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Day 1 in Rome: The Fellows visit Bioversity International


Sadhana Forest Reforestation Project by Arturo Turillazzi, from Italy, MSc Human Development and Food Security.

Short brief on Bioversity by Elisabetta Gotor, Head of Development Impact Unit

Matriarchal society by Violet Black, from Malawi, MSc in Human Development and Food Security

In situ conservation and management of plant genetic diversity in indigenous land use systems of the Teenek in the Huasteca Potosina by Claudia Heindorf, Phd student

Members present:

Phrang Roy, TIP Coordinator, India Andrea Selva, TIP Assistant, Italy Nofri Yani, TIP Fellow, Indonesia Chenxiang Marak, TIP Fellow, India Edgar Monte, TIP Fellow, Mexico Merrysha Nongrum, TIP fellow, India Pius Ranee, Former TIP Fellow, India Elisabetta Gotor, Head of Development Impact Unit Arturo Turillazzi, from Italy, MSc in Human Development and Food Security Violet Black, from Malawi, MSc in Human Development and Food Security Claudia Heindorf, Phd student Martina, Bioversity Intern

Venue: Bioversity International Head Quarter, Rome, Italy Timing: 9:30 AM-1:00 PM Date: 20th June, 2019


1. To orient fellows on the core areas undertaken by Bioversity International. 2. Understanding some of the core issues while promoting biodiversity. 3. Bonding friends from the three matriarchal societies: Malawi, Indonesia and India.


As part of the project work, Arturo Turillazzi took a challenge to review the Sadhana Forest Reforestation Project from the following perspectives:

–          Is reforestation a solution to restore food sovereignty?

–          To verify the sustainability of the project

In reviewing this project, he had specifically applied the Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture systems (SAFA) model. With a view to offer a fair playing field, this model has been presented to FAO member countries on 18th October, 2013.

Sadhana Forest is an international volunteer-based not-for-profit organisation that aims to teach local citizens and volunteers about environmental renewal and sustainable living. In 2003, Yorit and Aviram Rozin started Sadhana Forest in Auroville, India which is an experimental township in Viluppuram district mostly in the state of Tamil Nadu, India with some parts in the Union Territory of Puducherry in South India.

Arturo Turillazzi in his presentation highlighted that the main aim of this is to address the issue of biodiversity and water. He made a point that by retaining water and filling the aquifer, Sadhana Forest India had allowed the villagers to cultivate their food. He also mentioned that the survival rate of trees is between 70-80%. In this ecosystem, the project also introduced indigenous plants that suit the local conditions. Veganism is the approach that the project was undertaking.

In his analysis, he found out that there is no participation by the community which brings less usage of the forest. So the issue of food sovereignty and sustainability becomes a big question while doing his analysis. The only benefit for the communities is the increased availability of water.

Elisabetta Gotor in her presentation highlighted that initially Bioversity International was established as the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR) to coordinate an international plant genetic resources programme including emergency collecting missions, and building and expanding national, regional and international gene banks. Then IBPGR became the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI).  Recently in 2018, there is a recent development where Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) signed a Memorandum of understanding to create an alliance that delivers research-based solutions that harness agricultural biodiversity and sustainably transform food systems to improve people’s lives.

Bioversity International focuses on the following research initiatives:

Healthy diets from sustainable food systems

Productive and resilient farms and forests

Effective genetic resources conservation and use

During the initial stage, Elisabetta Gotor pointed out that Bioversity International focuses only on the number of papers being published. With the demand of the donors, now Bioversity International also has to look into the aspect of behavior change. For this, they are using a result based management framework.

Any research at Bioversity International has to be gender sensitive.


Since we are dealing with change in behavior, Phrang Roy raised a question, “How do we change the mindset of people to start producing and consuming their own local food?” Elisabetta Gotor replied, “Creating campaigns and consumer behavior research are some of the key activities that the project should apply within their own mandate.”

Future collaboration: As the head of Development Impact Unit, Elisabetta Gotor would like to explore the possibility of helping research Fellows of TIP into this system thinking.

Violet Black belongs to a matriarchal society.  Even though she comes from the matriarchal society, she says that, back home, women don’t have the power to decide on their land and agriculture. In her presentation, she also raised a major concern for her community because teenage pregnancy and HIV AIDS are quite prevalent.

In the discussion, we came to the conclusion that the values within the matriarchal society need to be rediscovered.

In situ conservation and management of plant genetic diversity in indigenous land use systems of the Teenek in the Huasteca Potosina by Claudia Heindorf, Phd student:

Claudia Heindorf in her presentation highlighted with the introduction of high yielding varieties that there is a decrease of local species. In her research, she had documented around 352 varieties. “Many of these species are underestimated by researchers,” she observed while working with farmers.

In her research, she found that 61.2% of local biodiversity are managed by custodian farmers. So, there is a need to recognise the role played by these farmers.

Learning: “It is not just important to increase the production but also to understand the consumer behavior to improve the consumption aspects and nutrition. Needs assessment is crucial to see the positive impact. Market driven crops should be balanced in order to respect the genetic diversity and agricultural policies for conservation of crops with farmers and institutions will bridge the gap (incentive mechanisms for farmers). Plant growing in wild ecosystems can contribute to communities in time of food scarcity because of resilience property. Land availability and households sizes are important determinants of household land use.”- Chenziang Marak, TIP Fellow 2019 “Improving biodiversity is not only about conserving natural resources for having a huge diversity, but it also includes the relationship between man and  nature. Men and their traditional knowledge is part of the diversity in the world, where traditional knowledge has been used to manage the land since the beginning.” -Edgar Monte, TIP Fellow 2019

Key messages:

After the sessions, the team sat down to reflect and came out with the following messages:

  1. Within Milpa and shifting cultivation, we need to understand the role of fire

  2. The issue of landlessness needs to be highlighted while addressing the issue of agrobiodiversity

  3. Creating evidence on agrobiodiversity is important while discussing with policy makers

  4. Cultural diversity is important for biodiversity.

  5. Stones are important to collect soil.

  6. Processes like water cycle, ecosystem services, pollination need to be properly oriented

  7. While promoting our local food, we should look into the aspect of taste

#NESFAS #insitu #fellows #reforestation #fellowship #bioversity #TIP #forest


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