Another report from FA0 says that 20 percent of the world’s livestock breeds are at risk. And the culprits are those we’ve come to know and love; intensification, globalization, modernization. So what’s new? They may be planning to do something about it, that’s what. The report is part of a process leading up to the first International Technical Conference on Animal Genetic Resources, to be hosted by the Government of Switzerland, in Interlaken in September 2007. Anyone out there want to keep an eye specifically on that topic?
FAO has just published the conclusions of a workshop on seed relief systems held in May 2003. Why note that, apart from to poke fun at the delay? Because one of the most important conclusions to emerge from the best studies of emergency seed relief is that local informal markets, often focussed on locally important varieties, are often the best sources of seed that will not interfere with local agricultural biodiversity.
We arrived in Nairobi a couple of days back and are still jet-lagged and trying to settle in. I’m writing this in a back alley cybercafe as it will take some time to get online in the apartment we are renting, I suspect. Anyway, in the Daily Nation this morning there was an article on the possible establishment of a potato genebank and breeding programme by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute. It doesn’t seem to be online yet, but I will link to it as soon as it appears in cyberspace, as there’s a lot of interesting information on the history of potatoes in Kenya.
Given the amount of land occupied by farmers and farming, you might be forgiven for thinking that ecologists would at least pay it more than lip service. But no. A press release from Brown University in the US announces the establishment of the first secretariat for the International Long Term Ecological Research (ILTER) network. It explains the vital importance of long term studies in ecology, to determine trends that may well be invisible over shorter periods. And it explains the various ways in which ecosystems change over time. But does it mention agriculture or changes in agricultural biodiversity? Of course not.
I think WWF came up with a really powerful idea with their “climate witnesses.” These are ordinary people around the world who WWF has asked to act as spokespeople, a kind of warning system for climate change, and advocates for action. One is an old Kikuyu cattle-keeper, who spoke up at the recent climate change conference in Nairobi about the changes he has been experiencing. Makes me wonder if we in the agrobiodiversity community could link up with WWF and use this existing network to highlight specifically how climate change is affecting crops and crop wild relatives. Or do we perhaps need “genetic erosion witnesses” of our own?