Increasingly, political instability, poverty and climate-related disasters are forcing people around the world to abandon their longtime livelihoods and relocate in search of better access to food, water and sources of income. Over the last decade, for instance, climate or weather-related disasters have displaced an average of 26.4 million people each year. Today, World Food Day — a day of action dedicated to tackling hunger challenges across the globe — focuses on the linked challenges of displacement and hunger with its theme, Change the Future of Migration. This year, World Food Day highlights the importance of developing economic opportunities in rural communities to enable more people to live and work in the places they have always called home.
While there is no silver bullet to solving the world hunger crisis, there are innovative solutions from every corner of the planet that hold promise for strengthening and stabilizing rural communities currently grappling with food insecurity, extreme poverty, the effects of climate change and a host of other issues. In particular, there is urgency to transform farming, as “three-quarters of the extreme poor base their livelihoods on agriculture or other rural activities,” according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
In 2016, Solution Search set out to surface these bright spots in sustainable agriculture. We launched Solution Search: Farming for Biodiversity, a global crowdsourcing effort that sources, supports and rewards local projects with the potential to reshape the future of farming and build economic resilience for rural communities — as well as put multiple countries on the path to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030.
After a three-month public voting process, Solution Search narrowed down a field of 338 entrants to 10 finalists. Each of the finalists has deployed an agricultural solution to help people build the ecological and economic resilience they need to thrive in their own communities. Apis Agribusiness, for example, uses beekeeping as a tool to preserve forest biodiversity and bring job security to local unemployed youth through honey production. In Mexico, Desarrollo Alternativo e Investigación A.C. aims to increase local maize and beans yields while boosting income of farming families through a participatory seed dissemination process and community knowledge exchange.
Here’s a look at each of the top 10 Farming for Biodiversity finalists:
Apis Agribusiness (Ethiopia) – Building on the country’s strong honey sector, Apis Agribusiness established wild honey production to help employ rural youth, while fighting deforestation and safeguarding the critical benefits of pollination.
A Growing Culture (Vietnam) – A Growing Culture is partnering with a farming community in Hanoi to create healthy hog bedding called “Living Bio-Beds” that actively break down hog waste and eliminates runoff and pollution into waterways.
CanopyBridge – EcoDecision (Ecuador) – Canopy Bridge is capitalizing on the burgeoning Latin American food movement to help Amazon indigenous communities. By connecting Ecuador’s best chefs with indigenous communities and conservation NGOs, they are helping develop value chains for fresh foods from the Amazon that have substantial conservation benefits and great culinary potential.
Desarrollo Alternativo e Investigación A.C (Mexico) – Desarrollo Alternativo e Investigacion A.C led a seed dissemination process to diversify crops grown in Chiapas State, increase maize and beans yields and boost family incomes, while creating a knowledge exchange between farmers.
Fairventures Worldwide (Indonesia) – German NGO Fairventures Worldwide is working to combat the environmental and economic impact of deforestation by helping farmers institute a better land-use system focused on improving soil quality, in order to produce fast-growing timber to generate income, fruits and vegetables to improve nutrition, and less fertilizer run-off to safeguard water sources.
Fundación Ecotop (Bolivia) – ECOTOP is using the idea of natural succession dynamics—growing a combination of various crops and trees at different depending on their life cycle—to maximize agricultural density and diversity. By adopting this crop management system, farmers can produce high yields from a range of crops without external inputs while keeping the soil healthy and reducing pests.
Manor House Agricultural Centre (Kenya) – Manor House offers training programs in sustainable agriculture, such as organic farming, to help poor, small-scale farmers in Kenya produce higher yields, while minimizing their contributions to the drivers of climate change.
The Mountain Institute (Peru) – In response to the degradation of puna habitat and declining livestock production, The Mountain Institute is connecting regional farmers with external experts to restore pre-Incan hydraulic systems with modern technology and materials to improve irrigation, and strengthen communities’ institutional capacities to govern and manage natural resources.
National Disaster Risk Reduction Center (NDRC) (Nepal) – Pollution in the Banganga River Basin was contributing to biodiversity loss, land degradation and other environmental challenges. The NDRC Nepal worked with government and non-government stakeholders to institute a series of more sustainable practices and executed a public awareness campaign that reached more than 14,000 indigenous households.
Sustainable Income Generating Investment Group (SINGI) (Kenya) – A pilot project that is bringing together farmers, NGOs and government agencies is reviving interest in nutritious African Leafy Vegetables (ALVs). The project is not only helping build the capacity of entrepreneurial farmer groups to respond to market demand for ALVs, it is also promoting sustainable growing amongst farmers and healthier diets among children, families and communities.
The top 10 will compete for the People’s Choice grand prize of $30,000, while all entries are still up for the Judges’ Choice $30,000 grand prize and category prizes of $15,000. The Farming for Biodiversity finalists are invited to attend a capacity-building workshop alongside the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) in Bonn, Germany, this year, where the grand prize winners will be announced in an award ceremony.
Partners and judges represent organizations including: Rare, the Global Environment Facility, Convention on Biological Diversity Secretariat, Patagonia, Save the Children, GAIN, IFOAM-Organics International, Deutsche Welle, Inter-American Development Bank, Stockholm Resilience Center, EcoAgriculture Partners, United Nations Rapporteurs, CONABIO (Mexico), Panorama, World Wildlife Fund, Blue Solutions, Global Island Partnership, Food Tank, and Young Professionals for Agricultural Development.
This contest is part of a larger project run in joint partnership by Rare, IFOAM-Organics International, and the Convention on Biological Diversity Secretariat and is funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI), a German initiative supported by The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag. Over three years, the partners will work together to identify these promising approaches and then host capacity-building workshops across the globe to spread these effective solutions. This workshop series – known as Campaigning for Conservation, will aim to further empower local practitioners to raise awareness of the value of biodiversity and to conduct social marketing campaigns promoting behavior change in support of the identified solutions. All entries to this contest will become part of a larger network of stakeholders engaged in supporting biodiversity-friendly agriculture.