Custodian Farmers

Why is agricultural biodiversity important?

Agriculture is the largest global user of biodiversity. Overreliance on a handful of crops puts global food security at risk. Agricultural biodiversity contributes to reducing malnutrition, alleviating poverty and combating climate change. This diversity has been in decline for decades and efforts are needed for its conservation.

Who are ‘custodian farmers’?

Despite this decline, there are still a few farmers in every country who actively maintain, adapt and disseminate agricultural biodiversity, and who possess the knowledge needed for its use and cultivation. These are the ‘custodian farmers’ who cultivate diverse crop species and varietal diversity on-farm.

These farmers select varieties adapted to local conditions and preferences, and promote conservation of local diversity among their community, even in the absence of any incentive.

What are their sources of motivation?

·         Personal - driven by passion, preferences or the compulsion to conserve diversity

·         Social - motivated by community development, protecting inheritance and family pride

·         Economic - interested in safeguarding diversity for economic reasons

·         Cultural - driven by awareness of the link between genetic and cultural diversity

·         Environmental - inspired by improving the ecosystem, health and services

·         Policy/ Rules - restricted by policy

What are the benefits of collaborating with them?

•          A low cost approach

•          Provides key genetic resources at local level for scientists and other farmers

•          Provides nodal points for regeneration, dissemination and field testing

•          Allows continuous updating, innovation and adaptation of knowledge

•          Empowers farmers by recognizing their breeder and conservation role

•          Conserves rare types that fall outside of the priority list of national and international



We have created a process of identifying custodian farmers and documenting their personal stories. Their profiles can be found under Resources (hyperlink).

Learn more in the proceedings (hyperlink) of the workshop ‘Custodian Farmers of Agricultural Biodiversity: Putting on-farm Conservation Theory into Practice - What We Can Learn from them’.


List of attached files
ID Name desc uploaded Size Downloads Actions
84 pdf Guideline - Identification of custodians farmers.pdf 30 June, 2014 12:55 MYT by h.lamers@cgiar.org 144.57 Kb 635 View Download