Governments are ignoring a vast store of knowledge generated over thousands of years
that could protect food supplies and make agriculture more resilient to climate change,
says a briefing published today by the International Institute for Environment and Development.
It urges negotiators at the UN climate change conference in Durban later this month to give stronger support to traditional knowledge and address the threats posed by commercial agriculture and intellectual property rights.
The paper includes case studies from Bolivia, China and Kenya that show traditional knowledge and local farming systems have proved vital in adapting to the climatic changes that farmers there face.
This includes using local plants to control pests, choosing traditional crop varieties that tolerate extreme conditions such as droughts and floods, planting a diversity of crops to hedge bets against uncertain futures, breeding new varieties based on quality traits, and having systems in place to protect biological diversity and share seeds within and between communities.
But the paper warns that government policies tend to overlook such knowledge and fail to protect farmers’ rights to grow traditional crops, benefit from their use and access markets.