20.05.2008 -

Sustainable Agriculture in Biosphere Reserves

22 May 2008 - The International Day for Biological Diversity


Biodiversity is the basis of agriculture. Its maintenance is essential for the production of food and other agricultural goods and the benefits these provide humanity, including food security, nutrition and livelihoods. Agriculture is also a major driver of biodiversity loss when it is practiced in environmentally harmful manners.

Biosphere Reserves – the places where rich and important plant genetic resources are protected while local development is encouraged under national and international recognition – serve as a demonstration site for people to innovate sustainable agricultural systems which benefit both biodiversity and local livelihoods.

The following case studies present some examples achieved by partnership, including local people, NGOs and administration:

  • Chebaling Biosphere Reserve/China

Located in Guangdong Province, the biosphere reserve is a home to local ethnic groups, such as Yao. The story tells an experience of facing a conflict between the biosphere reserve administrator and local people over access to natural resources and the success of bringing a harmony and improving local livelihoods by promoting agricultural production and techniques.

  • Riverlandscape Elbe Biosphere Reserve/Germany

Situated in the middle reaches of the Elbe River, the biosphere reserve holds 270.000 inhabitants and 70% of the area are used for agriculture. The story tells an experience of restoring the landscape and developing sustainable agricultural systems, including traditional use of grassland, new creation of pasture landscape for grazing livestock and water level management.

  • Luki Biosphere Reserve/Democratic Republic of Congo

Located in Province of Lower-Congo, the biosphere reserve is a home to more than 50,000 people. The story tells an experience of establishing sustainable agroforestry systems in the transition zone, including activities for monitoring, education, afforestation and carbon sequestration, as a way to tackle pressures from over-exploitation of natural resources for industrial wood production for export.

  • Seaflower Biosphere Reserve/ Colombia 

Located in the western Caribbean, the biosphere reserve encompasses the Archipelago of San Andres, Old Providence, and Santa Catalina, Colombia. The biosphere reserve is a home to 78,000 people including native islanders, a national ethnic minority known as “raizales”. The story tells biosphere reserve’s efforts to integrate effective traditional agricultural methods with low-tech alternatives to enhance economic, social, and conservation benefits, including special programs to protect the native islanders’ culture and natural environment.

  • Intercontinental Biosphere Reserve of the Mediterranean (RBIM), Morocco/Spain

Stretching between Spain and Morocco, and connected by a marine transition area, the RBIM covers an area of 1 million ha. This story written by Younes Hmimsa, recipient of the 2006 MAB Young Scientists Award tells us the outcomes of a study done to characterise the important ago-diversity embedded in the Moroccan side of this unique biosphere reserve. The author highlights the importance of the recent classification of this area as a biosphere reserve and the need to take advantage of this recognition to focus on the conservation and sustainable use of agro-diversity. The story ends with a link to a short description of innovative agro-ecotourism activities with a focus on cultural and biological diversity conservation.

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