May 22, 2016 marks the International Day for Biological Diversity (May 22, 2016). A great way to celebrate it is by thanking the millions of family farmers around the world protect the agricultural diversity that feeds us!

Indeed, for family farmers, especially ecological farmers, maintaining biodiversity is an essential strategy. Biodiversity helps to keep farms resilient to climatic and other shocks by improving water retention, increasing crop diversity, improving pollination, ensuring clean water and ensuring healthy soils that absorb carbon. In addition, diversity on farms tends to lead to diverse diets, a prerequisite for food and nutrition security.

For thousands of years, farmers (and especially women) have been the custodians of the world’s biodiversity through saving, using, exchanging and selling seed and propagating material. Family farmers around the world have been freely sharing their seeds with each other and with the international community. For instance, out of 7000 food crops that can be found in genebanks worldwide, farmers are the sole breeders of at least 6800. The seed industry contributes a tiny fraction of the resources.

Yet, although at the core of many international agreements and processes, such as the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), the following Farmers’ Rights are not advancing quickly enough and are increasingly impeded on by new seed laws and trade agreements:

FARMER’S RIGHT TO:

  • Freely used, exchange, and save seeds;
  • Participate in decision making and in fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of plant genetic resources;
  • Protect traditional knowledge relevant to these plant genetic resources.

To learn more about Farmers’ Rights, how we can better protect them (and hence better protect biodiversity) and what’s all the fuss about access and benefit sharing of genetic resources for and by family farmers, read the latest special issue of Farming Matters.

In the meantime, this International Day for Biological Diversity, make a point to thank (and hug) a family farmer for all the biodiversity they help protect! And why not tweet about it while you are at it using these hashtags: #agbiomatters #thankyou #familyfarmers

Happy International Day of Biological Diversity!