At the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) in March 2010, GFAR constituencies prioritized the issue of agro-biodiversity, as one of prime global importance that should be addressed vigorously in the research for development agenda.

Building on the positive outcomes of the international year of biodiversity (2010), GFAR with the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources in Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), subsequently advocated for greater consideration of agrobiodiversity in research and innovation processes at national, regional and international level. They organized a workshop to discuss the importance of local varieties and indigenous species, at FAO, Rome, January 20-21, 2011. The meeting brought together representatives from UN organizations, international research networks and institutions as well as civil society concerned with generating, accessing and using knowledge of these crops and promoting their value and sustainable use. It recommended to form a collective movement tentatively named the Development Opportunity Crops Initiative (DOCs). This movement took a new form as the Diversity for Development (D4D) alliance at a new meeting in FAO, in January 2012.

The first activity under the proposed action plan for the initiative aims at convincing policy makers and investors that species often called "underutilized" offer strong opportunities to solve major challenges like nutrition and health, the resilience of eco-friendly farming systems, and contribute to income generation. At a side event organized by GFAR at the Fourth Regular Session of the Governing Body of the ITPGRFA held in Bali, Indonesia, March 14-18, 2011, it was agreed to promote with national and regional partners -under article 6 of the Treaty- the need to expand varietal conservation and exchange and sustainably use, and to apply the fair share of benefits to these species that have huge local significance and global market potential in a number of cases.

The role of GFAR in catalyzing actions around the sustainable use of plant genetic resources was included into the Treaty provisions on sustainable use of plant genetic resources by the Bali meeting of the Governments Parties to the Treaty. The linkage of the Treaty’s provisions and GFAR’s role in mobilizing actions on sustainable use of PGR across all sectors and GFAR’s constituencies, including of course the CGIAR, is a driving force behind these actions.

In July 2011, GFAR commissioned through GlobalHort - an international Initiative with a broad array of partner organizations, having also its Secretariat at FAO, a study to document the importance of under-utilized plants and crops for achieving smallholders agro-ecosystem sustainability in addressing the MDGs. This scientific report was used to make the case for DOCs at the CGIAR Science Forum in Beijing (October 17-19, 2011). It will be transformed in a policy brief for sensitizing policy makers and investors.

Regional Constituencies Initiatives on Agrobiodiversity

AR4D activities falling under GFAR oversight, are implemented by NARS, CSOs, NGOs, and a number of communities of practitioners operating at national, sub-regional and regional levels, facilitated by regional fora (CACAARI, AARINENA, APAARI, EFARD, FARA, FORAGRO) as well as the CGIAR with their respective comparative advantage generating agricultural knowledge and innovation and meeting agriculture and food-related development needs.

The regional fora have formulated frameworks for the conservation and use of biodiversity.

A. The Asia-Pacific region adopted in October 2010, “The Suwon Agro-biodiversity Framework” at a symposium organized by APAARI to review, identify and redefine the role and directions of agricultural R&D, in the context of conservation through use of valuable agro-biodiversity for sustainable agricultural development. The Suwon framework recognizes that the reservoir of genetic resources remains the biggest source for food security, and is
equally important for improving nutrition, product quality, product diversification and food safety. The region has prioritized:

1. Studies to enhance the use of genetic resources through manageable sub-sets, using appropriate methods/approaches to sample germplasm collections, to help quickly evaluate/characterize (phenotypic/genotypic) genetic resources so as to select useful accessions for use in pre-breeding. Approaches will include enhancing research efforts on underutilized crops and their wild relative.

2. Pre-breeding and participatory breeding work: a) to enhance utilization of genetic resources in crop improvement programs and encouraging the use of underutilized species; their relatives and other useful species such as non-timber forest products (NTFPs), medicinal plants, etc.] to exploit untapped genes, broaden the genetic base of existing cultivated varieties and develop the new ones; b) to better cope with the challenges of increasing productivity, improving quality, managing new pests and diseases, and adapting to climate change and abiotic stresses, developing partnership with farmers and other stakeholders for exploring alternative approaches for genetic improvement such as participatory plant breeding and community based conservation.

3. Strategies and technologies to enhance in situ and ex situ conservation through use.

4. Assessment of the agro-biodiversity richness and the status relative to economic, social and cultural (traditional knowledge) factors.
B. In Sub Saharan Africa, a declaration endorsed at the end of the FARA last General Assembly in Ouagadougou in July 2010 expressed a sense of urgency to halt the further deterioration in PGR, and to help unleash the potential of agricultural biodiversity for development in the continent.

FARA launched the Agricultural Biodiversity Initiative in Africa (ABIA) to champion issues of agricultural biodiversity on the continent. ABIA is primarily supporting efforts of regional organization (ROs), SROs, NARS & Partners in R&D in this domain in Africa: building partnerships for action, seeking resources, and commissioning research; it has engaged in advocacy for appropriate policies and investment for R&D in agricultural biodiversity. Bioversity International is a technical partner with FARA in the implementation of ABIA. The key products to be generated through ABIA include:

1. Political level policy intervention (nationally, regionally, AU/NEPAD, donors), advocacy and public awareness to promote proper management and sustainable use of genetic resources in Africa;
2. Strategic studies and analysis on key ABD issues (Policy Briefs)
3. Support to Africa’s negotiators in international policy fora on genetic resources and agricultural biodiversity;
4. Mainstreaming ABD into tertiary education, universities;
5. Support to the establishment of Farmer/Community platforms in ABD use
6. Knowledge management in Africa’s ABD, including capturing indigenous knowledge.

C. In Near East and North Africa
The collaboration between ITPGRFA and GFAR, in partnership with Bioversity International and ICARDA has helped revamping the Plant genetic resources network in the AARINENA region and the formulation of a new strategy which has been endorsed at a General Assembly in Kuwait (November 16-18, 2011). The most recent of the meetings sponsored by ITPGRFA and GFAR to raise awareness for the implementation of the Treaty took place in Izmir/Menemen (27-29 September, 2011) under the auspices of the NENA PGR Network, co-organized with the European Cooperative Program on Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR) Network at the Aegean Agricultural Research Institute.

GFAR Secretariat mobilized funding from a few donors for complementing regional fora budgets supporting selected activities in agrobiodiversity. This has facilitated the organization of consultations/meetings on agrobiodiversity, biotechnology & crops for the future in the different regions, increasing awareness on the possibilities offered by the ITPGRFA, notably in Capacity building and in accessing the Benefit-Sharing Fund.

Like other global partnership programmes developed through partners coming together for a common cause, the D4D has worked as a collective commitment that is now taking on a more structured form. Bioversity International and some other CGIAR centres have played a valuable role in supporting actions, particularly in Regional meetings, and their further involvement through CRPs is expected in this open and inclusive partnership, particularly in addressing the significance of under-utilized species and sustainable use provisions for PGR. These processes link to the Convention on Biological diversity(CBD) primarily through involvement of the Treaty and the Commission.

GFAR is also promoting greater CSO involvement in this domain, Inter-regional Partnerships (North-South and South-South) leveraging collaborative actions & networking.

The Diversity for Development alliance (D4D) adopted a first list of actions and deliverables for 2012/2013 which includes:
  • Finalizing the literature review paper and approach the journal Critical Reviews in Plant Science (CRPS) for publication
  • Disseminating the information gathered in the collected case studies in 2011 and draw the lessons learned in a living document, making it a digest for a publication or a brochure.
  • Setting up an information clearing house where to find information about any relevant species. A Portal of databases carrying information sources and links, facilitated by the GFAR Secregtariat should offer easy access to dedicated information and make communication/information accessible by all types of stakeholders
  • Undertaking country data surveys on a few success stories for “minor” crops to incorporate in FAO country reports contributing to the annual State of the World. AARINENA will work on a pilot of data coordination at regional level.
  • Reviewing PROTA data base(Plant Resources of Tropical Africa)-for-use information on topics such as domestication/marketing to provide evidence of benefits (examples of Voacanga and Griffonia spp. presented by the Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products (ASNAPP).
  • Developing a method to characterize non-economic benefits of ABD.
  • Placing the logo of their organization on the webpage of the initiative with a small paragraph drafted by each organization, marking its dedication to the D4D alliance;
  • Working on a Monitoring & Evaluation system for the benefit/added value of each organization
  • Participating through identified members in advocacy events, and meetings offering funding opportunities in 2012/2013:
- CGIAR CRP4 (Agriculture, nutrition and health) meetings in view of engaging the CRP to in the D4D alliance.
- Global Conference on Women in agriculture (GCWA, New Delhi, March 2012)
- GCARD 2 (29 October - 1 November 2012, Punta del Este)
- Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2013, as a venue to present the alliance and its strategy.