Bioversity International recently presented some preliminary findings of their research project in partnerships with GRAVIS and the CGIAR program. The presentation was led by Dr. Mauricio Bellon of Bioversity International and guests included Beate Koch, a graduate student from Germany and myself, a volunteer research assistant at GRAVIS from Toronto, Canada.
Bioversity International is interested in studying the agriculture related biodiversity in the Thar Desert. It is focusing on three dimensions of biodiversity including dietary, on-farm and market diversity and how they are interrelated. To explain, on-farm diversity (crops grown) influences both dietary diversity (crops eaten) and market diversity (crops available in market). Plus market diversity influences dietary diversity because people also consume food from the market.
In this study, they looked at how a particular crop contributed to a farmer’s income and how it contributed to food security. They found that there is a lot of variation in this trade-off between income and food security amongst the different villages. Some farmers may choose to sell more nutritious food and gain more profit causing a decline in food security and some may keep more nutritious food to gain food security, causing a decline in profit.
Another finding is that many farmers are relying on the market for seeds, and less on their own seeds or seeds from family and neighbors. The quality of seeds which are used is very important because high quality seeds can increase crop yield up to 20%. According to natural selection, only the fit survive, which is why it is very important that farmers store seeds of plants which survive because they are the plants which are most fit as they have the genes to cope in the harsh environment.
In addition, they found that there is more diversity among species and less within which means that there are many different varieties of crops grown but there is little genetic variation within one species. This poses a threat because according to evolutionary biology, the greater the genetic variation within a species the greater chance there is that some plants will survive.
It was recommended that future research focus on the different techniques of seeds storage and its outcome. Beate, pointed out that while she was in the field, many villagers demanded that they want more engagement from the researchers about their findings. A very important point because our goal is to empower communities so they should also know the results of the research we conduct. This is why Dr. Mauricio explained that our next step is to go back to the communities and show them these findings so farmers can compare and contrast their practices with other villages.
*Raj Bhagat, Volunteer