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New guidelines aid cooperation between researchers, farmers in conservation of plant diversity

Date: 15.04.2013.

Acknowledging farmers' contributions to research is important for biodiversity conservation efforts. Photo by L. Nikolyai.

Fostering cooperation between researchers and policymakers on one side and farmers on the other is important for conservation efforts in Central Asia, as in any other region. This is particularly important in view of the Convention on Biological Diversity, its Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which are aimed at supporting conservation and sustainable use of plant diversity, and ensuring mutually beneficial cooperation among parties involved in conservation work globally. While researchers come up with recommendations and policymakers shape strategies, it is farmers who are the key party to any conservation activity. Yet there has been lack of clear procedures on how to best ensure that the benefits arising from such cooperation are properly shared with farmers who conserve genetic resources of plants in situ, as well as among all other parties involved. Easy access to germplasm, knowledge and information can be crucial for conservation of biodiversity in agriculture.

Having faced this problem during the project "In situ/on-farm conservation and use of agricultural biodiversity (horticultural crops and wild fruit species) in Central Asia", a group of researchers from Bioversity International and their national partners developed a set of guidelines and tools to this effect. The project, implemented by the UNEP-GEF and coordinated by Bioversity International, has as one of its main objectives the conservation of the rich diversity of horticultural crops and wild fruit species found in the Central Asian countries, the valuable genetic stocks important to plant breeders, researchers, and local populations who depend on them for their livelihoods.

The team and their national partners identified different benefits and products as a result of the project, possible beneficiaries and the conditions of free and restricted access under which these benefits and products should be shared among project partners and with third parties.

The guidelines and tools, such as model germplasm and planting material transfer, benefit and information sharing agreements serve as a framework for governing processes associated with transferring knowledge and information, and genetic resources among various parties.

They will help to make sure that holders of genetic resources benefit from sharing their knowledge and resources. These model agreements will also help to regulate cooperation between the providers of knowledge and genetic resources and their recipients.

For instance, farmers' contribution will be acknowledged in research output if these tools are used. They can also receive material or non-material benefits for providing genetic resources and knowledge.

What is good, these guidelines and tools can be used by scientists and policymakers alike, and can be adapted to specific needs. They are available online in English at: http://centralasia.bioversity.asia/fileadmin/www.centralasia.net/Resources/TRG/6615-0054.pdf; and in Russian at: http://centralasia.bioversity.asia/fileadmin/www.centralasia.net/Resources/TRG/6615-0055.pdf.

The availability of such framework is sure to improve cooperation and engagement between researchers, policymakers and farmers.

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