Across the world local networks of researchers, development workers and farmers are joining forces in October and November 2001 to launch an innovative project to protect food security and incomes of the world's rural poor, and at the same time, help conserve biodiversity.
The project, supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD, a Rome-based UN Organization) and the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI, also headquartered in Italy) will help farmers improve and conserve local, traditional crops which are being lost as they are overlooked by major international research and development programs.
A series of international meetings are launching the project. Some meetings will be held in November Chennai, India, and at Katmandu, Nepal, to review the framework of activities on minor millets, such as finger millets and Italian millets, in a number of pilot sites across the countries.
Last month, meetings were held in El Arish, Egypt, and San'a, Yemen, to review the details of a work plan developed in conjunction with local communities to enhance the use of medicinal and aromatic plants. Concurrent workshops in La Paz, Bolivia, Ibarra, Ecuador, and Lima, Peru, finalized the details for planned research activities on Andean cereals such as quinoa and amaranth.
Dr. Stefano Padulosi is coordinating the project from IPGRI's Regional Office of Aleppo, Syria. He describes the innovative way the project simultaneously addresses multiple, but interrelated, problems faced by the world's rural poor, "This work is the very first effort at a global level to cover food security in an entirely new approach, focusing on local nutritious crops and making farmers active players and not just recipients of research outputs."
"The action will be in the field, where scientists and rural communities will work together in surveying and selecting varieties of these neglected crops. Their seeds will then be multiplied and distributed to farmers along with new technologies for their better cultivation and use. Community-based actions will include the establishment of small processing units that will create added-value opportunities for marketing these crops."
After the first year of this three-year project, researchers and collaborating farmers hope to, among other things, achieve a better understanding of the diversity across the geographic range of these crops, safeguard genotypes particularly those under threats of genetic erosion, identify superior local varieties for crop enhancement, improve knowledge of market potentials of target crops, and disseminate low cost technology for enhancing their use.
More information on Conserving and Increasing Use of Neglected and Underutilized Crop Species see http://www.nrel.colostate.edu/iboy/how_conserve.html#nus
Dr. Stefano Padulosi, IPGRI Regional Office for Central & West Asia and North Africa, c/o ICARDA, P.O. Box 5466, Aleppo, Syria. Tel: 963-21-223-1412,
Fax: 963-21-221-3490, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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