Custodian Farmers of Agricultural Biodiversity: Policy support for their roles in use and conservation
11-12 February 2013 (New Delhi, India)

Hosted by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Bioversity International in collaboration with Indian partners, this workshop brought together farmers and researchers, to discuss their perspectives on the use and maintenance of agricultural biodiversity. The 20 South and Southeast Asian farmers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal and India, were each considered important members of their communities for their cultivation and conservation of diverse, rare or wild species of crops and fruit trees. The workshop represented an important first step in confirming the term ‘custodian farmer’ and their distinct and crucial role within agriculture. Custodian farmers are an integral part of community-based diversity management and often the focal point for the informal exchange of seed and plant material among farmers. They are also holders of local knowledge, who help link the traditional and modern seed system, and contribute to the evolutionary process of crop adaptation over time. Through a series of presentations, group discussions, and role-playing exercises, the workshop participants compiled a draft list of recommendations on the roles, rights and perspectives of custodian farmers, which were presented at the Global Consultation on Use and Management of Agrobiodiversity, held the same week in India. Recommendations included establishing a network of custodian farmers to share knowledge, skills, seeds or plant materials; mobilizing financial capital to establish community biodiversity management funds; easy registration of farmers’ material in the farmers’ or community’s name; and participation in the ITPGR and CBD processes. Read Bioversity’s release on the workshop outcomes …