Local farmers are key to saving world's seed diversity

As the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's Seventh Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture meets in Kigali, Rwanda (30 October to 3 November), IIED director Andrew Norton and Alejandro Argumedo, coordinator of the International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples (INMIP), said:
Press release, 30 October 2017

"This meeting is a crucial opportunity for governments to ensure local farmers are actively involved at the highest levels in protecting seed varieties. 

"Alarmingly, world hunger is on the rise due to climate change and conflict. Food security is being put at further risk by the loss of plant genetic resources due to the spread of mono-cropping.    

"Local and indigenous farmers are pivotal to the survival of seed diversity, but too often they are excluded from important decisions and action. To be effective in conserving genetic diversity in the field, governments and UN agencies need to channel more agriculture funds to smallholder and indigenous farmer organisations – not just to seed banks and scientific bodies.   

"Action also needs to be taken to make sure local farmers have control over access to seeds and to protect their rights. Delegates need to agree measures that will strengthen farmers' rights by supporting community-managed landscapes, particularly in areas with high bio-cultural diversity – such as in Peru's Potato Park and China's Stone Village. This is key to putting the FAO treaty's objectives and provisions on farmers' rights into action."


For more information, contact IIED head of media Beth Herzfeld (beth.herzfeld@iied.org) on +44 (0)7557 658 482.

Notes to editors

  • The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was adopted in 2001. Its objectives are the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from their use. Article 9 on Farmers' Rights recognises the enormous contribution of local and indigenous communities and farmers to the conservation and development of plant genetic resources. It gives governments the responsibility for implementing Farmers' Rights, including: the protection of traditional knowledge relevant to plant genetic resources; the right to equitably participate in sharing benefits arising from genetic resource use; the right to participate in making decisions, at the national level, on matters related to the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture; and the rights of farmers to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed/propagating material.
  • For further information see: 'Biocultural heritage territories', 'Resilient biocultural heritage landscapes for sustainable mountain development: fourth horizontal learning exchange, International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples (INMIP)'; and 'SDG2: achieving food security, sustainability and resilience using genetic diversity and indigenous knowledge'
  • Peru's Potato Park is a 9,600-hectare biocultural heritage territory in the high Andes, which is managed by six Quechua communities according to customary laws. Since it was formally established in 2002, it has doubled potato diversity to nearly 1,400 different varieties (or 650 varieties according to scientific classification), nearly doubling incomes and increasing potato productivity despite severe climate change impacts
  • The Stone Village is in Yunnan, China. The area is rich in crop diversity where 13 Naxi communities are working to establish a collectively managed biocultural landscape to conserve and enhance seed diversity for local and global food security, based on the successful Potato Park model. For more information, see www.bioculturalheritage.org
  • The International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples (INMIP) is an indigenous-led network with 26 community members spanning 11 countries: Bhutan, China, India, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Taiwan, Tajikistan and Thailand. It was established in Bhutan in 2014, and seeks to enhance the capacity of indigenous communities to conserve genetic diversity in centres of crop diversity and domestication, by strengthening biocultural heritage and linking indigenous knowledge and science. For more information, see www.inmip.net

For more information or to request an interview, contact Simon Cullen: 
+44 7503 643332 or simon.cullen@iied.org