Biodiversity essential for sustainable agriculture says IFAD report

Cancun, 7 December 2016 – A new report launched today by the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) confirms the important role that the world’s biodiversity plays in ensuring the future of sustainable agricultural development. 

“Biodiversity, including agricultural biodiversity, is the very foundation of life on earth and intrinsic to the whole sustainable development agenda,” said Margarita Astralaga, Director of IFAD's Environment and Climate Division. "Our report shows that biodiversity loss is one of the main threats to smallholder farmers and their communities. Without biodiversity, livelihoods are not sustainable and food security and nutrition for the entire planet is precarious.”

The Biodiversity Advantage: Global benefits from smallholder actions shows how IFAD-supported projects are working with smallholder farmers to protect biodiversity in five countries, contributing to the well-being of communities as well as to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by helping to eradicate poverty, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agricultural practices.

According to Astralaga the knowledge and practices of smallholder farmers represent an untapped repository in global efforts to make agriculture more resilient to climate change. In turn, she said, IFAD-supported projects help unleash that potential by engaging farmers in efforts to make land productive again, to adopt practices that do not erode but enrich the natural resource base, and to search for crops that withstand climate-related challenges.

Country examples cited in the report include Iran where farmers have been working in partnership with national authorities to identify the most appropriate mixtures of seeds through evolutionary plant breeding methods, demonstrating positive impacts on agricultural biodiversity as well as livelihoods for women and men. The report also shows how IFAD is working to protect mangroves in Djibouti and buffer zones in São Tomé, as well as forests in Mexico – a country rich with biodiversity.

Highlighting one of the most important messages in the report, Astralaga said, “Reconciling conservation efforts with people’s needs is a major challenge that demands innovation and solutions tailored to local circumstances.”

Notes to editors:

Interviews - Margarita Astralaga, Director, Environment and Climate Division is available for media interviews.

Download the report

Press release No.: IFAD/79/2016

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided about US$18 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached some 462 million people. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub. For more information visit