Humans have used a rich diversity of wild species and evolving topographies to facilitate agriculture since the earliest instances of plant and animal domestication. The variety and variability of all life forms on Earth, as well as the interconnected ecological processes, are referred to as biodiversity.
Because of the vast diversity of life on earth, we have been able to grow and rely on a wide range of crops and foods. This biodiversity is the foundation of the ecosystems that are necessary for agricultural sustainability and human well-being.
BIODIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURE ARE INTERLINKED
Since agriculture’s inception 10,000 years ago, biodiversity has allowed farming systems to evolve. Domestication of variety of crop and livestock today is the result of thousands of years of human intervention. Biodiversity and agriculture are inextricably linked because, while biodiversity is essential for supporting agriculture, agriculture can also contribute to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use.
Farmers and agricultural producers are central to agricultural biodiversity as they are the custodians of the knowledge to manage and sustain it.
WHY AGRICULTURAL BIODIVERSITY IS ESSENTIAL
Agriculture provides humans with food and raw materials for goods, such as cotton for clothing, wood for shelter and fuel, plants and roots for medicines, and biofuel materials. This entire ecosystem facilitates incomes and livelihoods for agrarian communities, including subsistence farming. Though genetic base of agricultural crops is narrow, the available wild species genetic diversity in crop plants allow species to adapt to changing environments and evolve. Agricultural biodiversity also facilitates soil and water conservation, soil fertility and biota maintenance, and pollination, all of which are critical for human survival.
As per a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, prior to the 1960s green revolution, India had over 100,000 rice varieties, indicating a huge diversity in taste, nutrition, pest resistance, and adaptability to a variety of conditions.
This biodiversity seems to be irreversibly lost due to monoculture, harsh weather conditions, drop in carbon sequestration and land conversion for agriculture.
INDIA’S BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY ACT, 2002 (BDA)
India is a signatory to the 1992 United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (Biodiversity Convention), which affirms nations’ sovereign rights to use their biological diversity. India enacted the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 (BDA) to implement the Biodiversity Convention’s objectives.
One of the goals of BDA is to enable fair and equitable benefit sharing from resource use and knowledge with local communities. Local people who are engaged in biological resource conservation and those who produce and maintain knowledge and information on the use of biological resources are referred to as ‘Benefit Claimers’ under the BDA.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LOCAL COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION
Many communities rely on biological resources in their surroundings for survival and livelihood. As a result, it is critical for every individual to have access to such natural resources and share the benefits. This is commonly referred to as Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS).
The Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Board (TNBB), an autonomous statutory body, has achieved biodiversity objectives over the years. With the goal of ABS, Tamil Nadu has established 13,608 Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) at the urban and local body levels to profile biological resources and ensure their conservation and sustainable use.
According to the BDA 2002 rules, sites with high biodiversity can be designated as biodiversity heritage sites (BHS). This will aid in the preservation of biologically significant areas outside of forests and those under the jurisdiction of local communities.
The value of agricultural biodiversity includes socio-cultural, economic, and environmental factors. It needs ambitious conservation efforts to protect wildlife combined with stopping deforestation and habitat loss. Policymakers and consumers must work together to ensure that farmers and agricultural producers receive the right incentives to adopt sustainable agricultural practices. Transformative changes can be brought in agriculture by allowing new innovations to test the waters.
We require a comprehensive approach to the development and implementation of sustainable agricultural systems and practices. A resilient agricultural system complementing biodiversity can provide food security for all while conserving and preserving environment.