The term agrobiodiversity denotes the diversity and variability of living organisms which contribute to food security, rural livelihoods, agricultural activities and constitute the related knowledge base. The double identity of agrobiodiversity as a natural resource and simultaneously as a cultural asset with social characteristics is a social-ecological phenomenon.
The utilisation of agrobiodiversity does not diminish, but rather determines its continuous existence: This paradox attribute of agrobiodiversity poses a central challenge to the social and institutional organisation of agrobiodiversity regulation. The rapid loss of landraces and ecological diversity in agricultural systems, the diminishing gendered knowledge on varieties and the economical impoverishment of users and custodians of genetic wealth are an international challenge. The erosion of genetic resources in agricultural systems in developing countries is exacerbated by the demand of a growing population for food, water and land in line with uncoordinated land use. This results in the degradation of natural resources and the displacement of local varieties by cash crops is accompanied by a change in property rights and use patterns.
Agrobiodiversity loss on the one hand means crop varieties vanishing from the actual cropping portfolio; on the other hand it threatens the practical knowledge on the ecological, agronomic, economic and social characteristics of varieties. Missing incentives that ensure the conservation of ecosystem services, the detachment of food production from economic income and the consecutive rearrangement of social, including gender, relations favour the loss of ecological diversity in agriculture.
BioDIVA: Sustainable and Equitable Life-Worlds
Land use change in the context of Wayanad means the conversion from rice to the cultivation of cash crops such as areca nut, ginger etc., which often results in the preparation of arable land for real estate construction. Relatively short-term economic gains drive the conversion of rice lands, disregarding the reduced ecological and social sustainability. This leads to genetic erosion of traditional rice varieties, associated traditions, infrastructures and social values.
Ongoing, sustainable and equitable rural development offers both women and men, especially from indigenous communities, enhanced and diverse livelihood options. In particular, the conservation of landraces of traditional crops such as rice is an area of expertise in which tribal people have accumulated knowledge about agro-ecological processes. As men and women hold different roles and responsibilities in cultivation systems, gender equity in access to and use of land-based goods and services including agrobiodiversity crucial for achieving long-term sustainability.