The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security has prepared syntheses papers on two of the topics related to agriculture that are being considered by UNFCCC’s Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) in 2016. The topics have incredibly unwieldy and confusing titles. They boil down, I think, to agricultural practices, technologies and institutions to enhance productivity and resilience sustainably, but you can read all the subordinate clauses in the CCAFS blog post which announces the publication of their reports.
Of course, what we want to know here is whether crop diversity is adequately highlighted among the said practices, technologies and institutions. The answer is, as ever, kinda sorta. The following is from the info note associated with the first paper, “Agricultural practices and technologies to enhance food security, resilience and productivity in a sustainable manner: Messages to the SBSTA 44 agriculture workshops.”
Crop-specific innovations complement other practices that aim to improve crop production under climate change, e.g. soil management, agroforestry, and water management. Crop-specific innovations include breeding of more resilient crop varieties, diversification and intensification.
Examples include the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa initiative, disease- and heat-resistant chickpea varieties in India, improved Brachiaria in Brazil, hardy crossbreeds of native sheep and goats in Kenya, as well as changes in the crops being grown, such as moves from potato into organic quinoa, milk and cheese, trout, and vegetables in the Peruvian highlands.
The other paper, “Adaptation measures in agricultural systems: Messages to the SBSTA 44 Agriculture Workshops,” focuses on structures, processes and institutions. I particularly liked the emphasis on the importance on indigenous knowledge and extension systems. But why no mention of genebanks? Especially as Bioversity’s Seeds of Needs Project was nicely featured as a case study in the first paper. Here, after all is a concrete example of institutions — national and international genebanks — linking up to farmers to deliver crop diversity in the service of adaptation.