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Rio+20 & Underutilized Species Trends, progress and future needs . Stefano Padulosi Bioversity International . International Consultation: “20 Years of Rio: Biodiversity, Development, Livelihoods ” M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, February 15-17, 2012. Objective

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Rio+20 & Underutilized Species

Trends, progress and future needs

Stefano Padulosi

Bioversity International

International Consultation: “20 Years of Rio: Biodiversity, Development, Livelihoods”M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, February 15-17, 2012

  • Reflections on progress on relevant Rio Declaration Principles under the lenses of the sustainable conservation and use of neglected and underutilized species (NUS)












Once pillar ofsustainability, nowthousandsofspecieshavebecomeirrelevant in mainstreamAgriculture…


Neglected and Underutilized Species from past popularity…
  • Nutritional value appreciated by people
  • Hardiness, good adaptability, versatility in use
  • Rich associated food culture and traditions
slide6 current decline!
  • Poor economic competitiveness with comm. crops
  • Lack of improved vars/ enhanced cultivation practices
  • Drudgery in value addition
  • Disorganized or non-existent market chains
  • Perception of being “food of the poor”
‘The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations’

Principle 3. The Right to development

  • Argument: NUS are part of large biodiversity portfolio that is until today poorly addressed by R&D. Opportunities for better nutrition, health, incomes and ecosystem health are being missed, undermining those instruments that would allow the realization of this very principle.
  • Action: international community to give greater recognition to the strategic development role of NUS and lend more support to their use enhancement through a biodiversity-based ever Green revolution.
Example: wealth of species that can be strategic allies in sustainable development

Kenya: 800 food species

Ghana: 2,500 useful

Mediterranean: 137 vegetables

China: 5,000 medicinal

North America: 1,112 edible

India: 2,500 medicinal


800 fruit trees

Sahel: 800 edible

Swaziland: 200 edible


168 home gardens

The special situation and needs of developing countries, particularly the least developed and those most environmentally vulnerable, shall be given special priority. International actions in the field of environment and development should also address the interests and needs of all countries.

Principle 6. Priority for the Least Developed

  • Argument: biodiversity and especially NUS are strategic for the least developed and vulnerable countries/people. The implementation of this principle has not been taken this dimension into due consideration, continuing to focus on commodity crops only. Global commodities are not the only solution for agricultural development.
  • Action: Agricultural development needs a paradigm shift to include crops and species that provide multiple advantages to least developed countries.
Example: Cañihua(Chenopodiumpallidicaule): importantsource of resistancetofrostforAndeancountries
  • only 20 landraces of cañihua left out of 200
  • 85 % farmers planting same landrace
States should cooperate to strengthen endogenous capacity-building for sustainable development by improving scientific understanding through exchanges of scientific and technological knowledge, and by enhancing the development, adaptation, diffusion and transfer of technologies, including new and innovative technologies.

Principle 9. Capacity Building for Sustainable Development

  • Argument: largest gap in research exist with regard to NUS research. Very little has been done towards consistent approach to implement principle as applied to these species.
  • Action: Capacity building is needed at all levels, from the community to University levels.
Greaterefficiency in de-saponification (from 1-4 hrs tojust 7 minutes!)

Bolivia: drudgery in processing quinoa

In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

Principle 15. Precautionary principle

  • Argument: NUS are important part of the agro-ecosystem. Their loss affects millions of farmers who are pushed to abandon them because of low economic competitiveness. This condition affects the agro-ecosystem whose resilience is reduced but it does impact also nutrition security and other livelihood aspects.
  • Action: Major initiatives to support monitoring, conservation of NUS both in situ and ex situ methods are needed in order to prevent losses to take place.
National Geographic 2011

Study conducted in 1983 by the Rural Advancement Foundation International gave a clue to the scope of the problem. It compared USDA listings of seed varieties sold by commercial U.S. seed houses in 1903 with those in the U.S. National Seed Storage Laboratory in 1983. The survey, which included 66 crops, found that about 93 percent of the varieties had gone extinct..

Ex situ conservation: NUS largely under-represented in the world’ s 1740 gene banks (ca 15-20% of 7.4 mil acc.)

>80 %of all non-major crop species conserved in ex situ collections (ca 5000/6000) are on average represented by less than 10 accessions..

Genetic erosion of NUS: minor millets

Map of little millet in Kolli Hills: severe genetic erosion taking place in spite of appreciation by people of nutritional and cultural values

Participatory Monitoring & Red Lists for cultivated species
  • IFAD-CCAFS funded Project launched in 2011 to develop methodology for community-based agrobiodiversity documentation and monitoring
Urgent Questions to Answer:
  • What is going on “on farm”?
  • How much genetic diversity are we losing?
  • How much of knowledge, culture, traditions is being lost?
  • What impacts all of this is having on people’ livelihood?
Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieve sustainable development.

Principle 20. Women have a Vital Role

  • Argument: The role of women for the sustainable conservation and use of agrobiodiversity/ NUS until now has not been adequately recognized, valorized and supported.
  • Action: much more is needed to support such role, including development of enabling policies.
NUS: amplescopeforcontributingtowardstheempowerment of women

IFAD-NUS Capacity Building Training on Value Addition at Home Sciences College, UAS, Bangalore

Indigenous people and their communities and other local communities have a vital role in environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices. States should recognize and duly support their identity, culture and interests and enable their effective participation in the achievement of sustainable development.

Principle 22. Indigenous Peoples have a Vital Role

  • Argument: with regard to NUS such as role is essential. Although recognition has emerged, this must be followed by concrete interventions to mobilize precious knowledge and practices for sustainable community development. NUS are disappearing and so is also the unique wealth of culture associated to them.
  • Action: need to rescue, document, valorize IK and practices.
Example: relevance of IK for agrobiodiversity

Bioversity’s descriptor list for date palm (above) and the one (left) developed by Mr Ben Said in Arabic and in his local language (“Tamazight”): precious documentation of classification of date palm diversity by farmersin North Africa.

SafeguardingtheIndigenousKnowledgeassociatedto target crops
  • Wthregardto NUS thisishighlystrategicto:
  • Valorization/ use enhancement
  • Reintroduction of diversity
  • Selfesteem/ identity
  • Agri-tourismefforts

1992 Rio Declaration: several Principles relevant to use enhancement of NUS to support sustainable development, particularly in least developed areas

Change of paradigm: shifting to one-size-fits-all approach to a diversity of solutions tailored to local conditions- NUS are part of this new paradigm needed

NUS for the future: recommending special mention of NUS in our renovated commitment to Rio+

Capacity building: from communities to Universities

Role of women: NUS instruments of empowerment

Policy change: need for enabling policies