Magazine "Science" features CIAT research on wild crops and genebanks
Magazine “Science” features CIAT research on wild crops and genebanks
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Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT
Many of the wild plants that will be the building blocks for future global food supply are missing from the world’s genebanks, according to new research by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in coordination with the Global Crop Diversity Trust (Crop Trust) and the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG), Kew. The research is also related to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).
These so-called crop wild relatives (CWR) are distant cousins of well-known food crops like rice, potato maize and wheat. The scientists found that although they are widely recognized as one of the most important resources available to plant breeders in the fight against climate change, many have not been collected and conserved in genebanks.
This means that breeders are unable to use them. In addition, many of their habitats are under threat from urbanization, pollution, deforestation, climate change and war.
“Our findings capture which critical regions around the world hold the wild diversity we need for the stability of global agriculture,” says study co-author Colin Khoury, a crop diversity specialist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Cali, Colombia. Even though crop species have been moved all over the world, he says the historic home ranges of many crops are still relevant because wild relatives persist there.
Some of these crop diversity hot spots include the Mediterranean, Near East, Asia, and southern Europe, the researchers found. And plants in these regions are facing growing threats, ranging from dramatic land-use change to civil unrest. “It’s a race against time to collect in areas that are war-torn, or subject to deforestation or rapid development,” says study co-author Nora Castañeda-Álvarez, a postdoc at CIAT.
5Capitals-Gender: a tool for monitoring and learning on gender responsive value- chain development and related asset building at household and enterprise levels with a gender lens
This project brings together four CGIAR centres (Bioversity, CIAT, CIP, ICRAF) to develop innovative ways to include gender into tools for the design and assessment of interventions for value chain development (VCD), and to improve the business skills of smallholders and the managers of their farmers’ organizations. It focuses on three core tools for VCD: 1) Participatory Market Chain Analysis (PMCA by CIP), 2) A guide on inclusive business models involving smallholders (LINK by CIAT), and 3) a tool for assessing the poverty impacts of value chain development (5Capitals by ICRAF and Bioversity).
The main objective is creating a synergetic framework for tool enhancement and action-learning around the value chain tools, with the aim to strengthen gender responsiveness and allow for business skills development at both farmer and farmers’ organization level. Towards this end, Communities of Practice (CoP) will be initiated in LAC and Africa, with a link to the emerging value-chain hubs in South America and West and East Africa.
The four CGIAR centres will engage with partners from public and private sector and civil society for: 1) tool enhancement from a gender and business skills perspective, 2) tool validation, 3) initial scaling, and 4) measuring of gender-disaggregated first level outcomes. Principal outputs include a database for comparative analyses across different value chain configurations and diverse forms of smallholder participation in them; CoP members trained in cutting-edge value-chains tools and with increased insight on gender-differentiated outcomes of their VC interventions; farmer’s organizations with increased business skills; and cross-cutting studies on ways to improve value chain interventions.
As principal outcomes we expect VC researchers using their improved methodological skills for more impactful VC research, and VC service providers to continuously improve their value chain interventions to achieve higher gender-equitable impact on smallholder livelihood resilience, and improved performance of smallholder businesses.
REPROCROP: Understanding local perceptions of tree crop reproduction
Understanding the knowledge and practices of the local women and men who manage tree crops is crucial. It helps to assess the dynamics of crop evolution, to better support the farmers and, when feasible, to orientate dynamics towards a more efficient conservation of tree genetic resources.
Traditional, gendered knowledge of farmers regarding the breeding and reproductive systems of their tree crops are insufficiently assessed at the global level. The interest of further studying the perception of farmers on this topic was first underlined by a group of researchers working in the framework of the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT). Preliminary interviews focused on coconut were conducted in 2012 in French Polynesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka. A working hypothesis was that the ways farmers perceive the reproduction patterns of their crops influences their practices in terms of management and conservation of genetic resources.
In French Polynesia, farmers categorize coconuts (i.e . dry drupes) and coconut palms as ‘female’ and ‘male’ according to four distinct classification systems. One female/male descriptive grouping is linked to the shape of the fruits; two more groupings are linked to the way fruits germinate; and the last one is linked to the general appearance of the palm. ‘Females’ are always preferred to ‘males’ as planting material (see full report).
From the modern scientific point of view, coconut inflorescences all include both male and female flowers, but more than 80% of the interviewed farmers did not know this. Although the farmers’ representation does not fit the modern scientific knowledge, there are good reasons to believe that their classifications are useful from a pragmatic point of view and serve them to efficiently select and breed their coconut palms. The coconut palm has an intermediate reproductive system. Most of the fruits result from the crossing of two coconut palms but some come from self-pollination of the mother palm and, as there is an inbreeding depression, the resulting coconut palms produce 20 to 30% less than average.
By selecting ‘female’ seedlings, Polynesians may remove those originating from self-pollination. Given the differences between local and modern scientific knowledge, imposing without care the scientific approach may have a negative effect on farmer’s traditional practices.
The pertinence of expanding the study to understand gendered traditional knowledge related to other (tree and non-tree) crops was quickly evident. In early 2015, additional structured interviews focused on local knowledge about the reproduction of coconut palm, cocoa, oil palm, banana and cassava were conducted with 147 women and 157 men in 17 villages or clusters, in three regions of Ivory Coast.
Overall, 40% of farmers claimed not to know how plants reproduce or referred only to God in their responses. Others (19%) connected plant reproduction to climatic or natural phenomena, such as rain, sun, and rich soils. Twenty two percent of farmers described reproduction mechanisms in ways paralleling scientific explanations. Yet, in 14% of these cases, although farmers were aware of the scientific explanation, they did not believe it to be accurate. Eleven percent thought that reproduction occurred through underground interactions between the roots and the soil, or by contact between the roots of neighbouring trees.
Responses show strong differences by gender, ethnic groups, age and region. For instance, women (27%) and young people (26%) more often referred to natural forces than did men (12%) and older participants (16%), whose explanation more closely approached the modern scientific understanding of plant reproduction. Among the five crops studied, descriptions were closest to the scientific explanation for cocoa (32%) and coconut palm (26%).
Interviewed farmers belong to 25 different ethnic groups. Unlike what was observed in Polynesia, the case of Ivory Coast shows no well-established, shared traditional knowledge on plant reproduction.The diversity and heterogeneity of their responses may be a sign of a society that is both very diverse and in rapid mutation.
The REPROCROP project is funded by the Agropolis Foundation and implemented by CIRAD (AGAP and INNOVATION research units), the LAASSE Laboratory of FHB University, ALP and IGDP NGOs, in partnership with Bioversity International and the HISOMA laboratory (France). CNRA and ANADER kindly provided planting material (coconut and cassava) for distribution to farmers.
CIFOR Gender Research on REDD+ is informing policy and advocacy in Indonesia and Vietnam
CIFOR’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+ (GCS), REDD+ Benefit Sharing team and CIFOR Gender Integration Team organized a Knowledge Sharing event with the Ministry of Women Empowerment and the Gender Task Force of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MOEF) of the Government of Indonesia. The event came about as the result of previous events and meetings where the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection expressed their interest in collaborating with CIFOR to use the center’s expertise in the forestry sector and particularly REDD+.
As a result of the meeting, the GCS and Benefit Sharing teams prepare an info brief focusing on “Indicators for Mainstreaming Gender into REDD+: Lessons Learnt for Indonesia”. This brief will draw on global reviews as well as CIFOR’s existing body of work on gender and forestry in Indonesia. The team will collaborate with the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection and Gender Task Force of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MOEF) in the study.
This strategic engagement has led to other opportunities for CIFOR to leverage their involvement in informing the policy making process. CIFOR has recently been requested by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MOEF) and the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection to prepare a fact sheet about gender mainstreaming in Indonesia and REDD+. The fact sheet aims to inform the MOEF Directorate General of Climate Change and Ministry of Foreign Affairs who will lead the negotiation during COP 21 in Paris.
For more information, contact Cynthia Dewi Maharani at C.Maharani@cgiar.org, or Shintia Dian Arwida at S.Arwida@cgiar.org
Since 2011 research on women participation in PES and REDD+ has been conducted in Vietnam aiming to assess the extent to which gender issues are addressed in national forestry, PES, REDD+ program policies and strategies, and the level of women’s participation in decision-making in REDD.
Over these 4 years, the research findings have been presented in a number of national and international venues and to key policy and advocacy boundary partners such as the national Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the National REDD+ sub-technical working group on Forest governance and safeguards, which provides policy recommendations for the national REDD+ programme in Vietnam, the ISEE 2012 Conference and Rio+20, the Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC) and the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice. The Foundation invited the CIFOR team to contribute to their own work and featured the study on their website (http://www.mrfcj.org/resources/womens-participation-an-enabler-of-climate-justice-2/)
The findings and recommendations from the research informed the national guidelines for gender mainstreaming for national PES policies, and have been incorporated in the UN-REDD planning in Vietnam and the UN-REDD guidelines on “The Business Case for Mainstreaming Gender in REDD+.”
For more information, contact Thu Thuy Pham at T.Pham@cgiar.org
For a list of all of CIFOR’s gender-related projects, please click here
Study on Gender, Agriculture and Climate Change in Nicaragua
From August to October, CIAT and the Foundation for Technological Development in Agriculture, Livestock and Forestry in Nicaragua (FUNICA) implemented a study on gender, agriculture and climate change. The purpose of the study was to collect sex-disaggregated data related to agricultural and agroforestry activities, decision-making, climate information, risk perception, and values in rural households.
An intra-household survey was used to collect information on household characteristics, farm production, decision-making processes, adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices (CSA) and access to agro-climatic information services from both men and women respondents.
A part of the survey sought to identify trends in men’s and women’s forest and tree uses to support the development of gender-sensitive CSA practices. The information will be used by researchers, policymakers, and development practitioners in order to understand better men’s and women’s vulnerabilities to climate change, how they differ, and what actions can be taken to reduce these vulnerabilities.
The study took place in one of the CCAFS sites within the Nicaragua-Honduras Sentinel Landscape in Tuma La Dalia, Nicaragua. From 271 households, a total of 493 surveys were carried out with adult men and women who identified themselves as household members who were primarily responsible for agricultural decision-making.
Data is being processed and cleaned, and results will be reported in the upcoming months.
Silvopastoral systems in Latin America: Mitigation opportunities for men and women livestock producers
The gender research group at CIAT has been involved in providing initial gender recommendations for the development of the cattle NAMAs for Colombia and Costa Rica, as part of a four-year project that began this year, in partnership with CATIE, ICRAF, and the Ministries of Agriculture of Costa Rica and of Colombia. Men and women participate critically but in different ways in dairy, beef, and dual production systems in Latin America, and consideration of their interests and priorities will be key for ensuring effective implementation of cattle sector mitigation actions, like those related to silvopastoral systems. To this end, the gender research group at CIAT has been developing a policy brief on the potential gender impacts of mitigation actions related to silvopastoral systems, a practice highlighted in the NAMAs in development in Costa Rica and Colombia. The brief will be finalized later this month and be presented at the Gender Pavilion at the Global Landscapes Forum in Paris in December.
Demand for cassava in Asia is on the rise. As wet or dry starch, it’s in everything from noodles to pharmaceutical products, and has a growing niche in gluten-free and low fat foods. In Cambodia, this is a massive opportunity for smallholder farmers, who depend on income from the crop to support their livelihoods. But cassava intensification could have dramatic environmental costs if it’s not managed properly. And farmers face mounting challenges in cultivating cassava profitably: from a swathe of emerging pests and diseases devastating harvests to declining soil fertility, climate shocks and volatile market prices. Read more here
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As world leaders, environmental activists, scientists, and others gather for the more than 120 events taking place during Climate Week NYC (22-28 September), CIAT is there, adding its voice to the call for action on climate change.