ICARDA Efforts to Promote In Situ/On-farm Conservation of Dryland Agrobiodiversity
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Dryland biodiversity has only recently got due attention because of its potential to contribute in overcoming the effects of global challenges caused by land degradation and and climate change (FAO, 1989). More particularly, the non-tropical dryland agrobiodiversity is of special significance since it encompasses the four major Vavilovian centers of diversity (Mediterranean, West Asia, Central Asia and Abyssinian) where most of the world today’s major food and feed species have evolved. The Fertile Crescent (including Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, southeast Turkey and southern Iran) is considered an area of megadiversity where wheat, barley, lentil, pea, vetch, alfalfa and others have their centers of origin, diversity and domestication and where their landraces and wild relatives are still prevailing within traditional farming systems (Harlan, 1975). This agrobiodiversity, in addition to its role in sustaining the livelihoods of poor communities living under harsh conditions, are a rich reservoir for supplying genetic resources to ensure continuous genetic gains in breeding programmes and for use in the rehabilitation/ restoration of degraded farming and eco-systems or their diversification. Despite limited information available, all indications show that this agrobiodiversity is subject to a rapid and alarming loss calling for more concerted efforts at local, national, regional and global levels for its conservation and sustainable use. The ex situ conservation in genebanks should be complemented with in situ/farm management of agrobiodiversity to ensure dynamic conservation of larger diversity including that of recalcitrant species and their associated local knowledge Jarvis et al., 2001. ICARDA through its coordination of the Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded project on “conservation and sustainable use of dryland agrobiodiversity in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria” implemented during 1999-2005 has developed a holistic community based in situ conservation approach which is adopted in several initiatives promoting on-farm conservation of landraces in many countries (Amri et al., 2005).