“Conserving fragile agricultural biodiversity is critical to sustaining rural people’s livelihoods”: IFAD President Closes International Biodiversity Week in Rome

Rome, 20 May 2010 – More investment to protect agricultural biodiversity is crucial to maintain and improve food security, said Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) prior to International Biodiversity Day on 22 May.

"Agricultural biodiversity can improve productivity and nutrition, enhance livelihoods, respond to environmental challenges and deliver food security," Nwanze emphasized. "At IFAD, we have long recognised that poor rural people and their communities are not only dependent on agricultural biodiversity, but also they are important custodians of it." 

Biodiversity is the sum of all existing species, their interactions and the ecosystems they form. According to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, human beings share the planet with as many as 13 million different living species including plants, animals and bacteria.

Biodiversity and natural resources play a central role, especially in the lives of many indigenous peoples, in particular for their subsistence and for their cultural and spiritual values. Indigenous women have rich and varied local knowledge about ecosystem management, medicinal plants and local crops. Given the increasing focus on biodiversity for food, shelter, clothing, ecosystem services, medicinal plants as well as for its contribution to science in general, maintaining biodiversity has become more important for the economic and social well being of everyone, particularly the most vulnerable people in poor rural areas, who depend on biodiversity to meet their basic needs.

Biodiversity is also important for enhancing poor farmers' and indigenous peoples' resilience to climate change, pests, diseases and other threats.  IFAD-sponsored programmes are working with poor farmers and indigenous peoples to contribute to the sustainable use and conservation of species and ecosystems.

"We can help protect and enhance biodiversity if we draw on the generations of knowledge accumulated by farming communities and indigenous peoples," Nwanze said. "Because these people are best placed to recognise their local needs and understand their local conditions."

The United Nations has designated 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity, and to commemorate this in Rome, IFAD's partner organization, Bioversity International, is organizing a week-long celebration of biodiversity in music, video, poetry, drama and art. On 22 May, the last day of the festival, Nwanze, along with leaders from the other Rome-based UN agencies and Bioversity International, will issue a call for action intended to galvanize support for the sustainable use and conservation of agricultural biodiversity.

Press release No.: IFAD/34/2010

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) works with poor rural people to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes and determine the direction of their own lives. Since 1978, IFAD has invested over US$12 billion in grants and low-interest loans to developing countries, empowering more than 370 million people to break out of poverty. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized UN agency based in Rome – the UN's food and agricultural hub. It is a unique partnership of 165 members from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), other developing countries and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).