workers was not suited to
                                                                                                           who received training have been able to
                                                                our training sessions,’ says Korotimi
                       the specific conditions of the area, and
                                                                                                           double and even triple their yields.
                                                                Barry, a former evaluation officer at
                       their information was often outdated.

Farmers teaching farmers After researchers in Burkina Faso identified the best crop varieties for the Sissili region, a local organization, FEPPASI, introduced ICTs to inform farmers and explain new growing techniques. As a result, production is up to nine times greater than before.

                                                                                                              In anonymous questionnaires
                                                                FEPPASI. ‘With the digital camera, we
                       In order to provide farmers with more
                                                                                                           collected in 2006, 2007 and 2008,
                                                                can show images of the development in
                       relevant information, FEPPASI started
                                                                                                           farmers expressed the numerous ways
                                                                the agricultural test fields. In our
                       a research programme in collaboration
                                                                                                           in which they had benefited. ‘I have
                                                                meetings with producers, these images
                       with the Environmental and
                                                                                                           found contacts online to sell almonds
                                                                allow us to make visual comparisons.
                       Agricultural Research Institute (INERA)
                                                                                                           and shea,’ said one. ‘I manage the
                                                                We beam the images and discuss the
                       to test different varieties of crops,
                                                                                                           production techniques to produce
                                                                causes of the successes and failures of
                       fertilization techniques and seed
                                                                                                           yellow and white corn,’ said another.
                                                                the different fields. We also make
                       multiplication techniques.
                                                                                                           One farmer, who now processes yams
                                                                videos of the farming techniques and
                          In one research project, for example,
                                                                                                           into flour, couscous and cake, has
                                                                show them during the training
                       FEPPASI tested 25 different varieties of
                                                                                                           increased his income by adopting
                       corn, of which seven proved
                                                                                                           better business practices: ‘The products
                                                                    Barry adds that it was difficult to
                       particularly suitable to the soil and
                                                                                                           are better presented through the use of
                                                                convince farmers about crop varieties
                       climatic conditions of the province.
                                                                                                           labels and I sell more.’ An impact study
                                                                simply by telling them that their
                       They started to promote these seven
                                                                                                           carried out by INERA revealed that, on
                                                                neighbours in the other village
                       varieties to farmers and teach them
                                                                                                           average, agricultural production had
                                                                produced more per hectare. Now, with
                       accompanying production techniques.
                                                                                                           increased from 0.5 tonnes per hectare
                                                                images, people can visualize the
                          Since 2005, FEPPASI has been testing
                                                                                                           in 2003 to 4.5 tonnes in 2007.
                                                                improvements. The images make it
                       the potential of ICTs to train farmers
                                                                                                              Sissili farmers have also used the
                                                                possible to overcome the limited
                       and to help professionalize their
                                                                                                           internet to develop techniques to select
                                                                understanding of certain topics, a
                       businesses. In that time, the
                                                                                                           and improve seeds from the best of
                                                                significant problem given the high
                       organization has managed to gradually
                                                                                                           their crop varieties. For example,
                                                                illiteracy rate among the population
                       integrate ICTs into its day-to-day
                                                                                                           producer Moumouni Niébié searched
                                                                (about 80% of producers in this region
                       working processes. They regularly use
                                                                                                           online and found an organization in
                                                                cannot read or write). For trainer
                       multimedia tools, such as digital photos
                                                                                                           Benin that specializes in production
                                                                Mahamadou Korogho, the use of digital
                                                                                                           methods for yams. Niébié contacted
                                                                content has become essential in his
                                                                                                           them and learned how to produce yam
                                                                work. ‘During training sessions, I don’t

Miep Lenoir ( is a knowledge sharing officer seeds from fragmenting yam roots. To

                                                                feel at ease anymore without a
                                                                                                           further improve the quality of seeds
                                                                computer,’ he says. ‘When I can show

at the International Institute for Communication and

                                                                                                           used by its members, FEPPASI took
                                                                pictures of exemplary productions, the

Development (

                                                                                                           pictures of several crop varieties and
                                                                participants applaud.’
                   ı            ı

4 December 2009 ICT Update issue 52

                                                                                                                                                   ReuteRS / luC GnAGo
                                                                                  member of an online exchange and
                                         However, these courses created

selected the best. Niébé’s corn field was

                                                                                  news group, putting them in touch
                                         expectations regarding equipment and

among the fields selected. He said,

                                                                                  with other farmer organizations and
                                         connectivity that FEPPASI was not able

‘FEPPASI selected a number of

                                                                                  federations in the country, and with
                                         to meet at that time, as it had a weak

producers who applied the new

                                                                                  external partners. When necessary,’ he
                                         and unstable dial-up internet

production techniques well, and guided

                                                                                  adds, ‘a farmer in remote Sissili can
                                         connection and only two computers

them to produce improved seeds, so the

                                                                                  contact his colleague in other areas to
                                         per centre.

other farmers have access to good

                                                                                  get correct information on cereals and
                                            In 2009, the dial-up internet

quality seeds as well.’

                                                                                  other products in only a few minutes.’
                                         connection was replaced by a VSAT
  FEPPASI’s group of farmer advisors
                                                                                     Also, the FEPPASI website and
                                         connection in Leo and Boura. As this

act as intermediaries between the farmer

                                                                                  newsletter ‘Sissili Vala Kori’ (Sissili
                                         connection is expensive, FEPPASI

communities and INERA. When disease

                                                                                  farmers’ voice) have increased the
                                         looked to recover the costs by sharing

affects a certain crop, for example, the

                                                                                  profile of the organization and led to a
                                         the connection with several other

advisor takes a picture of the plant and

                                                                                  greater number of contacts within
                                         organizations nearby for a fee. This has

sends it by email to the research

                                                                                  Burkina Faso and beyond.
                                         turned FEPPASI into an internet

institute. When similar pictures come

                                                                                     While FEPPASI initially wanted to
                                         provider, with positive connectivity

from different villages, the institute

                                                                                  create information centres where
                                         results, but at the same time runs the

knows there is an outbreak and can take

                                                                                  farmers can access relevant content
                                         risk of moving the organization away

measures to limit the damage.

                                                                                  directly, a different model has evolved.
                                         from its core objectives.

Management The telecentres, for example, are used

                                            FEPPASI also expanded the
                                                                                  by a minority of literate farmers to find
                                         telecentre in its headquarters, making

The FEPPASI headquarters in Leo, the

                                                                                  market opportunities and communicate
                                         seven computers available for

capital of Sissili province, and the two

                                                                                  with buyers and sellers on national and
                                         members. ‘Our connection in Leo is

district offices in Boura and Bieha (at

                                                                                  international levels. Illiterate members
                                         now often better than in Ouagadougou,’

about 50 km west and 30 km east of

                                                                                  – the majority – benefit from the
                                         says Joseph Dagano, president of

Leo respectively) are connected to the

                                                                                  centres indirectly through training
                                         FEPPASI. According to Dagano, a

internet. The three locations function

                                         farmer who is a member of their

as information centres where members

                                                                                     The group of farmer trainers use the
                                         organization is less likely to be

can use the computers.

                                                                                  centres to create and store specific
                                         misinformed or taken advantage of.
  In the first two years of the project,
                                                                                  audiovisual content adapted to the
                                            ‘With the telecentre in Boura, the

FEPPASI trained about 150 farmers in

                                                                                  local conditions and based on local
                                         district farmer organization is now a

basic computer and multimedia skills.


Federation of Farmer Organisations of Sissili FEPPASI provides information and training to develop the skills of farmers, promote technological innovations in agricultural production, and assist farmers in the marketing of agricultural products. ➜ Environmental and Agricultural Research Institute INERA specializes in the development, implementation and coordination of environmental and agricultural research in Burkina Faso. ➜ International Institute for Communication and Development IICD is an international organization specializing in enabling people in developing countries to make use of ICTs to improve their livelihoods and their quality of life. IICD works in the sectors of agriculture, health, education, governance and citizen participation. ➜

                        research. At the moment, however,       four years. Joseph Dagano understood      taken from network partner Sahel
                        there is no central storage system for  the importance of ICTs long before        Solidarité.
                        all the training materials produced.    many others in the sector. When they         Agricultural advisors from
                        Trainers are reluctant to share their   started to work with ICTs in 2005,        government agencies in the capital city
                        own materials with colleagues or        farmers, as well as donors, did not       did not know the specific conditions of
                        online. FEPPASI will need to develop    immediately see the advantages. An        the area. FEPPASI decided to invest in
                        an institutional policy on knowledge    old anecdote that is often repeated in    its own research and ICT training, and
                        management that encourages, as well     the organization concerns a donor who     create its own training materials. The
                        as guides, trainers and extension       once said: ‘Farmers need food, not        organization’s advisors look the same
                        workers to process and share their      computers!’ Dagano knew where he          as the farmers, speak the same
                        content.                                wanted his organization to go, and        language, with the same accent, and
                           Although the farmers are now         initial resistance did not stop him.      tell their own stories. Farmers are more
                        growing the new crop varieties, their      FEPPASI was able to integrate ICTs     inclined to adopt new production
                        increased production does not           at its own pace, gradually exploring      techniques from someone they feel is
                        automatically lead to increased         the possibilities and learning how to     like them. Through improved research
                        incomes. For that, FEPPASI also uses    exploit them for maximum advantage.       and training courses facilitated by
                        ICTs to improve marketing and sales. In The project objectives set at the         fellow farmers, Sissili producers are
                        the last few years, they have assisted  beginning evolved over time as            improving the quality of their seeds
                        farmers to collect data on their        increased confidence gave way to new      and growing new crop varieties that
                        production, their costs, and revenues.  ambitions. This would not have been       best suit their province’s climatic and
                           Having worked with ICTs for four     possible from the start; the              soil conditions.
                        years, the next step is to create a     organization needed time to                  These lessons show that the
                        database that can aggregate the data    incorporate the technology, build skills, successes the farmers of Sissili have
                        collected in that time to make          and discover how ICT tools can best       enjoyed through FEPPASI’s work were
                        projections and calculations of crops   suit their interests.                     not purely a result of technology. It
                        and productivity throughout the            Networking with local ICT training     was about having a clear vision of
                        province. Based on these data, FEPPASI  partners and other organizations has      what the organization wanted to
                        will be able to access credit for its   also been crucial for FEPPASI, enabling   accomplish and how ICTs could
                        members through gathering and selling   them to get technical advice, and share   facilitate this, taking into account the
                        their products in larger quantities.    challenges and ideas. For example,        importance of local trainers, locally
                                                                they recently started organizing nightly  developed content, local support, and
                        Leadership                              events in villages to provide more        the freedom to gradually change
                        There are several lessons that can be   information on their work, using a        objectives according to new
                        drawn from FEPPASI’s work in the past   beamer and a generator, a concept         insights. ■
                     ı            ı

6 December 2009 ICT Update issue 52

                       Eco-efficient agriculture
                       Our food system is built on the traits contained in crop wild relatives. Researchers are now
                       using geographic information systems to help protect this valuable genetic resource.
                       A                                          species samples that have been collected
                             ll the domesticated crops grown in
                                                                  in the wild. But the sad truth is that
                             farms around the world today have
                                                                  many species have not been collected,
                       evolved from wild plant species. But
        Opinion                                                   or are facing extinction in the wild due
                       very few people give much thought to
                                                                                                                     Gap Analysis of Agricultural
                                                                  to the loss of natural habitats. We
                       these crop wild relatives, even though
                                                                  therefore need to make a concerted
                       they are critical to our global food
                                                                                                                     The Gap Analysis project is
                                                                  effort to ensure that we do not lose
                                                                                                                     developing a system that will allow
                                                                  these vitally important traits, which can
                          The peanut (Arachis hypogaea), for
                                                                                                                     people collecting information on
                                                                  help humanity produce more and better
                       example, was domesticated somewhere
                                                                                                                     species diversity to know which
                                                                  crop harvests.
                       in the border region of Paraguay,
                                                                                                                     areas around the world, traits and
                       Argentina and Bolivia by local
                                                                  Efficiency                                         taxa are still unrepresented among
                       indigenous groups around 3,000 years
                                                                                                                     target CGIAR genebank collections.
                                                                  At the International Centre for Tropical
                       ago. The new crop arose from the
                                                                  Agriculture (CIAT), we are now using
                       fortuitous crossing of three wild species,
                                                                  geographic information systems (GIS) to
                       each providing traits that were
                                                                  predict where important species might
                       favourable for cultivation and human
                                                                  be found. Collectors can then use global
                       consumption. Almost every crop we
                                                                  positioning systems (GPS), loaded with
                       cultivate across the world has a similar
                                                                  the data, to locate the vulnerable species
                                                                  and collect their seed. The CIAT analyses
                          Crop wild relatives are the foundation                                             harvests. They include natural enemies
                                                                  have helped to raise the profile of crop
                       of our agricultural system. And we still                                              to agricultural pests and diseases,
                                                                  wild relatives and ensure that greater
                       need them. They grow in the fields and                                                which reduce crop losses. They include
                                                                  attention is paid to their conservation.
                       the natural ecosystems that we see                                                    wild berries and fruits that can
                                                                     There are, for example, a total of 69
                       every day, but often go unnoticed. More                                               provide communities with nutrition in
                                                                  species of crop wild relatives that are in
                       recently, however, some people have                                                   difficult times. Yet we are losing a
                                                                  some way related to the cultivated
                       started to take notice.                                                               great number of important species at a
                                                                  peanut. Of these, 17 species are under
                          Crop breeders use wild relatives when                                              rapid rate.
                                                                  significant threat of extinction from the
                       crossing plant varieties to bring in novel                                               CIAT have also been using GIS to
                                                                  expansion of agriculture in Brazil,
                       traits that might, for example, introduce                                             look at how climate change might
                                                                  Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia. Our
                       greater resistance to pests and diseases,                                             cause increased rates of extinction of
                                                                  analyses have demonstrated that a
                       or provide resistance to extreme climate                                              these species, and the results are grim.
                                                                  further 15 species are significantly
                       conditions. The breeders use seeds from                                               We predict that over the next 40
                                                                  threatened with extinction from climate    years, climate change alone could
                                                                  change.                                    mean that we will lose as much as
                                                                     These alarming figures have brought     20% of all species – one in five wild
                                                                  attention to the problem and encouraged    species.
                                                                  a number of national and international        So what can we do about it? CIAT is
                                                                  initiatives. The urgent need to conserve   working to develop eco-efficient
                                                                  species has led to the establishment of a  agriculture. This is a vision for
                                                                  number of projects to collect seeds from   agriculture where it continues to be
                                                                  species under threat, and to include       productive and provide food and
                                                                  these species in conservation plans for    nutritional security to all, including
                                                                  national parks and other protected areas.  the world’s poorest, but at the same
                                                                     Crop wild relatives provide a unique    time is efficient in the use of inputs
                                                                  opportunity to show the great value of     (less fertilizer, fewer pesticides) and
                                                                  conserving biodiversity. Our entire food   provides environmental sustainability.
                                                                  system is built on the unique traits that     We need a productive agricultural
                                                                  they contain. For other plant and          system to provide enough food and
                                                                  animal species, our analyses are           nutrition, and we need to conserve the
                                                                  showing similar threats. We are losing     wild species upon which continued
                                                                  natural ecosystems at a rapid rate, and    productivity depends. It isn’t easy, but
                                                                  many important wild species are being      we need to learn to value biodiversity.

Andy Jarvis ( is programme leader, decision lost. In doing so, we will ensure that our

                                                                     These species include insect species

and policy analysis, at the International Centre for Tropical domesticated crops will have the

                                                                  that provide a service to agriculture by

Agriculture ( resources to adapt and survive future

                                                                  pollinating crops and increasing our       environmental changes. ■

Pastoralists picture land use A team of researchers combine maps, satellite images and participatory mapping techniques to develop an accurate picture of land use among pastoralists in southern Ethiopia

                       T                                          balances on which their livelihoods are
                            he amount of land given over to
                            growing crops has dramatically
                                                                     Drawing a sketch map to show the
                       increased in the last few decades,
    Case study                                                                                                          Related
                                                                  resources of an indigenous community
                       leading to a reduction of available
                                                                  became an important contact point
                       grazing land in many places.
                                                                  between local knowledge systems and
                       Pastoralists are restricted to grazing
                                                                                                                    Enhanced Livelihoods in the
                                                                  the scientific world. This is particularly
                       their livestock in smaller pastures,
                                                                                                                    Mandera Triangle
                                                                  important because traditional
                       which results in overgrazing and added
                                                                                                                    The ELMT programme supports the
                                                                  relationships with the environment
                       pressure on the land. Inevitably, some
                                                                                                                    people living in arid and semi-arid
                                                                  have been so poorly understood and
                       plants and animals can no longer
                                                                                                                    areas of southern Ethiopia to move
                                                                  neglected in recent times. When
                       survive in these areas. And, as the
                                                                                                                    away from a dependency on
                                                                  working with pastoralists, for example,
                       species disappear, valuable knowledge
                                                                                                                    emergency relief to long-term
                                                                  the outlines gave researchers a better
                       of the local fauna and flora is also lost.
                                                                                                                    economic development.
                                                                  understanding of local perceptions
                          In an effort to better understand
                                                                  about the status and quality of
                       changing land patterns and preserve
                                                                  pastures, rangelands, water sources,
                       indigenous knowledge, researchers are
                                                                  livestock types, the movement of
                       using participatory mapping
                                                                  people and their relative pressures on
                       techniques. Spatial visualization tools,
                                                                  the local ecosystems.
                       such as three-dimensional modelling,
                                                                     But subjectivity and inconsistency in
                       rural appraisal community maps,                                                       maps and satellite images. Women in
                                                                  spatial representation, especially when
                       printed maps and even screen-based                                                    particular showed a great ability and
                                                                  considering a large area of land, meant
                       computer planning exercises with                                                      accuracy for locating features such as
                                                                  that these maps were only of limited
                       communities, can help to give an                                                      cultivated land and private enclosures.
                                                                  use when they were used outside the
                       overview of natural available resources                                               Men were more reliable in pointing out
                                                                  original village or read by non-
                       and how they are shared among the                                                     administrative boundaries, while the
                                                                  pastoralists. The question, therefore,
                       various land users.                                                                   young livestock scouts could quickly
                                                                  was how to translate symbols on a
                          Although these community maps                                                      recognize migration routes.
                                                                  piece of paper in a way that could be
                       were often little more than lines drawn                                                  By combining the input of the
                                                                  understood by everyone. One solution
                       in the sand, or sketches on paper, they                                               different groups, the team was able to
                                                                  was to involve the communities in the
                       played a key role in giving                                                           gather complete and accurate
                                                                  interpretation of high resolution
                       communities the chance to express                                                     information on infrastructure, the
                                                                  satellite images.
                       their needs and understand the delicate                                               locations of wet and dry grazing areas,
                                                                                                             livestock migration routes, water
                                                                  Recognition                                sources and administrative boundaries,
                                                                  The Lay Volunteer International            as well as detailed information on the
                                                                  Association (LVIA) tested this             sharing of natural resources across
                                                                  methodology for the first time in Moyale   multiple territorial units.
                                                                  and Miyo woredas (districts) of southern      The team manually entered all the
                                                                  Ethiopia at the beginning of April 2009.   data they had collected into a GIS
                                                                  The project used the same idea as          (geographic information system)
                                                                  community maps, but substituted a piece    program. They then produced a number
                                                                  of paper with geo-referenced maps and      of posters and maps which they took
                                                                  remotely-sensed imagery.                   back to the communities to verify the
                                                                     LVIA identified four woredas, spread    details.
                                                                  over more than 2,300 km2, and used            The study area still has a wide
                                                                  1:25,000 scale maps to carry out a         variety of animal and plant species.
                                                                  series of participatory exercises with 15  Because of this, the government has
                                                                  different groups of pastoralists. In       designated a large part of the study
                                                                  combination with high resolution           region as a protected area, and it could
                                                                  satellite images, the community            soon be established as a reserve. While
                                                                  members were asked to identify a           the main focus of the research was to

Massimiliano Rossi ( is the project variety of features on the maps. preserve indigenous knowledge and the leader and Italo Rizzi ( is a project office The team discovered that after only pastoralists’ way of life, the results will

                                                                  a few minutes of explanation, the

coordinator at Lay Volunteer International Association also improve understanding of the

                                                                  pastoralists could consistently and

( needs of all land users and help to

                                                                  accurately interpret features on the       maintain a rich diversity of life. ■
                   ı            ı

8 December 2009 ICT Update issue 52

                      A balance of life and livelihoods
                      Faced with difficult choices, a Maasai community in Tanzania was able to get an accurate
                      picture of their land resources with the help of conservationists and GPS receivers.
                      S                                            The project began in 2004, and an
                           ituated at the foot of Mount                                                  develop an ecolodge in the Elerai
                                                                initial priority was to find out exactly
                           Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and just                                             Conservancy, in an effort to provide
                                                                what resources were available on the
                      10 km south of Kenya’s Amboseli                                                    sustainable income from tourism. The
    Case study                                                  land, how they were being used, and to
                      National Park, Elerai has a lot to offer                                           ecolodge also gave the community an
                                                                identify possible areas of conflict
                      tourists. The region’s woodlands and                                               interest in protecting the wildlife and
                                                                between the wildlife and the local
                      savannah are home to lions, cheetahs,                                              the habitat. The lodge operators pay
                                                                population. To achieve this, AWF
                      leopards, antelope, buffalo and giraffe,                                           an annual rent to the community, plus
                                                                worked with the community and
                      plus a wealth of birdlife. The land is                                             conservation and overnight fees for
                                                                technicians from local NGOs and
                      owned by the Elerai Maasai                                                         every visitor. Under the lease
                                                                government authorities to conduct a
                      community, who live and tend their                                                 agreement, all unskilled labour will be
                                                                resource mapping survey. This involved
                      livestock throughout the 5,000 acres.                                              sourced from the Elerai community,
                                                                collecting data on the existing
                         But with less access to open,                                                   and if there are any skilled positions,
                                                                infrastructure and assessing
                      undeveloped lands for grazing, the                                                 they will get first consideration.
                                                                community land use needs.
                      Elerai community face a difficult                                                     With the creation of the Elerai
                                                                   AWF trained community members to
                      problem: do they continue with their                                               Conservancy, the growing communities
                                                                use handheld GPS (global positioning
                      traditional pastoralist livelihood, which                                          avoided a future of farming dwindling
                                                                system) receivers to record the exact
                      is increasingly constrained, or, like                                              plots of marginal land. Instead, they
                                                                location of households, water points,
                      many Maasai, do they reluctantly turn                                              are keeping most of their land open for
                                                                grazing lands, wildlife sightings and
                      the land over to agriculture?                                                      wildlife tourism and their traditional
                                                                other significant features. By
                      Fortunately for the Elerai community,                                              pastoralist way of life.
                                                                combining their local knowledge with
                      there was an alternative: create a way
                                                                advanced mapping tools, the resource
                      to benefit from the wildlife they live
                                                                mapping teams efficiently collected a
                      alongside.                                                                         By itself, Elerai could not sustain large
                                                                wealth of data in a relatively short
                         The people of Elerai worked with the                                            wildlife populations; the site is not big
                                                                space of time. In fact, more than 95%
                      African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) to                                               enough to be a viable conservation area
                                                                of the mapping was conducted in
                      develop an ecotourism model for their                                              on its own. But the region’s high
                                                                about six days.
                      land, and turn Elerai into a                                                       density and diversity of wildlife depends
                                                                   At the end of each mapping day,
                      conservancy. This included an                                                      on the ability of the animals to move
                                                                AWF staff downloaded the data onto
                      improved land management strategy                                                  between a network of adjoining land
                                                                laptop computers and compiled the
                      that has allowed the community to                                                  units. Although relatively small, Elerai
                                                                results with GIS (geographic
                      keep their land open for both livestock                                            has added an important piece to a
                                                                information system) software. Using
                      and wildlife.                                                                      matrix of public and private
                                                                A3 printers, they printed large maps     conservation lands that span the border
                                                                for the resource mapping teams to        between Kenya and Tanzania.
                                                                review the next day. Community              Elerai now forms part of AWF’s
                                                                members helped to annotate GPS           Kilimanjaro Heartland, which links
                                                                observations and identify gaps for       neighbouring national parks, privately-
                                                                further mapping.                         owned land and community-owned
                                                                                                         land into a conservation network of
                                                                Choices                                  more than 7,600 km2. This larger-scale
                                                                Following the completion of the          conservation area, one of nine AWF
                                                                survey, AWF collated and analyzed the    Heartlands, secures critical wildlife
                                                                data to present to the community. The    habitats and movement routes, and
                                                                community used the information to        introduces opportunities for a more
                                                                develop a land use plan, featuring       sustainable tourism sector that respects
                                                                management zones that will meet their    regional cultural heritage.
                                                                future land needs while also securing       Perhaps more importantly, Elerai
                                                                valuable habitats for conservation. The  served as a conservation model that
                                                                plan contained guidelines for the        AWF has since replicated elsewhere.
                                                                effective management of the zones,       The success in Elerai has proved that
                                                                which included wildlife and tourism,     this approach, of combining wildlife
                                                                cultivation and settlements, and         conservation with the preservation of

David Williams ( is the director for livestock grazing areas. community livelihoods, is a viable

                                                                   Armed with a detailed overview of

conservation geography with the African Wildlife Foundation alternative to the subdivision, fencing

                                                                their land, the Elerai community chose

( and expanding cultivation of lands

                                                                to work with a safari operator to        seen in similar settings. ■
                                                                                                                                                 GeRAlD MCCoRMACk / Cook ISlAnDS nAtuRAl HeRItAGe tRuSt

A base for biodiversity data For the last 20 years, the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust has been collecting the details of the country’s fauna and flora in one multimedia database.

                      T                                                                                regularly receives 1,000 visitors a
                           he Cook Islands, a small island     biodiversity database, probably because
                                                                                                       week, mainly from people in developed
                           developing state (SIDS), has an     there has been little international
                                                                                                       countries. The Trust also published the
                      online database designed to record       support for making such information
    Case study                                                                                         database on interactive CDs for schools
                      details of its biodiversity: marine and  available in SIDS. But in 1990, the
                                                                                                       in the Cook Islands, which have limited
                      terrestrial species, indigenous and      Cook Islands government supported a
                                                                                                       or expensive web access.
                      introduced species, mammals and          proposal to develop an electronic,
                                                                                                          The database presently records 4,500
                      plants, fungi and bacteria.              multimedia-focused database to make
                                                                                                       species out of an estimated total of
                         The country consists of fifteen small information on local plants and
                                                                                                       around 7,000 socially or biologically
                      islands covering only 240 km2, but it is animals available, including related
                                                                                                       significant species in the country.
                      spread over an area of about 2 million   traditional and community knowledge.
                                                                                                       About 2,500 species (55%) on the
                      km2 in the central South Pacific.           Since then, the government has
                                                                                                       database have one or more images to
                      Agriculture, mainly horticulture, brings invested more than NZ$ 1 million into
                                                                                                       aid recognition. The main challenge is
                      in approximately US$ 15 million a        the Natural Heritage Trust to run the
                                                                                                       to identify and photograph species in
                      year, around 5% of its GDP.              project. The Trust has one professional
                                                                                                       the field, which is where the public will
                         No other small developing country is  staff member responsible for collecting
                                                                                                       encounter and hopefully recognise
                      known to be creating a comprehensive     and collating information on local
                                                               plants and animals.
                                                                                                          The Trust’s primary goal was to
                                                               Recognition                             tabulate data on the social and

Gerald McCormack ( is director of the biological significance of a species and

                                                               It took many years of fieldwork, but

Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust. Visit the Cook Islands then list key identification features

                                                               the database, which is hosted at the

Biodiversity Database at along with a detailed image. This data

                                                               Bishop Museum in Honolulu, USA,
                                                                                                       is reasonably comprehensive for the
                                                               finally went online in 2003 and
                  ı            ı

10 December 2009 ICT Update issue 52

                                                                                                Searching the Cook Islands
                                                         species or taxa by name in one

larger or otherwise conspicuous

                                                                                                Biodiversity Database

terrestrial species, but the lack of

                                                       • users can search across taxa for

available biologists to input data has

                                                         socially and biologically significant

meant that the detailed information is The search page on the database allows

                                                         groups, such as medicinal use

often inadequate for many groups. the user to find a species by typing the

                                                       • default results are displayed as

There is still an immense amount of first part of one of its names in Latin,

                                                         thumbnail images, which presently

basic fieldwork required on Cook English or Mãori. The species are arranged

                                                         cover about 60% of the species

Islands biodiversity. in a hierarchical system of taxonomy and

                                                       • the thumbnail zoom enlarges images
  Although it is not the purpose of this                                                        higher taxon names are also searchable.
                                                         to allow more detailed comparison

database to record the location of all Users can input multiple names with

                                                         on the results page

collected specimens, it increasingly semi-colon separators to find multiple

                                                       • primary images are of live specimens

refers to a few specimens or species or higher taxa, or allow for

                                                         to assist with field identification.

photographs for each island to vouch spelling uncertainties. And, although for the claimed presence of a particular Cook Islands Mãori is often written with


species. In the future, collection points standard letters only, there is a character

                                                       • users cannot find species by listing

will be georeferenced and displayed on input function on the site to enable

                                                         or selecting their features

active maps. searches using orthographically correct

                                                       • voucher data is not georeferenced to
  The database entry for each species                                                           Mãori.
                                                         enable active GIS displays

includes an image to aid identification

                                                       • users cannot currently contribute

and, where possible, supporting Searching for the taxonomic group –

                                                         images and other information.

secondary images, videos and audio butterfly or mammal, for example – works files. The image files are as small as well for most users trying to identify an

                                                       From the lessons learned in developing

possible so that they load rapidly in a unknown animal. In contrast, many large

                                                       the database, the Trust will launch a

web browser, but can still be viewed groups, such as the 1,200 local flowering

                                                       new, improved version in 2010.

well on a screen and when printed to plants, are not easily divided into

                                                       Registered editors will be able to edit

show the main species features. subgroups by the public. In the future, the

                                                       data online and general users will be

Database videos are also small, under Trust will develop a system so that users

                                                       able to add information at the bottom

20 seconds in duration, to make it can find the species by easily observable

                                                       of each species page, with the

possible for users to download them on features, such as leaf shape and flower

                                                       possibility to upload images and other

a dial-up or slow broadband internet colour.

                                                       data directly into the database,


                                                       although these will be moderated         Currently, however, it is the advanced

More input before appearing online. search criteria that are perhaps most

                                                          The new database will be a major      useful for the general public. These menus

The database had the advantage of

                                                       advance in the management, retrieval,    enable the user to search for habitat,

growing slowly, which provided time

                                                       display and editing of data. It is based distribution, threatened status, medicinal

to experiment with many data options

                                                       on open source software and the          usefulness or biosecurity significance. For

and to develop the search menus for

                                                       application supports editing via         example, a student on the island of Atiu

different user groups, from

                                                       compatible web browsers on a variety     can find the birds that are native and

taxonomists to biosecurity staff to

                                                       of devices, including desktop            endangered in the Cook Islands and that

home gardeners. Over the last 20

                                                       computers, laptops, PDAs and             exist on Atiu.

years, the Cook Islands Natural

                                                       smartphones. The system can also be

Heritage Trust has learned some

                                                       delivered as a stand-alone application   Since most of the islands are a long way

valuable lessons and discovered some

                                                       from a computer hard disk, USB thumb     from each other, the names for many

important strengths and weakness in

                                                       drive or CD/DVD.                         plants and animals evolved independently.

their biodiversity database.

                                                          The main work in the future, as in    The database records and maintains

Strengths: the past, will be finding, identifying, these differences, and gives users the

                                                       photographing and uploading              opportunity to select species names

• all biological groups are available

                                                       information on unrecorded species. But   according to region. For example, on
  within a single database
                                                       with more people able to contribute,     Rarotonga, the White-tailed Tropicbird is

• searches are available for Latin,

                                                       thanks to the new database               the Rãkoa, while on other islands it is the
  English and Mãori names, and names
                                                       developments, the load should become     Tara, Pirake, Pirake or Tavake Mokomoko.
  of higher taxa
                                                       much lighter. ■

• users can search for more than one

                                                                                                An alternate results page consists of
                                                                                                one line of text per species to provide
                                                                                                a concise list. The list includes the
                                                                                                scientific, English and national Mãori
                                                                                                names, along with the family name and a
                                                                                                concise English descriptor, such as wasp,
                                                                                                fern, seaweed. The group descriptor is
                                                                                                particularly useful for interpreting the
                                                                                                diverse taxa found using the advanced
                                                                                                search criteria menus.
GeRAlD MCCoRMACk / Cook ISlAnDS nAtuRAl HeRItAGe tRuSt
                                                                                                                Can those farmers help to conserve
                                                                through breeding and biotechnology and
                                                                                                                biodiversity? Is the preservation of
                                                                also through the age-old processes of
                                                                                                                biodiversity purely for scientists and
                                                                selection by local farmers, is based on
                                                                                                                international institutions, like Bioversity
                                                                agricultural biodiversity.
                                                                What are the biggest threats to                 ➜ Farmers, especially small farmers, are
                                                                biodiversity? And why is it important
                              Dr Kwesi Atta–Krah                                                                crucial to conserving biodiversity. We
                                                                that we do something to conserve
                              ( is                                                        already know that small farmers conserve
                                                                biodiversity now?
                              deputy director general of                                                        more biodiversity than was previously
                                                                ➜ It is very difficult to give a single
                              Bioversity International                                                          believed. What they need is a good reason
                                                                ranking for ‘threats to agricultural
                              (                                                 to do so, one that can counter the promises
                                                                biodiversity’ because so much depends on        made by big seed companies and
                                                                the specific circumstances. In some places      government ‘experts’.
                                                                                                                The efforts of farmers in conserving
                                                                                                                biodiversity need to be supported and

The richest natural resource complemented by national agriculture

                                                                                                                research programmes and gene banks, and
                                                                                                                also by organizations such as Bioversity
                   Why is agricultural biodiversity             habitat destruction and conversion
                                                                                                                There is often conflict in many
                   important?                                   threatens crops and the wild relatives of
                                                                                                                countries between conservation and
                                                                existing crops. Drainage, for example, or
                   ➜ Agricultural biodiversity is a key natural
                                                                                                                agriculture. Is it possible, through
                                                                irrigation, can displace the biodiversity that
                   resource in the provision of food, fuel,
                                                                                                                promoting biodiversity, that the two
                                                                used to thrive in those places. In other
                   fibre, pharmaceuticals and much more.
                                                                                                                could exist side-by-side?
                                                                places, the spread of new varieties, often
                   Agricultural biodiversity also regulates
                                                                the product of advanced breeding                ➜ Conservationists have tended to see
                   environmental variability, supports
                                                                programmes, displaces traditional and           farmers as the enemy, with a ‘fence
                   important ecological functions, such as soil
                                                                more reliable landrace varieties that           everyone out’ attitude. But the fact is that
                   formation and water cycling, and is an
                                                                farmers have depended on. By the time the       farmers, pastoralists, forest dwellers and
                   essential component of cultural identity
                                                                farmers discover that the old varieties may     others manage a sizable portion of the
                   and diversity.
                                                                have been more reliable and resilient,          Earth’s surface, and it would be much more
                   All crop and livestock improvement, both
                                                                they’re gone, unless they’ve been conserved     constructive to work together so that
                                                                somewhere. Development and growing              farmers can conserve biodiversity. In this
                                                                urbanization can also be major threats to       way, farmers will help to conserve other life
                                                                biodiversity.                                   forms and ecosystems too. I’ve heard it said
                                                                                                                that intensive agriculture with fertilizers
                                                                Why is it important to conserve the             and other high tech solutions would leave
                                                                biodiversity of crops in ACP countries?         more ‘wilderness’ for conservation. But
                                                                ➜ Some crop species are simply unknown          what will the effect of intensive agriculture
                                                                elsewhere. Fonio (Digitaria exilis) is peculiar be on the wilderness and on the
                                                                to the drier parts of the Sahel. In the         environment in general?
                                                                Caribbean, there are hot peppers (Capsicum
                                                                                                                Could genetically modified crop
                                                                species) that are adapted to the conditions
                                                                                                                varieties solve the problems of
                                                                there, and often you find more different
                                                                                                                productivity and climate change we
                                                                varieties in a single home garden in many
                                                                                                                might face in the future?
                                                                ACP countries than in a whole country
                                                                elsewhere in the world. These regions are       ➜ I do not believe that genetically
                                                                particularly rich in agricultural biodiversity. modified organisms have the capacity to
                                                                                                                solve the problems of productivity and
                                                                Should small-scale farmers in ACP               climate change on their own. Our genetic
                                                                countries be concerned about                    resources provide the basis for how we
                                                                biodiversity?                                   adapt to the effects of climate change and
                                                                ➜ In the simplest case, a farmer may grow       other global challenges. Therefore, we need
                                                                two varieties of sorghum; one in the            to ensure that these resources are being
                                                                bottom lands where it gets adequate water,      used appropriately today, and also
                                                                one at the top of the valley where it gets      conserved for tomorrow. Where will the
                                                                less water. Maybe sometimes it rains too        raw materials for modifying varieties come
                                                                much, and the lower one is washed away.         from if not from conserved agricultural
                                                                The upper one thrives. Or there may be a        biodiversity? If just a little bit of the money
                                                                drought, and the upper one fails. Replace       and commitment that currently goes into
                                                                those with a single variety that is supposed    genetic modification went into research
                                                                to be grown in both places, and the crop is     into the better use of agricultural
                                                                at risk from both floods and droughts.          biodiversity, I believe that we would be well
                                                                Having several varieties, and several crops,    on the way now to truly sustainable food
                                                                is a form of insurance policy.                  security. ■
               ı            ı

12 December 2009 ICT Update issue 52