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International Day for Biological Diversity

Production of food crops employs one-third of the earth’s lands. Studies by the United Nations foresee a broad impact of climate change on agricultural biodiversity, and the possibility that crop production could be affected by the spread of plant diseases.

Some 7,000 plant species have been cultivated for food since the start of agriculture. Today, just 15 plant species and eight animal species provide 90% of our food.

The wild relatives of staple crops are insurance policies for the future, but many of these are in danger of extinction. For example, one-quarter of the multiple varieties of the wild potato face disappearance in 50 years’ time.

International Day for Biological Diversity – “Biodiversity and Climate Change” is the topic of this year’s International Day for Biological Diversity, marked on 22 May. Three finalists in the “Experiences in Social Innovation” competition organized by ECLAC and the Kellogg Foundation show how efforts of local communities, authorities and NGOs can improve the quality of life, protect species in danger of extinction and successfully stand up to globalization.

• In the Argentine province of Jujuy, a community-created organization of more than 140 small farmers — descendents of the native peoples of the Quebrada de Humahuaca — develops, produces and sells traditional Andean foodstuffs, including a wide variety of coloured potatoes. They grow some 40 varieties of potatoes and other Andean tubers, such as oca and papa lisa, as well as carrots, onions and squash. (Contact: Javier Rodríguez, Technical coordinator, Integrated Programme for Andean Crops C.A.U.Que.Va. E-mail:  javierrodriguez@cauqueva.com.ar; Tel: 54-388 499 7185).

• In the Amazon region of Peru, communities of the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve have taken on collectively the task of protecting this extensive natural reserve, applying a sustainable development model that protects species in danger of extinction while economically benefiting from these. One strategy is to reforest the region with Amazonian palm species (tagua, aguaje and palmito) that can be harvested without cutting. Another is to aid the reproduction of the tarijaya turtle by building its nests and protecting its breeding grounds, thus meeting conservation goals and then selling surplus turtle eggs. Similarly, the community refrains from fishing the paiche fish until it has matured and completed its reproduction cycle.  (Contact: Javier Noriega Murrieta, Fundación Peruana para la Conservación de la Naturaleza-ProNaturaleza, E-mail: pronaturaleza@pronaturaleza.org, Tel: (51-65) 235053.

• In Brazil’s Pernambuco state, a seven city-wide cooperative of family-run organic farms in the Mata region sells over 100 organically-certified products. Supported by public and private agencies and NGOs, the cooperative gives training to small farmers and their families, especially youth; provides technical assistance, fosters participatory organization and helps with production and marketing. (Contact: Oto Barreto Silva, Ecoorgânica-Cooperativa dos Produtores Familiares Orgânicos, Website: http://www.hortaevida.com.br)  Tel: 81 3537 1839 / 81-9961 8026).

Complete information on this competition, including multi-media materials in Spanish, English, French and Portuguese, is posted at: http://www.cepal.org/dds/innovacionsocial/portada_i.htm.
E-mail:  innovacion.social@cepal.org. Telephones:  (56-2) 210-2148/ 2451/2263.

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Experiences in Social Innovation Award


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