Our planet is losing its biodiversity. Here are five ways IFAD and rural people are protecting it

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Our planet is losing its biodiversity. Here are five ways IFAD and rural people are protecting it

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
©IFAD/Francesco Cabras

Biodiversity refers to the dizzying variety of life on earth. This diversity underpins all the essential benefits we get from nature: from clean air to nutritious food; from our ability to regulate the climate, to the strategies we use to build resilience against the worst effects of climate change.

But over the last 150 years, the earth has been losing its biodiversity. A million species of plants and animals are now at risk of extinction, and countless ecosystems are near collapse. This poses an enormous risk to our food systems, our economies, our well-being, and the health of our planet.

That’s why we’re systematically integrating biodiversity into IFAD operations with the help of our new Biodiversity Strategy. Here are five ways we’re helping small-scale farmers practice agroecology and conserve the planet’s precious biodiversity.

  1. Promoting agroecology for biodiverse-friendly food

While agriculture is a major cause of biodiversity loss, it also holds solutions. Small-scale farms are already more biodiverse than larger ones. By using a set of practices called agroecology, these farmers produce more while using less. They enrich their natural resources and enhance biodiversity. It leads to richer soil, better quality food, and a more diverse diet.

In India, the APDMP initiative helped farmers better manage their water resources and improve the soil and local plant life by using more diverse, less water-intensive crop systems. Over three-quarters of project households began eating more varied diets, while vegetable cultivation during dry seasons increased their incomes.

Traditional ways of planting trees in shallow pits that channel water where it’s needed, and the addition of organic matter to condition the soil, are helping hold back desertification in Burkina Faso.

Mangrove shoots make their way through the ground. Replanting efforts like these are crucial for restoring Senegal’s coastline and building the livelihoods of local villages. ©IFAD/Ibrahima Kebe Diallo


  1. Leveraging the symbiotic relationship between rural people and their ecosystems

When rural communities conserve their environments, they benefit from the ecosystem in return: more food, better livelihoods, and protection against floods, droughts, and other severe climate change impacts.

IFAD helps communities identify and effectively manage their natural resources. In Nepal, ASHA trains community groups to develop action plans for managing watersheds and conserving forests by combining satellite data with local knowledge.

In Eritrea, The Gambia and Senegal, rural people are replanting mangrove forests that fringe the seas. By doing so, they both protect the marine life that depends on mangroves and strengthen coastlines against storms and erosion.

Thanks to IFAD’s support, cooperatives like this one gain the resources and certifications they need to process local fruits and vegetables and distribute them worldwide. ©IFAD/Lianne Milton/Panos


  1. Getting diverse foods and agricultural products on the market

Small-scale farmers and indigenous peoples tend to grow more diverse foods than larger-scale operations, and they often cultivate neglected and under-utilized species. If they market their produce effectively, they can earn more, while their customers get to access high-quality foods and participate in preserving traditional foodways.

Farmers working with PSA in Brazil’s Bahia region have developed new ways of processing nutritious native fruits like umbu and burití and marketing them to the world, including developing certification schemes to help them commercialize these high-quality, nutritious fruits.

Well-designed policies at all levels of government are crucial for preserving and restoring biodiversity. ©IFAD/Susan Beccio


  1. Working with governments to protect biodiversity

IFAD helps rural people and governments at every level develop and use policies that protect their livelihoods and conserve their ecosystems.

The AMD project in Viet Nam introduced digital systems to help farmers monitor water salinity, key to preventing crop loss. Technologies like these integrate climate change mitigation into provincial development planning and rural finance systems.

In 2019, IFAD advised on the amendment of a Tajikistan pasture law to guide how rangelands are conserved and to help with climate change adaptation.

When Guatemala’s government implemented a law mandating adequate nutritious food for all schoolchildren, IFAD helped channel the native leafy vegetable chaya, largely grown by indigenous women, into the programme.

In Bangladesh, HILIP cooperatives took advantage of a government policy allowing fishers to lease and manage water bodies in the Haor basin. Not only did they have greater yields, but studies showed HILIP sites were more biodiverse than those outside the project.

IFAD’s support helps women, youth, and indigenous peoples take the lead in agroecology. ©IFAD/Irshad Khan 


  1. Empowering the people who hold the keys to conserving biodiversity

Despite being as involved in agriculture as men, women are often left out of decision-making. But with IFAD’s support, they are taking the lead in agroecology.

Indigenous peoples have in-depth knowledge about their ecosystems and their food systems are rooted in sustainable practices. IFAD’s Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility helps them access climate finance and take the lead in conservation efforts.

Through the facility, Wapichan elders are teaching youth in Guyana how to farm and forage sustainably, which both preserves their rich cultural heritage and conserves their natural environment.

Young people are the custodians of the future, and IFAD works closely with them to build rural livelihoods that protect biodiversity. In Sudan, IFAD supported training for 747 graduates, mostly women, to provide technical advisory services on agroecology to their communities.

We know that biodiversity is the key to a healthy planet and well-being for all. As we work to support small-scale farmers around the world, we’ll continue to give these farmers the tools they need to build a sustainable future.


Learn more about the Biodiversity Advantage.

Read about how IFAD puts agroecology at the heart of its operations.