Basic Project Information

What do we do?

The project will develop and promote diverse sets of varieties, improve access to diverse sets of planting materials and drudgery reducing processing technologies and promote an enabling environment for access to and benefit sharing of planting materials. It is assumed that these results will help to mainstream the use of diversity rich solutions in the mountain agroecosystems to improve ecosystem services provisioning and resilience and thereby contribute to mountain food and nutrition security.

Through our key executing national partners: Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), LI-BIRD and Department of Agriculture (DoA) with farming communities, local governments and many service providers seek to strengthen the capacity of farmers and their local organizations by implementing community-based management of traditional crop diversity on-farm.
This will be achieved by documenting available diversity, identifying and promoting good practices while contributing to community livelihoods and building local, national and regional capacity to provide assistance in monitoring and policy support.

Who are we?

We are a team of local, national and international partners collaborating together to meet the goal of the project and thereby contributing to national food security and environmental benefits agenda. In 2014, Bioversity International launched a coordinated UNEP-GEF project, ‘Integrating Traditional Crop Diversity for Mountain Food security’ with leadership of National Agricultural Genetic resources Centre (NAGRC)/NARC, LI-BIRD and Department of Agriculture. Our goal is to improve livelihoods and food security of target communities through the conservation and use of traditional crop genetic resources.

Who are the partners?

Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), the Department of Agriculture (DoA), Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD) and Bioversity International are working together to bring together institutional expertise and on-going programmes to mainstream the conservation and use of agricultural biodiversity in mountain ecosystems. UNEP is the implementing agency on behalf of GEF and provide overall technical, administrative and financial oversights through the contract between UNEP and Bioversity.

How are we funded?

The GEF Trust Fund is providing USD 2.3 million for five years in grant, while the four executing partners (the Government of Nepal, LI-BIRD, Bioversity International and UNEP) are providing additional USD 5.8 million in cash and in-kind co-financing.

Why are we funded by GEF UNEP?

The GEF is the financial (or an operating entity of) the mechanism for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Conservation, Sustainable agriculture and equitable benefit sharing are the three objectives of CBD. UNEP plays a key role in supporting countries to develop and execute GEF projects that fit within its comparative advantage. An important component of almost all UNEP GEF projects is building capacity to manage the environment in a sound manner. The purpose of this is to build greater synergies, enhance impacts and their sustainability and leverage additional grant financing for global environment benefits.

Why we need to work on traditional mountain crops?

Nepal Himalayas are home to the climate resilient traditional crop varieties. Our work will focus on neglected and underutilized species (to learn more about NUS please visit the NUS Community). They are life line of mountain communities and important to women and children providing traits of resilience and adaptive capacity, nutrition and securing future options. They possess wide range of nutritional, health and use values that make them an important part of mountain culture.

The project will work on eight NUS mountain crops, namely, buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum and F. tararicum), cold tolerant rice (Oryza sativa), common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), finger millet (Eleusine coracana), foxtail millet (Setaria italica), grain amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus and A. leucocarpus), naked barley (Hordeum vulgare var. nudum), and proso millet (Panicum miliaceum).

Research and development efforts of these traditional crop species receive little attention globally and nationally by agricultural researchers, plant breeders and policy makers. Scientific efforts since the Green Revolution have focused primarily on major crops (60% of world’s food energy intake come from rice, maize and wheat) to neglect of local crop diversity and associated knowledge, culture and traditions. The heavy reliance on a narrow diversity of crops puts future food and nutrition security at risk. The genetic diversity of traditional crops in Nepal is increasingly threatened by several human-made reasons such as sustainability insensitive policy, external resource dependent food security strategy, land use changes, habitat loss and climate change.

Since government does not consider traditional crop diversity as sustainable food security strategy, farmers no longer value them, fewer and fewer farmers are growing them in increasingly small areas; young people are not eating them because mothers have hard time to process the food and easy access of subsidized rice and wheat. Instead of growing own food from locally adapted seed, people are importing food. It is not helping to create local economy. However, research and development even in these crops can eliminate low hanging bottlenecks and create new opportunities for rural communities and local markets.

Why genetic diversity matters for smallholder farmers?

Genetic resources (i.e. biodiversity) for food and agriculture are the biological basis of food and nutrition security and directly or indirectly support people’s livelihoods. Farmers can improve their ability to meet food, nutrition and livelihood needs by growing a diversity of crop varieties. Crop genetic diversity is one of the few resources available to resource-poor farmers and women to ensure sustainable livelihoods and food and nutritional security. This is especially true in the high mountain farming system where mechanization and high input agriculture are more challenging and hence there is a greater reliance by farmers on the genetic resources.

We cannot predict what new pest or pathogen will develop or how the rain will fall next year- but we can use agricultural biodiversity to have a diverse set of crop varieties in agricultural systems to increase the options to buffer against an unpredictable change. This explains the key role that agricultural biodiversity can play in future.

What transformative changes are required?

Nepal’s policy for mountain food security is very unsustainable as it depends upon external sources whether it is energy, agricultural inputs or modern crop varieties. Policy to support major staple crops in food insecure area decrease the importance of traditional crop varieties, change in food habits, reduce incentive of production of local crop diversity and consequently, resulted shrinking of traditional crop diversity. This has created a local economy dependent upon external resources. Lack of opportunities in the country is pushing youth to migrate in search of employment and therefore, drudgery of women has increased and productivity potential of farming has declined. Over the years youth lose traditional knowledge and practice of high mountain specialised farming and then agriculture as whole is less productive and profitable to new generation of farmers. This is a vicious cycle of poverty that the government policy fail to break. We need transformative change in policy and regulatory framework that promotes local economy, resilient and sustainable agriculture and securing future options.