Handbooks on Globalisation series
Edited by Guy M. Robinson and Doris A. Carson
Chapter 20: Recreating diversity for resilient and adaptive agricultural systems
Global agriculture has created the perception of diversity and abundance for many people at local scales. The local diversity can appear to increase in situ with opportunities for farmers to access and utilise a global range of different crop and animal species or varieties, production or processing techniques. However, globally successful forms of production decrease diversity at other scales. Even as the opportunity for local diversity may increase, the regional or global diversity of food production systems erodes with modernisation. Furthermore, as market demand for efficiencies play out within farming systems, even local diversity is lost, with extensive monocultural systems dominating. As diversity is eroded at all scales, an enormous wealth is vanishing – the symbiotic agrobiodiversity that has allowed humans to adapt to a range of environments, along with the associated cultural practices and food supply systems. There is a great risk in the developing uniformity that the resilience of systems will diminish, and that current and future generations will lack the local, autonomous capacity to adapt to future environmental and social change. There are alternatives to the erosion of agrobiodiversity associated with local opposition to the dominant form of developmental change. Within developing countries much of the resistance is linked to the high local value attributed to agrobiodiversity and examples are drawn from the author’s research in developing countries, with a focus on Isaan, Thailand, to highlight this point. Within industrialised countries more formal policies and programmes are often required to maintain diverse systems, and here research from Graubünden, Switzerland highlights how local diversity can be supported through the complex integration of cooperative action, state policy, conservation programmes and marketing initiatives.
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