Strengthening Livelihoods and Local Management of Plant Genetic Resources under Conditions of Climate Change

This project is about people, their plant genetic resources and the influence of climate change on the management of these resources.

Current climate change is likely to cause a shift in conservation, development and use of plant genetic resources upon which local people depend. This project will address the question how strategies conserving and developing plant genetic resources (PGR) on-farm have to be adapted and expanded in order to better contribute to farmers’ livelihoods and to food security under conditions of climate change. Therefore, the project strives to explore the interactions between farmers’ livelihoods and their changing environment, and to increase their options to acquire, select and use plant genetic resources that may provide them with better options to produce food, acquire income and improve their livelihoods. The project addresses current agricultural production, consumption patterns and differentiated strategies towards food security, and the way and extent by which these are influenced by climate-change.

Agricultural diversity forms one of the pillars for agriculture to adapt to the changing environment, thus creating the basis for current and future food security and for local development of sustainable agricultural production. To maintain agricultural diversity and the concomitant adaptive capacity to contribute to future food security, strategies are needed to conserve, select, utilize and manage plant genetic resources. A wide array of plant genetic resources can be conserved under onfarm conditions along with the cultural knowledge associated with it, and the material can develop new properties to prosper under changing social, climatic and ecological conditions. In such conditions, genotypes may change under selection pressure and new valuable genotypes will emerge.

The project will develop a collaborative approach in which researchers in direct consultation with communities seek to analyse and augment on local peoples’ knowledge, perceptions and needs, in order to narrow down the study scope and to identify the most promising alternatives that local people may want to develop, or initiatives they would like to consider. The project approach serves to generate an increased understanding amongst both researchers and local people about what impacts climate change may have on food production and livelihoods in the project areas, which of these impacts may also represent new opportunities, and how these can best be translated into collaborative action. Such a development-oriented approach requires a critical reflection on the historical and current practices of in situ and on-farm conservation within their social context.

The project will yield a published analysis of the current status of PGR conservation onfarm; a published study on the potential impact of sub-regional and national climate change on food production, food security and affordable food diets, in to the light of available crop germplasm; a published overview of the adaptation potential of crops and varieties available to and adopted by selected local farming communities in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe; policy advice for governments in order to enable crop production and food security strategies, as well as PGR management strategies to respond to climate change; and a protocol for monitoring strategies and tools to measure impacts.

The project aims to achieve increased awareness and capacity amongst farmer communities to prepare for and cope with climate changes by adapting their crops and crop varieties; increased awareness amongst policy makers about the relevance, the strengths and weaknesses of local resources management systems with regard to food security and climate change; increased collaboration between communities and the public research sector in reaching the goals of food security, crop adaptation and conservation of PGR; insight in the impact of the introduction of new germplasm on traditionally on-farm managed crop diversity; increased capacity of southern partners to carry out action-oriented and policy relevant research; and the presentation and publication of project results.