Miracle Farm Blueprint

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Negative attitude toward G x E

Positive attitude toward G x E

formal and informal cultivar selection is that breeders tend to narrow the genetic alternatives in search of yield and disease or climatic resistance while marginal, subsistence farmers tend to broaden their choices by seeking more diverse varieties to fit their overall needs (Soleri and Smith, 1998; Nazarea-Sandoval and Rhoades, 1994). Indigenous cultivators do not design, perceive, or manage plots or zones in isolation of surrounding areas. To the contrary, they manage for diversity along continuous boundaries by pursuing opportunities creatively to mix genetic resources and inputs to meet their household and community needs. Farmers use diverse criteria in selection and adoption decision making which does not necessarily end up with the intentional elimination of "less desirable" options. What is desirable or not desirable to local farmers may be a matter of taste, a matter of timing, and sometimes a matter of mood. In other words, they use fuzzy multiple criteria; if not, the diverse cultivars would likely have disappeared long ago (Nazarea, 1996).

One of the reasons that small farmers in marginal environments have benefited little from the yield and disease resistance achieved by formal breeding programs is precisely because of the real-world interaction between genotype and environment (G x E). Breeding programs typically assume agricultural scientists know better than farmers the characteristics of a successful cultivar (Witcombe et al., 1996). Breeders select under favorable growing conditions, and, if adoption does not occur, the cause is frequently assumed to be ineffective extension or insufficient seed production (Ceccarelli, 1995). Breeding for broad adaptation to agroecological zones requires large-scale centralized seed production and distribution which in turn further promotes genotypes that might be inferior to the landraces they are replacing under stressful conditions. This formal approach contrasts with that of marginal farmers who have traditionally relied on a strategy based on both intraspecific diversity (crop mixes and landraces on the same farm) and where seed is produced either on the farm or obtained from neighbors through community-based informal seed networks.

In bridging the gap between breeding programs and farmers in marginal areas, breeders have begun to think innovatively about marginal farmers, experimental designs, field plot techniques, and landraces (Maurya et al., 1988; Galt, 1989; Ceccarelli, 1995). As a result, participatory breeding programs have begun to emerge in which farmers are encouraged through support and partnership with scientists to exchange knowledge and test, under farmer experimental conditions and designs, cultivars early in the breeding-selection process (Prain et al., 1992; Joshi and Witcombe, 1996). These participatory programs have already generated varieties that match farmers' needs and increase production simultaneously (Maurya et al., 1988; Sperling et al., 1993; de Boef et al., 1993; Sperling and Scheidegger, 1995; Witcombe et al., 1996).


The Social Context of Community-Based Biodiversity Management

While unusual innovativeness in biodiversity preservation finds manifestation in experimental, individualistic farmers, ultimately the social context of local communities shapes in situ biodiversity maintenance. In communities that have not yet been fully incorporated into commercial markets and still manage high levels of landrace biodiversity, future protection of such genetic resources requires values compatible with locally defined social and economic goals. Whether biodiversity is decreased or enhanced in the future may depend on the degree of self-determination of local communities to attain these locally defined goals. In many traditional, closed corporate communities (i.e., membership determined by birth), intergenerational equity or "bequeath value" is as important as it is in developed countries where heads of farm enterprises expect their families to continue to operate the business well into the future. Many indigenous communities with a firm sense of place are aware of the value and role of land and diverse crop inventories to their cultural survival, and communally strive to guard these resources. Andean communities, for instance, carefully regulate, through annual village assemblies, the rotation of land parcels, the use of communal pastures, and the complex of species and varieties planted. In other cases, such as in the South American Amazon, Amerindian groups purposely increase biological diversity in many locations through shifting cultivation which involves systematically transplanting crops throughout the forest (Castilleja et al.,

1995). The landscape in this setting is in fact a cultural creation by the populations who have over the centuries altered the natural landscape through clearing, burning, planting, and other mechanisms of diversifying resource clusters for their use. A similar effect is obtained around the Awa Ethnic Forest Reserve in Ecuador where the Awa Indians have planted "forest belts" of gardens and fields as a territorial signal to logging companies and other outsiders (Castilleja et al., 1995).

Indigenous peoples value their community resources and typically practice collective decision making at a much higher intensity than found in open, Western societies. To maintain and exploit communal resources requires group values, dedication, and willingness to follow village leadership faithfully (Rastogi and Pant,

1996). In most cases, regulation is enforced and punishment meted out by the community itself. Leadership often rotates among households so that all will have a degree of responsibility through time. Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh in India, for example, have a self-governing system wherein the tribal council is responsible for societal decision making (Rastogi and Pant, 1996). Their councils (variously known as buliangs of the Apatanis, the kegangs of the Adis, the nyels of the Nishings) are informal in nature and led by elders who command a great deal of respect. Any conflicts, such as over boundaries or in sharing of resources, are handled in the village courts through mediation. The main threat to these indigenous local institutions has been the national and state governments which have declared control of much of the ancestral lands by overpowering and disbanding local institutions (Fisher, 1995). In Nepal, for instance, when the government seized all community forest lands in the 1950s and superimposed outside government agencies to manage the forest, widespread deforestation and land exploitation resulted (Ives and Mes-serli, 1989). Even local people who formerly protected their lands participated in the exploitation. Only in the 1990s, after a great deal of destruction, has the government tried to reverse itself and return the forests back to local community-based management (Griffin et al., 1988; Gilmour and Nurse, 1991).

The power of communities in the social creation and maintenance of biodiversity can be clearly seen through their role in seed or germplasm exchange of cultivated crops through carefully organized fairs or market days. For centuries, people from the native communities have congregated in spatially rotating markets on established days during the year for the purpose of exchanging goods from different regions or valleys. At Andean local markets and fairs, women with distinctive village apparel sit at local markets behind sacks and baskets full of brightly colored beans, maize, or potatoes. There are weekly fairs, which are tied to normal marketing of household goods, and regional fairs held only once a year. The latter correspond to a religious holiday and bring together communities from different zones and villages. These festivals are held at the end of harvest so that a maximal diversity of crops, technologies, and knowledge is available for exchange prior to the commencement of the next season. These regularly scheduled fairs, and the ritualistic manner in which they are organized, in fact function for the systematic exchange of genetic materials — a true manifestation of "conservation through use." Similar markets are found throughout the tropical world, such as certain mid-hill markets in the Nepal Himalaya which are renowned for the diversity of crops and the excellence of landrace planting materials which arrive from distant valleys on a predictable schedule (Rhoades, 1985).

The social locus of biodiversity management within households resides mainly with women in households of marginal individuals. In our 1992 UPWARD project in Bukidnon, Philippines, we compared two models for in situ conservation of traditional root crops. One system was dominated by the traditional political hierarchy, mainly comprising men, while the other was managed by an informal network of migrant women called the "industrious mothers" (Nazarea, 1996). Through time, the importance of the more informal, egalitarian approach of the women for biodiversity enhancement as opposed to the authoritarian formally organized male structure became apparent. The male organization could not sustain interest in the maintenance and enhancement of crop germplasm. In fact, genetic material in the maledominated garden would have perished had a female relative not rescued it by transplanting surviving plants to her garden. The women's garden, however, flourished amid an atmosphere of lighthearted communal spirit from the beginning. All members of the group, including children and men, joined in the process. A tracing of the exchanges and information flows show that the women were connected in layered vertical and interconnected horizontal relationships along which germplasm and associated information were continually and reciprocally exchanged (see also Prain and Piniero, 1994). One might surmise that the informal female network replicates how germplasm has been created by traditional communities for centuries. The germplasm is enhanced and conserved by different social "pathways" such as between blood relations or ceremonial kinship networks or exchange between market associates. Strong reliance on interpersonal and familial ties is important and a great deal of germplasm changes hands between neighbors. Any new variety that is acquired is soon spread, and redundancy considerably buffers the system from genetic erosion. A well-entrenched cultural ethic of sharing, coupled with an interest in seeking and soliciting materials to secure household needs, helps create and maintain diversity.

Global Change and Plant Genetic Resources

The vast majority of marginalized indigenous communities in the world are still unaware that during the past few years they have been thrust center stage in the political debate over access, control, and ownership of the genetic resources found within their traditional agroecosystems (Mooney, 1979; Fowler and Mooney, 1990; Shand, 1991; Brush, 1993). Most are unaware of the concerted efforts of trade liberalization and political policies aimed at their political and economical integration into the global "village" (Hall, 1991). However, this situation is rapidly changing. Due to a combination of rising awareness of the possibility of economic value of locally controlled genetic materials as well as increasing legal and political debate over the same resource on a global scale, marginalized farming communities are no longer content to be partners voluntarily assisting plant collectors or ethnobotanists in finding and identifying useful genetic materials in their territories. This newly found awareness for traditional peoples further complicates an already entangled global dynamic in which many stakeholders — private companies, national and international breeding programs, activists, and academics — must now contend with the role of indigenous communities that goes beyond their previous uncompensated provisioning and protection of the germplasm in their traditional agroecosystems (Rhoades and Nazarea, 1996). Indigenous communities can have crucial roles in biodiversity protection if their ancestral territories and knowledge are legally recognized, if they are provided effective control over the resources — including their own knowledge — within their environments, and if they are not hampered by external extractive policies which interfere with traditional life in a destructive manner (Cunningham, 1991; Martin et al., 1996).

The modern thrust in development to empower local communities has been generated, ironically, by a process called globalization. These changes are also related to the new regional and supranational monetary and financial arrangements (e.g., World Trade Organisation, North American Free Trade Agreement, etc.) which break down trade barriers, open new markets, and bring democracy to formerly highly authoritarian areas (Hall, 1991). One result of the global liberalization movement is that, increasingly, local communities, even in formerly highly centralized countries like China, are given more and more freedom to manage their local affairs.

These new arrangements signal possible new alliances between conservationists and the international movement for local rights (e.g., human rights, community empowerment, self-determination). This often means that global environmental organizations endorse local community rights while the community adopts the slogans of international environmental protection (even to the point of writing grant proposals for funding).

In recent years, the policy recommendations and funding initiative following the publication of Our Common Future have stimulated agricultural and development agencies to show more interest in developing marginal areas of the developing world (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). In many of these hard-to-reach regions, a Green Revolution has not occurred, much to the frustration of central governments, international agricultural research centers, and input suppliers. Since such regions are not well integrated into national economies, they also tend to be areas where political resistance, civil unrest, and narcotic trafficking or illicit trade are common. They are also rich in many natural resources such as economically significant flora (especially medicinals and timber), minerals, and water. Despite their "invisibility," the sheer numbers of such marginalized people are not insignificant. Perhaps over 1 billion people live in the more marginal diversified ecosystems that are somewhat insulated from "roadside" development — mountain, uplands, arid and semiarid deserts, and tropical lowlands — where most of the remaining world biodiversity is found.

Much of the development thinking about these marginal areas has been guided by a "blame the victim" mentality; that is, too many unplanned children lead to more poverty which in turn creates more land degradation which leads the vicious spiral inevitably downward (Rhoades and Harwood, 1992). One widely promoted solution to such land degradation, including loss of biodiversity, is to transform or modernize such zones either through the transfer of technology or by enhancing income through creation of enterprises which would allow the populace to market their local resources on the outside. The farming system research and extension movement was an effort in this direction, as is the more-recent participatory sustainable agriculture and natural resource management model (Rhoades, 1989b). Despite an emphasis on the value of indigenous systems in these well-intended approaches, the prevailing belief among most agricultural scientists is that improved agricultural systems should replace those traditional systems which are not capable of producing sufficient food and income. Therefore, a great deal still hinges on the development of external inputs and technologies (especially high-yielding varieties), commercial markets, and road building.

The neoclassical economic approach to transforming agricultural communities outlined in the previous paragraph has been questioned from the perspective of agroecology and ethnoecology. Dove (1996), in discussing the granting of intellectual property rights to farmers, even goes so far as to argue that well-meaning projects which aim to help marginal producers maintain diversity actually serve to undermine the diversity to be preserved. By pulling the marginal areas into the mainstream, one destroys the context which fostered diversity in the first place, that is, marginality. While other agro- and ethnoecologists may adopt a more moderate position than Dove's, many question the neo-Malthusian assumptions about population-poverty-degradation by arguing instead that traditional communities possess creative and dynamic strategies for purposeful resistance to outside influences (Nazarea-Sandoval, 1995; 1998a). Indigenous peoples are seen as creative actors who are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about global politics and economics. This, in turn, has given them new external alliances which allow them to add value to the resources they control. In other words, traditional communities are no longer seen as "passive victims" in the global/political biodiversity game (Colchester, 1994). In fact, many local communities are either closing their doors to or negotiating with outside "bioprospectors" (Shyamsundar and Lanier, 1994). Recently, we witnessed in Ecuador the federation of Amazonian native peoples halting all foreign collecting in response to an attempt by a U.S. researcher to secure legal rights to a medicinal plant given by a shaman. Native peoples are examining options by which they can gain economic leverage with both their knowledge and the genetic resources found within their territories. This story is only now unfolding in many previously isolated communities around the world (Martin et al., 1996).

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