INNOVATION

Bioversity triggers ‘Seeds for Needs’ initiative for African farmers

The ‘Seeds for Needs’ initiative helps farmers in Africa to use biodiversity to minimize climate change risks. This initiative exposes farmers to different crop varieties, increases their knowledge of different traits and strengthens their seed systems. The project uses GIS to identify accessions in genebanks suitable for farmers’ conditions and crowdsourcing gathers data from 20,000 farmers to identify what crops are growing well in any given location.

Agriculture and food security is more vulnerable than ever. Climate change is predicted to reduce agricultural production by 2% every decade until 2050, with yields of major crops declining by an average of 8% in Africa and South Asia (IPCC 2014). As extreme weather events become more frequent and unpredictable, smallholder farming communities will continue to be hardest hit.

Diversification is one way to give farmers more options in times of need. With an increased access to a diversity of crops and varieties, farmers are more likely to cope with the effects of climate change. But farmers do not always have the information or planting material to choose what diversity best suits their conditions.

How can we tap into the vast genetic diversity that exists in different countries to address farmer needs in a timely manner?

M. Ann Tutwiler, director general, Bioversity International will be presenting this innovation at GFIA Africa: 1-2 December, Durban, South Africa. For tickets visit www.gfiaafrica.com

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