Create Space for Indigenous Leadership to Preserve Agricultural Biodiversity

LULI Working Paper 0002, May 2020

By Masha Vernik

Abstract: Agricultural biodiversity bolsters food security. Because industrial food production wiped out many crop varieties, food systems must incorporate ancestral varieties to withstand threats posed by cli- mate change. At the edge of the Ecuadorian Amazon, Kichwa chakras (traditional, biodiverse sub- sistence farms) persist. Kichwa farmers use chakras to grow food for their families and cacao for income. Contrary to popular belief, these subsistence crops and cash crops coexist. Based on sur- veys from 21 chakras in Santa Rita, intensi ed cacao production has no correlation with a decline in agrobiodiversity. Because cacao gets its value from the chakra’s biodiversity, institutions support the chakra. Those institutions that see beyond the chakra’s biodiversity, and towards the culture that sustains the chakras, build solid partnerships with indigenous leaders. In order to bolster global food security, sustainable development institutions must make space for indigenous leadership in the design and implementation of climate-resilient agriculture.

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