By Roy Mabasa
In the observance of the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDBD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on Wednesday called for stronger action to address the rapid and steady decline of biodiversity that are essential for food and agriculture.
The FAO said this year’s IDBD celebration focuses on biodiversity as the foundation for food and health, and a key catalyst to transforming food systems and improving human health.
Also known as the World Biodiversity Day, the IDBD is a UN-sanctioned international day for the promotion of biodiversity issues being held every 22ndday of May.
In February 2019, the UN food agency released a report which presents evidence that the biodiversity that underpins food systems is disappearing – putting the future of food, livelihoods, health and environment under severe threat.
Called the State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, the FAO report calls on governments and the international community to do more to strengthen enabling frameworks, create incentives and benefit-sharing measures, promote pro-biodiversity initiatives and address the core drivers of biodiversity loss.
In the Philippines, the food agency has been implementing the “Dynamic Conservation and Sustainable Use of Agrobiodiversity in Traditional Agroecosystems of the Philippines” project to help respond to these issues.
The said project is working to enhance and promote the sustainable use of agrobiodiversity (ABD) in traditional agro-ecosystems. It is being funded by the Global Environment Facility and jointly implemented by FAO, the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) with partner local government units.
It currently works in Hingyon and Hungduan in Ifugao Province, and Lake Sebu in South Cotabato Province, areas known for their rich crop diversity conservation initiatives and heirloom farming practices using traditional and natural methods.
“Fighting hunger means ensuring food security through the availability of healthy, safe, and nutritious food. FAO supports and works with various stakeholders, including indigenous communities, to promote sustainable food production and enhance the conservation and sustainable use of agro-biodiversity,” said José Luis Fernandez, FAO Representative in the Philippines.
Fernandez emphasized the importance of preserving heirloom and traditional crop varieties as important sources of quality and nutritious food.
The indigenous communities also produce taro, banana, tomato, ginger and abaca are just some of the products that can promote agrobiodiversity conservation.
These communities are getting help from FAO through value-adding activities such as direct selling of fresh taro in wholesale markets, rope making for abaca and food processing for tomato (dried tomato), taro (chips) and bungulan banana (chips).
Farmers in Barangay Baang in Hungduan, Ifugao have started to produce ginger candies that fetch up to Php600 (USD11) per kilo in the market, as opposed to selling these as fresh ginger for only Php20 (USD0.38) per kilo.
Meanwhile, women farmers In Lake Sebu have also started to earn more from processing or drying tomatoes into candies. It was learned that farmers can now earn as much as Php1,015 (USD19.48) per crate, as opposed to only Php200-400 (USD3.84 – 7.68) per crate of 20 kilograms.
DA-BAR Program development Division head Joell Lales said they are now aiming to come up with interventions that are meaningful and responsive to the needs of the farmers, as well as practices and studies that are specific to certain situations.