Biodiversity to help address food security challenge — ACB

LOS BANOS, Laguna, Oct. 17 -- The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) reiterated its call to mainstream biodiversity into the food production systems, underscoring the benefits of biodiversity-rich approaches to the food security agenda.

"It's high time to rethink and innovate the way we produce our food. Diverse food production systems can better nourish and improve the health of both rural and urban population, not to mention biodiversity's role in building resilience to climate change," ACB Executive Director Theresa Mundita Lim said on the occasion of the World Food Day.

World Food Day is celebrated on 16 October every year to honour the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. It is a day of action dedicated to tackling global hunger.

Lim said this year's theme "Our Actions are our Future" highlights the need to transform food systems by mainstreaming biodiversity conservation into agriculture and fisheries.

Food security remains a challenge across the world as over 820 million people, or one in every nine people globally are suffering from hunger according to the latest United Nations' report.

According to a 2017 report of the World Health Organizations, United Nations Children's Fund, and the World Bank Group, a quarter of the children under five are stunted and 8.4 per cent of them are wasting, or having low height for weight. Both conditions are associated with food insecurity.

"We are facing an ever increasing demand for food, on one hand, and dwindling natural resources, on the other. The challenges of food security are even compounded by biodiversity loss caused by rapid urbanization and climate change," Lim said.

Agrobiodiversity, a variety and variability of animals, plants, and micro-organisms that are used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture, has been high on the global food security agenda with relentless efforts of countries and organizations to achieve a synergy between agriculture and biodiversity. Past declarations under the Convention on Biological Diversity demonstrate the global commitment to undertake specific actions on the conservation and sustainable use of agrobiodiversity.

"Agriculture and biodiversity have always been inseparable. Through the biodiversity of plants, animals, and micro-organisms, and the services that ecosystems provide, humans' daily sustenance becomes possible," Lim said.

The ACB Executive Director likewise noted that some of the effective agrobiodiversity practices being done in AMS are worthy of replication.

Citing a 2019 paper of Dr. Percy Sajise published by the ACB and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), intercropping and multi-species farming and aquaculture are among the effective biodiversity-friendly approaches in agriculture. For example, corn-peanut intercropping effectively reduces corn borer infestation, as peanut is a good habitat for spiders, which are predators of the corn borer.

Urban farms, she added, are also becoming popular for their role in greening spaces and augmenting the cities' and even national food supply. An example is the Urban Farm Urban Barn project in Thailand's central Bangkok, which transformed a former textile factory and abandoned farmland into agricultural production and outlet.

In recognition of the crucial importance of biodiversity in the region's goal of sustainable economic development, the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry adopted the ASEAN Guidelines for Agroforestry Development in Hanoi, Vietnam, on October 11, 2018.

Meanwhile, the ACB and SEARCA under a Memorandum of Understanding signed on July 1, 2016 have been enhancing capacities of the AMS in biodiversity conservation in relation to agriculture and food through a series of regional workshops.

"These are important steps towards a strengthened ASEAN multi-sectoral cooperation in line with our food security and biodiversity conservation goals," Lim said. (ACB)