On-farm Agrobiodiversity in West Asia: Status, Threats and Impact on Rural Livelihoods
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Ahmed Mazid, Kamel Shideed, Ahmed Amri. (1/1/2008). On-farm Agrobiodiversity in West Asia: Status, Threats and Impact on Rural Livelihoods. Aleppo, Syria: International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA).
Since 1999, ICARDA has been coordinating a five-year project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to promote on-farm/in situ conservation and sustainable use of dryland agrobiodiversity. The project, implemented in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, focused on conserving landraces and wild relatives of barley, wheat, lentil, alliums, feed legumes, and fruit trees. The project developed a community-driven approach that helped increase awareness, at all levels, of the benefits and need to conserve agrobiodiversity. It has also prompted research institutions in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria to implement their own agrobiodiversity programs; and national authorities to make greater use of wild relatives of fruit trees in afforestation efforts. A detailed socioeconomic assessment was conducted in 2004 and 2005 (building on a baseline survey in 1999-2000) to assess the impacts of the project on livelihoods of local communities. ICARDA researchers and national partners surveyed 276 households that had participated in the project and 294 households that had not. These surveys were conducted in the eight project target areas (two per country) in August and September 2004, using a formal questionnaire. The survey covered various topics including household livelihood strategies, household and farm assets, sources of income, and access to credit, cooperatives, and healthcare. The study compared livelihood strategies, agrobiodiversity use, and incomes (i) within and across countries, (ii) among poorer and better-off households. Using factor analysis, households were classified into four wealth groups or quartiles, taking into account all types of capital—human, natural, financial, physical, social —available to a household. The results highlight the importance of agrobiodiversity conservation in improving the livelihoods of all segments of farming communities. However, to be effective, research should be based on the importance of targeted species to different farming groups. This study provides clear indications that diversification of farming systems to include livestock, field crops and fruit trees, along with off farm activities, are needed to conserve and sustain the use of agrobiodiversity