The research project ‘Pathways to food security, poverty alleviation and livelihoods through the implementation of Farmers’ Rights to crop genetic diversity’ (DIVERSIFARM) is a multidisciplinary research project (2020–2023) carried out by the Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI), Norway, in collaboration with partners from the University of Cape Town, South Africa; Mekelle University, Ethiopia; The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT in Nepal; German Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture; and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, with support from the Research Council of Norway.
The diversity of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture is a crucial factor for the ability of farmers to adapt their food production to the effects of climate change, like rising temperatures, droughts, floods, pests and diseases. From this diversity they can identify plants which are more resilient to climate change and develop them further through selection breeding. Crop diversity enables spreading the risks of crop failure. Community seed banks and participatory plant breeding have emerged as pathways to improving locally adapted crops and maximizing the benefits for food security and innovative means of income in developing countries. More knowledge is needed to understand their conditions for success and for scaling out best practices.
However, Farmers' Rights to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed are under increasing pressure worldwide through legislation related to seed and intellectual property rights. The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture provides for the realization of Farmers' Rights. This is of great importance for food security and livelihoods among small-scale farmers. As the issue is beset with interest conflicts, more knowledge is needed to guide the implementation of Farmers' Rights.
DIVERSIFARM is addressing these knowledge needs. The project will provide knowledge on agrobiodiversity-based pathways to food security, poverty alleviation and livelihoods among small-scale farmers in developing countries exposed to fragile environments due to rapid climate change, with emphasis on:
- Options and barriers for the implementation of farmers' rights, as set out in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture;
- The extent to which national policies implement farmers' rights and enable agrobiodiversity-based pathways to food security, poverty alleviation and livelihoods (case studies in Nepal, Malawi and Ethiopia);
- Models of local agrobiodiversity-based pathways to food security, poverty alleviation and livelihoods (focus: community seed banks and participatory plant breeding);
- Conditions – across scales – under which such models succeed in achieving food security, poverty alleviation, and livelihoods among small-scale farmers in developing countries, exposed to fragile environments due to rapid climate change.
DIVERSIFARM is carried out in collaboration with partners from University of Cape Town in South Africa, Mekelle University in Ethiopia, The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT in Nepal, German Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture and Norwegian University of Life Science.
- Regine Andersen (Dr. Polit), Research Director and Research Professor, Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Norway (Project Leader).
- Rachel Wynberg (PhD), Bio-Economy Chair and Professor, Department of Enviromental and Geographical Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa.
- Fetien Abay (PhD), Professor and Vice President for Research and Community Services, Mekelle University, Ethiopia.
- Devendra Gauchan (PhD), National Programme Manager, The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.
- Anja Christink (Dr.sc.agr.), German Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture, (Dr. Christink passed away in August 2022 and is deeply missed)
- Ola Westengen (PhD), Associate Professor, Department of International Enviromental and Development Studies (Noragric), Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU).
- Viviana Meixner Vásquez, Researcher, Fridtjof Nansen Institute
- Christian Prip, Senior Research Fellow, Fridtjof Nansen Institute
A multi-stakeholder reference group has been established for the project and consists of representatives of central stakeholder groups.
An evolving list of products from DIVERSIFARM can be found here.
Text: Regine Andersen