Assessing the crop diversity trends in relation with climate change based on local knowledge

Predictions based on agroclimatic models predict a dramatic decrease in the agricultural production at the global scale, thus affecting the livelihoods of millions of peoples. However, these models focus on the major crops and are too coarse to represent the diversity of crop landraces responses to climate change. Lead by Vanesse Labeyrie, partners in the LICCI research network are preparing to collect local level data that will provide first-hand information on how climate change is affecting crop diversity around the world and how farmers manage this diversity to adapt.

            Growing different crops and different varieties of the same crop (i.e., crop diversity) is fundamental for the livelihood of millions of small-farmers around the world, as it allows them both to have diversified diets and to smooth household food consumption in the face of uncertain ecological and socio-economic conditions. Given the importance of crop diversity for food security, its loss is a worldwide concern that has called the attention of scientists and policy makers alike. However, there is a gap in knowledge concerning on one hand the impact of climate change on this diversity, and on the other hand on how farmers are managing this diversity to adapt.

In their attempt to understand how the different crop are affected by climate change and how crop diversity mitigates its impact on agricultural production, scientists have used different analytical tools, such as crop simulation models, statistical analysis, or experiments in controlled conditions. While informative, this research does not provide a full picture of the dynamics of crop diversity in small-scale agriculture in relation to climate change, and underrepresents the key role of local knowledge and management practices. A real understanding of the relationship between climate change impacts and crop diversity trends requires the coordinated collection of climate variability and crop trends in small-scale farms around the world.

            And this is precisely what Vanesse Labeyrie (GREEN Research Unit, CIRAD, Montpellier) is set to do in collaboration with a group of partners of the LICCI research network. In coordination with the LICCI Core Team, Vanesse has developed a protocol that allows her to track temporal trends in crop diversity in different rural societies practicing small-scale agriculture. By coupling data collected with this protocol with data collected in the framework of the LICCI project, Vanesse wants to analyze whether climate change is an important driver of crop diversity among small-farmers, and how they manage this diversity to adapt.

            During our three LICCI training events, Vanesse has already trained several partners interested in applying the protocol in their fieldsites. To expand the number of case studies, we have now established a collaboration with the project ASSET (AgrobiodiverSity for a food-Secure planET). The project ASSET, led by Delphine Renard (CEFE, Montpellier), aims at evaluating the potential of increased crop diversity to reduce climate risks to food production. ASSET combines ecological, agronomic and ethnoecological work at the global and local scales in France (on vineyards), in northern Morocco (on olive agroforests) and in Senegal (on cereal-leguminous cropping systems). LICCI and ASSET are combining forces to homogenize their data collection tools, to increase the empirical base to be used to answer together how climate change is impacting crop diversity among small farmers and how they manage this diversity to adapt to the climatic variability and change. Within this framework, the past 13th November, we conducted an additional training session on the crop diversity protocol for ASSET members, and adjusted it to be able to answer new research questions. 

If you are interested in joining or learning more about the Crop Diversity group in LICCI, please contact Vanesse Labeyrie (vanesse.labeyrie@cirad.fr).