The Search is On

Solution Search seeks entrants with biodiversity-friendly farming practices

January 18, 2017

This year, Solution Search is on the hunt for the world’s most promising approaches in biodiversity-friendly farming practices. Solution Search: Farming for Biodiversity is now open for entries, after launching its fourth contest in December at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s Conference of Parties in Cancun, Mexico.

Solution Search is a global contest that identifies, spotlights and rewards local solutions that promote sustainable behaviors addressing global conservation and development challenges. The contest was created by Rare to find driven, creative people that have developed such proven concepts, bring them to the global stage, and make their most promising approaches accessible to other practitioners in other communities.

Past Solution Search contests have focused on fisheries restoration in coastal communities, local climate adaption through nature-based solutions (using ecosystem services like forests and wetlands to adapt to climate change effects), and natural disaster risk management. Each contest ties to Rare and its partners’ programs, and surfaces practical new insights for work on the ground. Farming for Biodiversity is no exception: In addition to a glaring global urgency for alternative farming practices, Farming for Biodiversity pulls inspiration from Rare’s work with small-shareholder farmer in South America and China. The contest focuses on finding agricultural solutions that both support sustainable farmland and conserve, strengthen or restore biodiversity on the lands from which they source their harvest — the surrounding soil, vegetation, fauna and other ecosystem components.

This global search is as urgent for people, their jobs and their food security as it is for the endurance of biodiversity. People depend on basic goods derived from natural resources — vegetables, fruit, wheat, fiber — and there will only be more people in the world in coming decades. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that by 2050, the world’s population should be somewhere around 9.1 billion people. To match the growth, (nearly all of it occurring in developing countries) food production will have to increase by 70 percent.

Farmers provide much of the food the world needs, and over time, have found ways to ramp up efficiency in production. What’s often overlooked, however, are the ways such practices will shape the landscape going forward. Around the world, small shareholder farming utilizes harmful fertilizers and pesticides at staggering levels, converts once abundant wetlands into rice paddies, wipes out large swaths of water-regulating vegetation by converting land for cattle ranching — the list goes on.


Farmers will need smarter, less environmentally detrimental alternatives to today’s common agricultural practices to do so. Farming for Biodiversity aims to highlight and celebrate what’s working.


Nature has its limits. In an interview about this year’s contest with Jill Bunk on Go Green Radio, Rare CEO Brett Jenks discussed the impact of such practices on the future of farming itself. “We’re beginning to reach the logical limit of what ecosystems can provide,” said Jenks. “So we’re left with a problem. We in the conservation community are thinking not just about how to protect nature and create national parks and ensure the biological diversity on which all of these things evolved over time, but we’re thinking about the humanitarian need to produce enough food to sustainably feed 9 to 9.5 billion people.”

Farmers will need smarter, less environmentally detrimental alternatives to today’s common agricultural practices to do so. Farming for Biodiversity aims to highlight and celebrate what’s working. In terms of the entrants and types of solutions accepted, the contest casts a wide net: Solution Search seeks any organization — local government, nonprofit, corporation — with a promising approach to producing food and other agricultural materials in a way that also enhances the ecosystems around them. Farming for Biodiversity entries can include solutions for reducing water use, crop rotation that boosts soil health, livestock control measures to protect local flora and fauna, pest control methods that reduce toxic run-off, and more.

When the contest concludes, Rare and partner IFOAM-Organics International will host a series of workshops to disseminate the top entrants’ most promising approaches, and entrants will train other peer practitioners on implementation of their solution.

Entries are open through March 10, 2017. Entrants will be up for awards selected by both a judging panel and a popular vote by the general public. Prizes include Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice grand prizes of $30,000 each, as well as category prizes of $15,000 and an early entrant prize for the best entry received by February 10. Partners and judges include leaders from GAIN, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Food Tank, Global Environment Facility, Blue Solutions Initiative, IFOAM-Organics International, Inter-American Development Bank, CONABIO (Mexico), Panorama, the Global Island Partnership, Save the Children and Stockholm Resilience Center.

This project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.

Solution Search needs your help to bring bright spots in biodiversity-friendly farming to this year’s contest! If you have a solution you think might fit or have someone in mind as a potential entrant, visit the Solution Search contest page for more information.