Hot off the press- The Global Alliance for Food and Agriculture released a groundbreaking report titled: “Seeds of Resilience: A Compendium of Perspectives on Agricultural Biodiversity from Around the World.”

“Robust seed systems are the foundation of sustainable, equitable, and secure food systems and that maintaining and enhancing agricultural biodiversity is critical in light of global challenges such as climate change, and food and nutrition security”, the new report convincingly states. To date, a lot of the research has focused on highlighting the alarming rate of our agricultural biodiversity loss. Indeed, the report reminds us that “hundreds of thousands of farmers’ heterogeneous plant varieties and landscapes that existed for generations in farmers’ fields have been substituted by a small number of modern and highly uniform commercial varieties in the past 70 years. For instance, today, a mere four plant species (potatoes, rice, maize and wheat) and three animal species (cattle, swine and chickens) provide more than half of our food supply”. This has been well documented.

For instance, today, a mere four plant species (potatoes, rice, maize and wheat) and three animal species (cattle, swine and chickens) provide more than half of our food supply.

Yet, what has been missing so far is a road to get there, to bring back agricultural diversity. And this is where this report makes an important contribution. In the first section of the report, agricultural biodiversity experts Emile Frison, a member of the International Panel of Experts of Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), and Toby Hodgkin from Bioversity International, outline the value of seed diversity and its maintenance, discuss challenges to preservation, and, more importantly, propose concrete action steps and pathways forward.

The second section of the report includes twelve insightful commentaries world-renown experts- including farmers, indigenous leaders, community activists, business representatives, researchers, and scientists- on ways to preserve diverse seed systems. Commentaries also feature existing and innovative on the ground initiatives, such as the traditional seed systems and on-farm agrobiodiversity management work done by USC Canada and by the Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmer Forum (ZSOFF).

What comes out clearly from the report is that farmers around the world have a crucial role in preserving agrobiodiversity. “Farmers preserve but they also develop…preservation is far from a curator function”, highlights Pat Mooney from ETC Group in his commentary.

It’s therefore evident  for the authors of the report that farmers should play a crucial role in policymaking conversations about preserving seed biodiversity.

But how do we do that? The report suggests that there’s an urgent need for a shift towards supporting community based and farmer managed seed systems as well as for a reorientation towards flexible and participatory seed legislation.

“Seeds are the first link in the food chain and the repository of life’s future evolution.”, reminds us contributor Nelson Mudzingwa, farmer and national coordinator of the (ZSOFF). “As such, it is our inherent duty and responsibility to protect them and to pass them on to future generations…for biodiversity and cultural diversity mutually shape one another.”

The Compendium is a must read for anyone interested in protecting and preserving seed diversity.

Want to dig deeper?

  • Read the full report (70 pages)
  • Read the synthesis (29 pages).
  • Read the 10 key messages (see image)10-key-messages