The Objectives Of Conservation And Sustainableuse Activities

Programs to promote the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity may be intended to meet one or more environmental or social objectives, focused on preserving one or more of its associated values and components. The objective of conservation programs determines both the design of the activities and in the establishment of mechanisms for the financing of such efforts. We summarize some of the main types of program foci below.

3.1 The promotion of sustainable production systems and support of local populations

Programs designed with this objective focus on preserving and enhancing the private benefits associated with agricultural biodiversity. The impetus here is on maintaining biodiversity, and the knowledge associated with it, for the purposes of enhancing farmers' capacity to respond to varying and complex production and market conditions, as well as preserving ecosystem functions which directly impact farm productivity. Such programs are based on the notion that the conservation of agricultural biodiversity is the most effective means to enhance the sustainable production capacity of farm populations, particularly among low-income producers operating under marginal production conditions and facing frequent failures in both input and output markets. It is argued that the degree of heterogeneity and risk present in such environments requires high levels of genetic diversity in crops and animals for successful and sustainable production systems (FAO, 1998). An added advantage of such programs is that they also may generate significant option values from the on-farm conservation of agricultural biodiversity, by preserving a dynamic system of interaction between natural and human selection factors (Smale et al., 1998). Thus, the benefits of such programs would be realized not only by the farm communities involved in the implementation, but also the global community and future generations (Jarvis, Sthapit, and Sears, 2000).

The design of programs falling under this criterion may focus at the species level, such as participatory plant breeding or seed system enhancement programs directed at major subsistence crops, or at the ecosystem level, such as programs designed to enhance crop variety availability in highland or drought-prone environments. They also frequently involve a component of local knowledge preservation. Farmers have developed production systems, including rotations and pest management strategies, that have enabled them to utilize biological resources effectively, and preserving the knowledge of these systems is part of agricultural biodiversity conservation. The documentation of landrace varieties, their characteristics, and use is one means by which local knowledge is conserved (Jarvis, Sthapit, and Sears, 2000).

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