Report on the First Round of the Project Cycle of the Benefit-sharing Fund
ITPGR Secretariat, February 2013
Published by the Secretariat of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR), the report on the first round of the project cycle of the Treaty’s Benefit-sharing Fund contains financial and technical information related to the overall operation of the first project portfolio of the Benefit-sharing Fund; provides an overview of its results; and presents a number of lessons learned and recommendations drawn from the execution of the first round of the project cycle.
According to the report, from 2009-2011, the Benefit-sharing Fund contributed towards strengthening the capacities of more than 6,000 farmers and supported the collection of over 360 accessions of traditional varieties and crop wild relatives, as well as the characterization for useful traits of more than 2,200 accessions of varieties held on-farm and in gene banks. It contributed to ongoing activities for the identification and/or breeding of more than 270 accessions – which exhibit high yield, resistance to climate stress, tolerance to crop disease, or a combination thereof – and the distribution of locally adapted planting material to more than 1,800 farmers. Over 1,700 accessions of crops addressed by the portfolio will be made available under the terms and conditions of the Multilateral System of access and benefit-sharing of the Treaty, which is expected to multiply the Benefit-sharing Fund’s impact globally. Overall, the results of the first cycle have built a strong case for supporting the continuation of this initiative and larger scale investment in future project cycles.
Eleven projects in developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Near East were funded during the first round. Project activities ranged from surveying threatened traditional crop varieties for their climate adaptability and stress resilience, and disseminating and reintroducing varieties that are best adapted to local conditions, to generating income by creating value-added products from local varieties. According to the report, low-income farming communities were the ultimate beneficiaries. Farmers were directly involved at many stages of project implementation, including in the collection of local crops and the documentation of related traditional practices, seed multiplication and distribution, and a range of awareness-raising and training activities. For example, under the framework of the project in India, 14 village-level enterprises were established, including five farmer breeder nurseries and nine women self-help groups. According to P.R. Sarrasamma, leader of a women self-help group, the project resulted in more and more women in their tribal community showing interest in cultivating traditional varieties, resulting in a revival of their identity. The community saved enough seeds for the next seasons and shared them among themselves, and started preparing their own traditional recipes and earning income. Under the Peru project, five new biocultural products based on local potato varieties were developed and are now commercialized in the Potato Park (where the indigenous communities involved in the project are based) and on local markets under the trademark of the Potato Park. Thanks to a local benefit-sharing agreement signed among the six indigenous communities, a percentage of the sales of any of the products that carry the Potato Park trademark label goes into a communal fund for Potato Park activities. In addition, the online Local Biocultural Register was created, where both traditional knowledge and scientific characterization data related to the addressed potato varieties are jointly accessible.
Both the projects in India and Peru, as well as those in Egypt, Senegal and Tanzania, have actively promoted the wider use of traditional and locally adapted varieties among farmers. Furthermore, an important feature of the project portfolio was the two-way exchange between farmers and genebanks. In the framework of the Peru project for example, 410 accessions of native potato varieties conserved ex situ by the International Potato Centre were reintroduced into the fields of the indigenous communities of the Cusco area, where they had previously been lost due to genetic erosion. Several projects, including the ones in Costa Rica, Morocco, Senegal and Tanzania, directly involved farmers in joint activities with scientific genebank personnel, to enable them to engage actively in the selection of genebank crop material that meets their local needs.