The traditional farming systems which sustain the conservation of this genetic raw material are the result of generations of experience with landraces and their native ecosystems. The cultures of which these systems are part are as important to conserve as the genetic resources themselves. Formal institutions dealing with agricultural research and plant breeding must ensure that the agrobiodiversity of the traditional farming system remains within the cultural context in which it developed and which continues to sustain it. Agrobiodiversity developed in tandem with man, the farmer, and must be regarded as a whole with all its elements: environmental, genetic and cultural.
Farmers have an intimate knowledge of useful plant characteristics such as which seeds require less fertilizer, which varieties are able to outgrow weeds, which are less susceptible to pests, and, not least, which taste better. As we pay greater attention to the role that farmers play in the conservation and use of genetic resources in situ, we will need to consider social and cultural factors such as decision making patterns, local institutions, indigenous knowledge and value systems. Gender analysis can provide an understanding of the critical role that women play in the management and use of genetic resources at the farm level. Equitable and ethical use of local knowledge of genetic resources requires a system for recognizing and supporting traditional resource rights and local systems for the maintenance and exchange of knowledge.
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