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18 April 2002
Through generations of experiment and innovation, farmers have nurtured diversity of plants and animals and accumulated agrodiversity - "the diverse and dynamic ways in which farmers use the natural diversity of the environment for production, including not only their choice of crops but also their management of land, water and biota as a whole." Many small farmers continue to develop agrodiverse practices that are rich in agrobiodiversity while enhancing the livelihoods of rural people. Yet, the path of maintaining or increasing diversity in agricultural production has been given little official attention, less encouragement, and far less funding by research and agricultural development institutions in recent decades. It continues to be said widely that only energy-intensive and simplified monocultures can achieve the food production needed for a growing world population.
The working environments of most farmers practicing agrodiversity are not only unsuitable for use of such monocultures, but would be liable to serious land degradation if such simplified practices were adopted. Moreover, increasing evidence demonstrates that agrodiverse practices are as productive as monocultures (and sometimes more so), and that they meet human needs for variety, reduce risk and enhance the ability to cope with changes. To be sustainable, production requires the conservation or enhancement of resources. Diversity in production and livelihoods is practiced by innumerable small farmers. Over years of work, PLEC has worked with this large constituency of farmers, in particular at demonstration sites in 12 countries in Africa, the Americas and Asia-Pacific regions, and developed an innovative approach to promoting agrodiversity through "farmers learning from expert farmers" with cooperations of participating scientists.
The conference will summarize the project experiences and lessons, focusing on the following themes: (1) Biodiversity assessment: methods and database, (2) Management diversity, (3) Demonstration site activity, (4) Capacity building and networking, (5) Project impacts, and recommendations, and (6) Future plans. About 60 participants from PLEC national clusters of 12 participating countries as well as UNU, UNEP, GEF and other organizations will attend. The complete programme is available online at http://archive.unu.edu/env/plec/4GM/index.htm.
The conference is open to the public; admission is free, although advance registration is required (see the contact information below). Media representatives are cordially invited to attend. For more information, please contact:
Dr. Miguel Pinedo Vasquez
UNU Public Affairs Section,
Tel. (03) 5467-1243, -1246; Fax (03) 3406-7346