Securing crop diversity for climate change adaptation: creating policy space for Nepal to participate in the multilateral system of access and benefit sharing

by Michael Halewood, Madan Bhatta, Bal K. Joshi, Chiranjibi Bhattarai and  Devendra Gauchan

Under the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, national multi-stakeholder research teams in 8 countries (Nepal, Bhutan, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Cote D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso) are engaging in novel research activities  to use  crop diversity to adapt to climate changes. With support from the Genetic Resources Policy Initiative, they are combining high resolution climate data, with data on crop suitability, geographic information, and genebank accession collection coordinates to identify crop genetic resources that are (possibly) adapted to the climatic conditions in vulnerable sites in those 8 countries. (Some of these activities have been reported in other blog posts). The teams then seek to acquire the identified germplasm, working through the applicable policies and laws that govern access to those resources both domestically and abroad. Lessons learned help policymakers identify mechanisms to ensure future access to and supply of such materials.  Not surprisingly, much of this policy-related work ends up focusing on developing means for national actors to participate in the multilateral system of access and benefit sharing created by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). Through the multilateral system, countries can pool and share crop genetic diversity for the purposes of agricultural research, crop breeding, and conservation. Increased climate variability and migrating climates are increasing the value of access to crop diversity as a source of genetically-based adaptation.

National Agrobiodiversity Committee considers policy reforms to make space for multilateral system

National Agrobiodiversity Coordination Committee considers reforms to make policy space for operation of the multilateral system

Nepal is currently mid-way through the process of making policy reforms to implement the ITPGRFA. Nepal acceded to the ITPGRFA in 2009, after it had approved the Nepal Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2002 (NBSAP) and Agrobiodiversity Policy (2007). The NBSAP sets national priorities regarding the use and conservation of biological resources and benefit sharing; the Agrobiodiversity Policy addresses conservation and use of agrobiodiversity in particular. Since both instruments predate Nepal’s accession to the ITPGRFA, their treatment of access and benefit sharing is oriented to implementing  the Convention on Biological Diversity, putting systems in place whose primary focus are to prevent unauthorized access to genetic resources, and set up systems to negotiate benefit sharing agreements. For Nepalese organizations and individuals to be able to pool and share crop genetic resources through the multilateral system, it is considered necessary to revise the NBSAP and the Agrobiodiversity Policy to make policy space and provide direction to implement the ITPGRFA in harmony with the CBD. (The revisions also promote supporting community based agrobiodiversity management, in situ and on farm conservation and the function of the newly formed national genebank.) In 2012–13, a national multistakeholder team revised both policies. The draft revised Agrobiodiversity Policy was submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture Development for consideration in 2013. If the Minister accepts the draft, he will introduce it to Cabinet in 2014 for adoption. The revised NBSAP will be submitted to the Minister of Forest & Soil Conservation in 2014. The research teams anticipate having systems in place for participation in the multilateral system by the end of 2014.

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