Science - June 22, 2006

New handbook to improve biodiversity

The aim was to maintain the biodiversity of local rice varieties, vegetables and pig breeds in Asia, by helping farmers to market local breeds and varieties. The Pedigrea project came to a conclusion recently, and resulted in a readable handbook.

Local trainers can read in the handbook how to set up weekly training sessions on increasing agro-biodiversity of local varieties and improving marketing. This is important in areas where many high-yield rice varieties have been introduced. Farmers learn how to select crosses between modern and local varieties. The latter often have a better taste or are easier to thresh.
Researchers from the Centre for Genetic Resources taught the trainers how to select varieties and economists from LEI did market research on marketing local varieties in nearby towns.

‘The project has increased farmers’ autonomy because they have increased their own ability to select and cross varieties,’ says Dr Bert Visser, leader of the Pedigrea Project (Participatory Enhancement of Diversity of Genetic Resources in Asia). The training sessions were participatory and, as a result, Visser expects that the effects of the project will ultimately reach more than the three thousand farmers who received direct training. Part of the training was intended to teach trainers how to pass the new information on to others. / JT

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