Biodiversity, agriculture, and livelihoods: Co-evolution and competition in an Andean-Amazonian watershed

Lead Research Organisation: International Potato Center
Department Name: Grants and Contracts

Abstract

Agriculture, ecosystems, and humans have co-evolved over millennia in the Andean-Amazonian region, creating the richest of all Vavilov centers of crop origin and diversity. The conservation of a wide range of domesticated crops and landraces (i.e., indigenous, ancestral varieties or cultivars that are distinct, uniform, and stable) and their co-evolution with crop wild relatives (CRW) has been essential for food security, adaptation to environmental change, and the ongoing dynamic evolution of crop genetic resources. Novel agrobiodiversity also has the potential to be incorporated into niche markets, raising income and reducing poverty. Yet complex processes at the heart of the interface of biodiversity management are still little understood. How do CWR - crop interactions affect the emergence and selection of new landraces? What is the relationship between land use and agrobiodiversity loss, or that between agrobiodiversity and environmental and sociocultural resilience? Of all environmental services, the provision of useful genes for human food systems eventually comes from the interaction between ecosystems containing CWR, crops, and the adaptive management of these natural assets by smallholder farmers. There is also competition and conflict between agriculture and biodiversity. As pointed out in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005), the expansion of agriculture continues to be a major driver of biodiversity loss, and genetic diversity among domesticated species has declined. How do these tendencies affect crop-human-CWR interactions in an Andean-Amazonian environment where indigenous smallholder farmers still cultivate a wide range of underutilized species and hundreds of landraces? Can dynamic in-situ conservation offer a balance between resilient ecosystems and resilient livelihoods? Our proposal centers on the Biodiversity theme in two geographic areas: the main, tri-country area of Peru, Bolivia, Brazil Andean-Amazonian watershed and the spillover area of Sub-Saharan Africa for the testing of research principles. We envisage several potential outputs, outcomes, and impacts that are consistent with the ESPA programme's focus on ecosystem services and that merit funding for full scale-up of the proposed project. Potential outputs 1. Accurate knowledge of agrobiodiversity ecosystem services and evidence of ongoing evolution (new genes and food species) 2. Knowledge of environmental trade-offs between agriculture, livelihoods, and biodiversity 3. Evidence of the resilience provided by the dynamic in-situ conservation of crop genetic diversity in light of environmental change 4. Options for poverty alleviation through novel approaches (benefit sharing and market linkages) 5. Identification of alternative (agro)ecosystem management options in centers of crop origin 6. Policy-relevant research results made available for and tailored to different policy actors Potential Outcomes 1. Increased benefits obtained from ecosystem services by local low-income populations through: * Material provisioning--of genes, food, fuel, and medicine * Cultural provisioning--of spiritual values, cuisine, identity, and empowerment * Regulating--of yield stability and resilience 2. Results of trade-off modeling and biosocial assessment of conservation strategies used to optimize the economic use of biodiversity whilst mitigating the effects of environmental change 3. Economic and social exchanges of products within and beyond the watershed intensified, with fair trade and value-added strategies adopted by value-chain actors 4. Macrolevel ecosystem management strategies adopted, involving integrated Andean-Amazon approaches and benefit-sharing agreements with local communities 5. National policy frameworks developed involving dynamic ex-situ/in-situ conservation approaches, including support for diversified uses and marketing of indigenous species and landraces

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