Conclusion

As discussed in section 2, the economically efficient allocation of conservation funds across regions is, not surprisingly, the one that equates the marginal value of an additional dollar of investment across the regions. When using centers of diversity to target conservation dollars, one question is whether the marginal value of an additional dollar of conservation investment is higher in an area with high diversity than in an area with low diversity. Given the principle of diminishing marginal returns, it is possible that the marginal economic value of an additional variety conserved is higher in an area with low diversity. However, the marginal value of an additional dollar of conservation investment is also a function of the marginal change in varieties conserved per additional dollar of investment. The latter is likely higher in areas of high diversity than in areas of low diversity.6 Hence, the case is made for concentrating limited conservation resources in areas of high diversity.

From the idealized economic model presented in section 2, section 3 steps down to assessments that can be made using available data. The basic genetic diversity data we have on a global scale are the association of geographic regions with primary centers of diversity for certain crops. This information allows us to generate a basic guide to the value of agricultural production associated with these centers of diversity. While this information does not incorporate the risks associated with genetic erosion, and the concept of primary centers may lead to imprecise measures, it does give us a measure of the economic importance of crops associated with these regions as centers of diversity. As such, it may be useful as a rough guide for the IT in making allocations of the conservation funds to world regions.

The current data on centers of diversity do not identify areas at the country level or lower. Hence, other indicators are needed to make the allocation from world region levels to country levels. Given the lack of

5 It may be possible, at least up to a certain level that evaluation of germplasm can be done at lower costs in LDCs, with potential benefits for DC breeders. This capacity for database development can be targeted through the conservation mechanism.

6 This statement is somewhat of a generalization, as costs of conservation can vary across regions according to differences in economic conditions that affect conservation costs (as related in Chapter 6 and in the appendix to this chapter).

scientific information, the IT will mostly likely use the subsidiarity principle in allocating the funds, i.e., they will allocate the funds to the world regions, and each region will decide how to allocate the funds to individual countries.

Instead of directly transferring funds down to the country level, given that there are no indicators and mechanisms available for transferring the funds in anything near a first-best fashion, perhaps the most efficient approach would be to ask countries to submit concrete proposals for use of the funds in conservation activities. These proposals could then be prioritized for funding based upon their merits. Of course, such a mechanism could be used directly by the IT, and it could evaluate conservation project proposals directly. However, regions may argue over their shares of the conservation funds, and some regional indicator, such as the one developed in this chapter, will be necessary to the IT in making some judgments in the parceling out of the funds among regions.

The indicators of centers of diversity discussed in the third section of this chapter are broad enough that they can only serve as a rough guide for conservation targeting. Smaller areas, known as "microcenters," might be especially useful to concentrate limited conservation dollars on. Harlan (1992) defines microcenters, for either crops or wild plants, as relatively small regions, 100 to 500 kilometers across, which may be packed with high variation of one to several crops in comparison to adjacent areas. Some of these have been destroyed, and the rest are threatened with replacement with modern cultivars (ibid). A global indicator based on microcenters is not feasible until they are studied on a more systematic basis. However, the analytical framework developed here could easily be desegregated by microcenters if such data became available. Chapter 13 provides more concrete suggestions for mechanisms for distributing funds at the country level, as well as for policy mechanisms for conservation programs.

The final allocation of the conservation funds will be affected to some extent by the relative bargaining power of actors, both at the regional level and at the country level. Furthermore, as implied in The Global Plan of Action's call for the sharing of benefits to be "fair and equitable," there may be significant demand to distribute at least a portion of the funds on equity grounds to countries most in need of development aid. The next chapter addresses in detail the qualitative and policy-relevant aspects of bargaining power and equity in the allocation of these funds.

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