EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: Biodiversity as a Solution for Sustainable Agriculture

EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: Biodiversity as a Solution for Sustainable Agriculture

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - 2:30pm

CAMPAIGN: Climate and Energy

CONTENT: Article

By Fred Pearce |  13 September  2013

Conservationists must find common ground with farmers, if they are to achieve their goals of stemming biodiversity loss, says Braulio Dias, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

“In the past we have given most of our attention to the traditional conservation strategy of protected areas.  But that won’t work on its own.  More and more, we at the Convention are highlighting biodiversity as part of the solution to agricultural problems, rather than an impediment to economic development.”

What’s in it for farmers?  Plenty, says Dias.  Agriculture needs the natural environment to prosper.  It can only thrive in landscapes that protect water supplies, conserve soils, contain insects that provide pollination and biocontrol, and are resilient in the face of climate change.

Conservationists need to do more to recognise and meet those needs.  “For instance, we must pay more attention to the protection of wild-crop relatives,” he says, “and on helping farmers reduce their use of agrochemicals, manage water better and diversify their agricultural systems.”

Protecting on-farm genetic diversities of crops and livestock is vital for both camps, he says.  It is all very well having seeds from local land races sitting in seed banks, “but those seeds are frozen; they are not adapting to new conditions, such as changing climate. On-farm conservation is best.”

Many outsiders have written off the CBD as a failure.  A major assessment in 2010 found that it had failed to fully meet its main target of slowing the rate of biodiversity loss.  But its relaunch through the current Strategic Plan on Biodiversity for 2011 – 2020 and the Decade of Biodiversity aims to change that, partly by adopting new goals known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, which include integrating biodiversity conservation into national development strategies.

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