Alert: Food biodiversity in danger!

Did you know that 75% of the world's food is generated by only 12 plants and 5 animal species? The association Agronomes et Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (AVSF) is sounding the alarm about the erosion of the variety of plants and animals useful for human food. The NGO is therefore launching a campaign to raise public awareness on this often little-known subject and its stakes in terms of global food security and ecosystem balance.
75% edible varieties have disappeared in 100 years. Nearly 100 breeds of farm animals disappeared between 2000 and 2014. (source FAO). Of the 73 traditional varieties of melons found at the beginning of the 20th century, only one still exists. There were 30 varieties of tomatoes in 1900, there are still 7 varieties left. (1). These impressive figures apply to most edible plants and animal breeds and expose farmers to high levels of food insecurity. Millet, sorghum, cowpea and sesame are threatened with extinction in Niger. (source IRD). Millions of cattle and pigs are born from the genes of just 100 animals.
This is the result of a unique, productivist and industrial monoculture agricultural model requiring expensive chemical inputs that ruin farmers and degrade nature. Monoculture farming increases the vulnerability of small farmers on local and international markets, too often dependent on price volatility, speculation, etc., which is the result of a single, productivist and industrial model of agriculture, in monoculture, requiring expensive chemical inputs that ruin farmers and degrade nature.
These are shocking and alarming facts about the disappearance of many species and varieties of plants and animals from farms around the world.
Agricultural biodiversity is the result of a long process of observation, selection and exchange of seeds and breeds between farmers over the millennia. It is particularly important for maintaining the productivity and resilience of crop and livestock systems in precarious and vulnerable environments such as arid, flood-prone or mountainous areas for example, but also in the face of economic risks on local and international markets.
The initiatives of the AVSF association are therefore salutary: it works to protect, throughout the world, the genetic resources adapted to the soil and the climate, as well as the related know-how, within an agro-ecological agriculture. It runs projects in 20 countries around the world, benefiting 700,000 people every year.

In Peru: A factory of "native" potato chips

AVSF is working in Peru in partnership with the farmers' cooperative Agropia and SCOP Ethiquable to preserve and promote the countless varieties of local potatoes in the Huancavelica region, where at an altitude of 4,000 m, local potato varieties are flourishing. nativas dads or native potatoes, with astonishing shapes and varied colours: white, yellow, blue, purple, black ... Illustration of the interest of this fight against the erosion of varieties and the seed monopoly: the farmers' cooperative Agropia recently inaugurated its own factory for the production of potato chips. nativas dads... An achievement that allows about a hundred producers in the region to process and sell their production directly on international markets and to cultivate the ambition to become suppliers of organic native seeds for other producers in Peru.

In Senegal: Improving the performance of local cow breeds

Also present in Senegal, the NGO is working to conserve local breeds of cows that are resistant to the tsetse fly-borne disease and adapted to climatic conditions. AVSF improves the performance of these farms by improving their feed, housing and health. Thanks to the implementation of a programme of crossbreeding local Ndama cows with hardy French dairy breeds (Montbéliarde, Tarentaise, Abondance), milk productivity is improved and the importation of cows is avoided. In the world, only five breeds of animals from Europe and North America dominate breeding.

In Guatemala: Biodiversity competitions

There, AVSF teams organize biodiversity competitions based on the principle of football matches. Today, more than 800 Indian farming families from over 100 different communities take part in this competition, which allows first division players to show amazing results: the winning teams cultivate between 80 and 100 different species of fruit and vegetables in their plots. These competitions also help to enhance the Indian Q'eqchi' identity, demonstrate the performance of their agro-ecological production practices and ultimately fight against peasant migration to the cities.

Genetic diversity: a condition for food security

"Focusing on a few species or varieties has allowed productivist and industrial agriculture to increase the amount of food produced, but we have all lost out: consumers, in terms of quality and diversity, and farmers, in terms of adaptability and independence. AVSF encourages peasants in the preservation and recovery of their cultivated heritage and their local, ancestral and resistant livestock breeds, to guarantee a solid and quality food base, but also to make them more resilient to increasingly frequent economic and climatic shocks. The existence of an immense diversity of resources with diverse characteristics, this recomposed and preserved biodiversity, are the concrete conditions for food and nutritional security for all of us and for the balance of ecosystems", explains Frédéric Apollin, General Manager of AVSF.
Industrial monoculture is spreading rapidly across the planet and threatening the agricultural balance of the countries of the South. On paper, it can be attractive to local producers and political players: high yields, organized distribution channels, etc. However, there is a flip side to this phenomenon. Productivity gains are quickly cancelled out by the cost of the many pesticides and chemical fertilizers that are needed. Seeds do not reproduce, inputs pollute the soil and water, and impact our health... The vicious circle of industrial logic ruins farmers and threatens their food security.
Crop standardization is a time bomb: many believe it is a force, but in reality it is killing agricultural biodiversity every day. Crop variety is essential to the richness of our food supply and to the preservation of environmentally friendly production methods. Industrialization has made it possible to increase productivity, but at the cost of an unbalanced nature. In the North, people are trying to reintroduce forgotten seeds. In the South, it is urgent to face the threat by pooling our energies and our will to preserve this wealth that we are the depositories of for future generations.
The NGO is therefore launching a campaign to raise public awareness on this often little-known subject and its stakes in terms of global food security and ecosystem balance. Entitled 1TP3CultivatingBiodiversity, it is based on their website : https://cultivons-la-biodiversite.org/
(1) Source: International Livestock Research Institute, 2014 / FAO

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