In situ conservation projects

Chapters 6, 7, and 8 in this volume have all discussed the central role farmers play in preserving crop genetic diversity through their selection and planting of crop varieties. In addition, farmers are often important agents of other forms of agricultural and wild biodiversity conservation (McNeely and Scherr, 2001). In recent years several programs have been established to provide incentives to farmers to maintain diverse production systems. In a few cases this has involved direct payments to farmers for maintaining diverse crop varieties, one example being the Global Environment Facility funded project: A Dynamic Farmer-Based Approach to the Conservation of African Plant Genetic Resources implemented in Ethiopia from 1992 to 2000 http://www.gefonline. org/proiectDetails. cfm). Frequently such programs seek either to increase the availability and productivity of diversity to farmers, or to increase the returns to diverse production systems through the development of markets where some sort of premium would be paid for diversity. Adding value through the development of markets for the products of local varieties is a means by which the returns to farmers of growing diverse varieties can be increased Programs and policies to increase diversity availability are discussed in point 6 below.

In situ conservation programs may also be focused on preventing or slowing processes that lead to the loss of on-farm diversity, which in some situations is likely to be the most effective means of promoting in situ conservation (Chapter 5). However, a dilemma is raised when these same processes lead to economic development. The adoption of modern crop varieties and integration into markets have been identified as potentially important drivers of the loss of crop genetic diversity on farm; yet, this same process also yields tremendous benefits to the farming populations (FAO 1998; Tripp and van der Heide, 1996; Duvick, 1984; Harlan, 1972). One proposed solution to achieving dynamic efficiency and equity for in situ programs is to enhance the private values of genetic diversity to farmers such as developing markets for diversity-related traits, payments to farmers for maintaining diverse systems, or enhancing the productivity of local varieties. Equally important is reducing the costs of access. In the following section, we look more closely at programs that are intended to reduce the costs of diversity by increasing its availability at various points in the seed system.

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