Incentive mechanisms for agrobiodiversity conservation in Ethiopia

Incentivising the conservation of food crop diversity in Ethiopia by rewarding local farmers for conserving declining crop species and assisting both poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation.

A long row of bunched up enset plants in Ethiopia

Lead department: Research – Trait diversity and function
Project Leader – James Borrell
Research Assistant – Sophie Jago
Collaborator – Dr Adam Drucker
Collaborator – Dr Wendawek Abebe
Collaborator – Asaminew Woldegebriel 

Agrobiodiversity is the variety of plants and animals that we use for food and agriculture. Whilst global declines in wild biodiversity are well known, the concurrent declines in agrobiodiversity are less reported. Conserving the spectacular diversity of plants we use and eat is critical to address global climate and sustainable development goals.

Currently, much agrobiodiversity (and associated indigenous knowledge) is managed and conserved by subsistence farmers, in high biodiversity developing countries. These farmers are providing a ''global good’ in maintaining these resources for humanity, but receive little rewards for this service.

This project aims to develop novel strategies for mitigating the loss of agrobiodiversity in Ethiopia through a ‘payments for agrobiodiversity conservation’ scheme (PACS). This approach is new, but conceptually similar to ‘Payments for Ecosystem Services’.

Through the PACS scheme this project will not only reward farmers for conserving agrobiodiversity but will also enhance resilience, food security and support poverty alleviation which will all help to reduce pressure on neighbouring wild biodiversity.

This will be achieved through working with local farmers in the buffer zone of Kafa Biosphere Reserve to develop a cost-effective conservation incentive mechanism. It will focus on enset, a relative of the banana, and a staple food for around 20 million Ethiopians.

PACS has been successfully piloted by collaborators in other countries such as with quinoa in Peru and Bolivia, potato and amaranth in Peru, and maize and beans in Guatemala. Working with Adam Drucker we hope to bring lessons learned from previous PACS interventions to the Ethiopian context.

• Increase in agrobiodiversity metrics for enset, yam and coffee in participating communities
• Increased food security and livelihood status
• Decreased wild biodiversity degradation metrics
• Implementation of PACS incentive mechanism

Koch, O., Mengesha, W. A., Pironon, S., Pagella, T., Ondo, I., Rosa, I., Wilkin, P., & Borrell, J. S. (2022).

Modelling potential range expansion of an underutilised food security crop in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Environmental Research Letters, 17(1), 014022.

Borrell, J. S., Biswas, M. K., Goodwin, M., Blomme, G., Schwarzacher, T., Heslop-Harrison, J. S. (Pat), Wendawek, A. M., Berhanu, A., Kallow, S., Janssens, S., Molla, E. L., Davis, A. P., Woldeyes, F., Willis, K., Demissew, S., & Wilkin, P. (2019).

Enset in Ethiopia: A poorly characterized but resilient starch staple.

Annals of Botany, 123(5), 747–766.

Borrell, J. S., Goodwin, M., Blomme, G., Jacobsen, K., Wendawek, A. M., Gashu, D., Lulekal, E., Asfaw, Z., Demissew, S., & Wilkin, P. (2020).

Enset‐based agricultural systems in Ethiopia: A systematic review of production trends, agronomy, processing and the wider food security applications of a neglected banana relative.

PLANTS, PEOPLE, PLANET, 2(3), 212–228.

Chase, R. R., Bûchi, L., Rodenburg, J., Roux, N., Wendawek, A., & Borrell, J. S. (2022).

Smallholder farmers expand production area of the perennial crop enset as a climate coping strategy in a drought-prone indigenous agrisystem.

AgriRxiv, 2022, 20220283369.

The Ellis Goodman Family Foundation
The Global Center on Biodiversity for Climate