Launch of Mesoamerican PGRFA and climate change project

By Gea Galluzzi, Bioversity International, Cali, Colombia

One of the new projects approved by the ITPGRFA’s Benefit Sharing Fund aims to contribute to the formulation of a participatory and science-based strategic Action Plan to strengthen the conservation of plant genetic resources and their enhanced use in adapting to climate change in Mesoamerica. Mesoamerica is the region from the south of Mexico to Panama. It will be one of the worst affected regions by climate change (figures 1 and 2) and it is one of the cradles of crop domestication, including of globally important crops (maize, beans).

Figure 1. Top, expected percentage changes in annual rainfall by 2050. Figure 2. Below, expected changes in annual mean temperature by 2050. Maps: Bioversity International; data from Worldclim future downscaled GCM models CCCMA, HADCM3, and CSIRO under emission scenario A2.

The treasure of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) that the region holds is a potential source for adaptation for agro-ecoystems around the world (figure 3; relevant crop gene pools listed below). However, in order to realize this potential, regional PGRFA conservation and use need to be strengthened and integrated in wider policy agendas on climate change adaptation, disaster preparedness and food security.

Figure 3. Global relevance of the crops within the target genepools. Darker colours indicate areas of higher dependence on these crops. Map: Bioversity International; data from Monfreda et al., 2008.

The new project will support the design of a regional action plan for directing investments in climate relevant PGRFA research,  implementing PGRFA policies (especially those related to the ITPGRFA and its Multilateral System), and for integrating PGRFA in the wider policy agendas. It will also serve as a framework for donor investments. Proposed activities include a thorough revision and systematization of existing data on the regional in situ and ex situconservation of 10 priority crop gene pools (priority in terms of diversity and importance for food production, among others), of existing climate data and of policies and plans in place in the genetic resources, food security and disaster preparedness areas. The 10 crop gene pools are and selected crops are: Zea (Maize), Phaseolus (Beans), Manihot (Cassava), Ipomoea (Sweet potato), Cucurbita (Squash), Amaranthus (Amaranth), Capsicum (Pepper), Carica (Papaya), Persea (Avocado),Tripsacum (Gamagrass).

Extensive consultations will involve a wide range of stakeholders (from farmer groups to policy makers) in all phases, from data analyses to Plan validation and endorsement. The project will be executed by Bioversity International through its Regional Office for the Americas.

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