Integrating Traditional Crop Genetic Diversity for Mountain Food Security
The Himalayan system, with its outlying subranges, stretches across six countries, with the longest division in Nepal. The region, with extreme variations in topography and micro-environments, harbours centres of unique crop diversity adapted to mountain environments. The diversity of local crop varieties, with globally important cold tolerant genes, is one of the few natural resources available to mountain farmers to cope with their marginal and heterogeneous environments that are likely to be starkly affected by climate change. These traditional crops are also important for sustainable development of their local economy.
The key to the sustainability of the high mountain agricultural ecosystems in Nepal is that farmers have continued to keep a large diversity of traits in their traditional varieties, despite the bottleneck of cold stress. In these vulnerable environments, diversity in the production system can support ecosystem provisioning, supporting, cultural and regulating services and buffer the risks of pest, disease and environmental stresses.
Yet, little research and development has been done focussing on these important, nutritious and climate resilient crops from the perspective of breeding, processing, promotion and policies. The project aims to mainstream the use of diversity rich solutions in the mountain agroecosystems to improve ecosystem services provisioning and resilience. 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.
Crops and Sites
The project will work on eight neglected and underutilized 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). The research work will be conducted in four districts (Dolakha, Humla, Jumla and Kaski) of Nepal.
The key executing national partners are: the National Agricultural Genetic Resources Centre (Genebank) at the Nepal Agriculture Research Council (NARC), the Department of Agriculture (DoA), and Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD).
Nepal, as a signatory of CBD, has developed a National Biodiversity Strategy to conserve, promote and sustainably utilize biological diversity. The Agrobiodiversity Policy of 2007 aims to conserve, promote and utilize agricultural biodiversity through both on farm (in situ) and ex situ (genebank) conservation methods. The project is intended to support these existing national policies and programmes. The GEF Trust Fund is providing USD 2.3 million for five years (2014-2019) in grant, while the five executing and implementing partners’ (NARC, DoA, LI-BIRD, Bioversity International and UNEP) current efforts are valued at USD 5.8 million in cash and in-kind co-financing.
Working districts: Dolakha, Jumla, Humla, Lamjung
Project Duration: 2014 - 2019
Partners: Bioversity International, Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Genetic Resources Centre
Funded by: Global Environment Facility, UNEP
Contact Person: Rita Gurung