Conservation and care of crop diversity by women

Photo credit: Food Tank

Women farmers in the Andes play an important role in preserving crop diversity.

Women Farmers are Guardians of Crop Diversity in the Andes

Women farmers across the world play an important role in the conservation and care of crop diversity. The maintenance of crop diversity is central to food security, nutritional diversity, health, and cultural traditions for rural communities globally. In the Andean highlands, smallholder women farmers use local knowledge and skills transmitted through generations to select and conserve seeds of traditional crop varieties. Andean women farmers protect biodiversity through their seed saving practices, sustainable agricultural practices, and unique culinary uses of different crops.

The importance of biological diversity and crop genetic resources is fundamental to sustainable agricultural production, yet biodiversity loss is quickly accelerating due to factors such as social, agricultural, and cultural change. The Global Biodiversity Outlook 4, a recent report by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity states that the “wild relatives of domestic crop species are increasingly threatened by habitat fragmentation and climate change.” In addition, factors impacting the loss of crop diversity include land use changes, off-farm migration, market integration, cultural change, and population reduction in rural communities. In the presence of the growing loss of agrobiodiversity, women farmers’ conservation efforts on farm (in situ) are essential.

The Andes are home to incredible biodiversity where farmers have selected countless varieties of native crops—such as quinoa, maize, potatoes, oca, olluco, and mashua—adapted to heterogeneous environments with varied climates, soils, geography, and altitude. For instance, although often portrayed as a superfood with vast nutritional properties, most people only consume a few commercial varieties of quinoa, and are unaware of the hundreds of quinoa landraces of different sizes, colors, flavors, and textures selected by indigenous farmers.

Women farmers perform much of the family farm work and participate in the entire agricultural cycle, with particular attention to post-harvest and food preparation activities. The women use different criteria for harvested produce, and they manage and divide these according to their family needs. For example, when women separate and classify the potatoes, they categorize which potatoes will be used for seed, for immediate meals, for storage, and for processed foods.

The case study “Women Farmers and Andean Seeds” documents how Andean women in Peru use their traditional knowledge and skills to select and conserve biodiversity.

Read the full article: Food Tank

Wild species, invaluable source of raw material for crop improvement

Photo credit: RTB-CGIAR

Solanum incamayoense – A potato wild relative growing in a greenhouse of the INTA Balcarce research station for regeneration (Credit: Ariana Digilio/INTA, Balcarce)

Scientists call for action to preserve potato wild relatives

Crop wild relatives are wild plant species that share a common ancestor with cultivated crops. They retain a level of genetic diversity that makes them an invaluable source of raw material for crop improvement. However, their availability for research purposes depends on the coverage and state of the germplasm collections maintained by genebanks.

Large numbers of wild potato species from Peru, the center of potato genetic diversity, are actually absent from these ex situ collections and should be categorized as “high priority” for further collecting, according to a new research published in PLOS ONE journal.

“Crop wild relatives have evolved under natural selection in their native range coming to be adapted to specific conditions such as high temperatures, salinity, and assorted pests and diseases,” explains Nora Castañeda-Álvarez, the lead author and scientist at CIAT’s Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) research team. “Such traits can be bred into crop plants, greatly benefiting agricultural production, but only if these germplasm resources are made available to breeders,” she adds.

The potato’s CWR are already widely used in global breeding programs, and their contribution to agriculture should only increase as breeders search for tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses and as the development of molecular tools and biotechnology makes the identification and utilization of diverse genetic materials more efficient. As agriculture faces climate change, their potential for utilization is such that the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Millennium Seed Bank of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in the UK are currently leading a project entitled “Adapting agriculture to climate change: collecting, protecting and preparing crop wild relatives.”

Read the full article: RTB-CGIAR

Forestry and SDGs

Photo credit: CIFOR

A giant Brazil nut tree in the Unamat forest, Puerto Maldonado, Madre de Dios, Peru. Brazil nuts form a crucial addition to livelihoods in parts of the Peruvian Amazon. Marco Simola/CIFOR photo

Sustainable Development Goals and forestry: Lessons from Peru



In Peru and throughout the Amazon Basin, people depend on forests for meat, fruits and seeds, medicines, palm fronds for thatch, and many other products.

Those contributions, along with their role in buffering the effects of climate change, make forests crucial for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a proposed global framework for guiding poverty reduction and ensuring a sustainable future.

“Forestry contributes to the solution of development challenges,” said Peter Holmgren, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Bogor, Indonesia. “Forests can contribute to the elimination of poverty, to food security, to prosperity in the green economy and to energy.”

The SDGs, which will come up for a vote at the UN General Assembly in September,grew out of the Rio+20 conference in Brazil in 2012.


The 17 goals aim to, among other things, eliminate poverty, hunger and inequality while supporting economic opportunity—a significant part of which is the sustainable management of the natural resources on which economic and social development depend.

Only one goal—No. 15—specifically addresses environmental issues, calling for sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainable management of forests, and a halt to land degradation and biodiversity loss.

Read the full article: CIFOR

Small-scale farming and climate change

Photo credit: CCAFS-CGIAR

Farmers learning exchange in Peru to discuss climate change and adaptation practices. Photo: Manon Koningstein (CIAT)

Why smallholder farming is crucial in new climate deal

Countries should seize the chance to shape the new global climate deal.

Following December’s climate change meeting in Lima, countries are working on identifying their national contributions to mitigation and adaptation for submission at the end of March. These will form the basis of a new climate deal to be agreed in Paris at the end of this year. But with no formal arrangement for addressing agriculture within the negotiations, we could miss a key opportunity to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while enhancing food and nutritional security.

The global food system produces about 25 per cent of GHGs, of which around half comes from food production and the rest from processing, transport, packaging and land use change to agriculture.

Climate change is already having a negative impact on agricultural production and food security, as made forcefully clear in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment.

Read the full article: CCAFS-CGIAR

Kitchen garden contour beds in the Sacred Valley Peru

Photo credit: Permaculture News

The ancient Inca also utilised contour patterning in their agriculture

Contour Beds Peru

by Adam Woodman


Contour beds are annual and/or perennial vegetable garden beds that conform to the natural pattern of the landscape. Being on contour means that the paths and beds themselves are level and follow the lay of the land. Not only does this create an attractive pattern on the landscape this technique more importantly allows us to slow, spread, and sink water into our garden beds in a similar way that swales do. This orientation also prevents erosion due to the pacifying of any surface runoff.

To create contour beds one must be able to accurately measure and peg out the contours. This can be done by a number of ways; using a laser level, a water (bunyip) level or an ‘A-frame’. Not having access to a laser level we built an A-frame out of some scrap wood and wire.

Added into the soil layer should be any organic soil amendments (compost, manure, bone meal, kelp meal, rock dust, etc.) that are needed.  -
Added into the soil layer should be any organic soil amendments (compost, manure, bone meal, kelp meal, rock dust, etc.) that are needed. –

Creating contour beds

Begin digging along the contour creating a path and mounding the soil on the lower side making the bed. Create the beds at a height of 30cm and 120-140cm in width. This width allows for one to reach the middle of the bed by without standing on the bed itself compacting the soil. The paths between the beds should be large enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow (40-60cm) for harvesting and composting, and can be dug out slightly to a depth of 20-30cm. The removed soil is used on the bed and paths filled with woodchips, sawdust or gravel. Woodchips will slowly breakdown and can later be used as compost. Water will always find level, thus for precise levelling flood the paths with water and correct their level using a shovel.

Read the full article: Permaculture News

Desertification in Peru

Photo credit: Pixabay

Oasis in Peru

Lima 2014 Blog: Peru’s Melting Glaciers, Desertification, and Deforestation

by Elizabeth Gonzalez

With 27 out of 32 climatic zones and 5 percent of the world’s freshwater, Peru is the world’s third-most vulnerable country when it comes to climate change. An unusual demographic distribution is accelerating the pace at which water and fertile soils are depleted, while also threatening the biodiversity that inhabits coastal, mountainous, and rainforest ecosystems. Though the country’s economy grew significantly in recent years, some caution that environmental issues could eclipse progress. Below are some of the critical environmental problems the South American country is facing, and steps the government is taking.

Read the full article: AS/COA

Photo credit: AS/COA -
Photo credit: AS/COA – Deforestation in Peru
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