Agenda Item 7.1 & 7.2: Report of Working Group and Global Plan of Action on PGRFA: On-farm Conservation of Farmers’ Varieties
3 May 2013
Intervention by Faris Ahmed, USC Canada (on behalf of Practical Action)
Thank you Chair,
We welcome the report of the Sixth Session of the Working Group (ITWG PGRFA 6), and the recommendations. We particularly welcome paragraph 16 in document CGRFA-14/13/20 , and Section Roman ii of document CGRFA-14/13/21 , which describe the recognition given by the Working Group to the importance of, and need for, on-farm management and conservation of PGRFA, as well as the critical need for knowledge sharing and networks, at the national and especially the community level.
The best strategy to do this, we suggest, is to go the centre of the action – which is the farmers’ fields. In other words, to strengthen the farmer organizations that are working to select, breed, and nurture a wide range of plant crops and their wild relatives on-farm. In doing so, they are not only maintaining biological diversity but actually increasing it.
Farmers are breeding these varieties in their own research teams, using participatory breeding and varietal selection methodologies, based on their own knowledge and criteria. As I described yesterday, Chair, farmers in Honduras have successfully bred more than 150 varieties of beans, and farmer researchers in Ethiopia have bred more than 60 varieties of sorghum, based on such criteria as – the ability to withstand changing climate, soil and growing conditions, higher nutrition content, cultural value, and of course higher yields. Seeds are conserved in seed and gene banks that are managed by farmers’ communities, and shared widely at the village and community level, allowing the community to retain control and access to genetic materials, and keeping seeds in farmers’ hands.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair, on-farm conservation is critical to PGRFA, as it addresses the issues at the heart of the Commission, the Treaty, and the Convention on Biological Diversity – namely conservation, sustainable use, and equity. We should dedicate every possible resource to strengthening the work of those who are leading this effort – namely, small-scale farmer organizations.
Finally, Chair, we look forward to the development of the concept note containing details of the global network for in situ and on-farm management of PGRFA to strengthen national and regional networks – as mentioned in the guidance sought.