Conservation and sustainable use of local agrobiodiversity

With a growing recognition of the value of local and indigenous vegetables in diets, an effort to revive food culture and foster recipe development which features such crops represents a new window of opportunity that has arisen for using school gardens as a platform for the conservation of agrobiodiversity (Chapter 4), including indigenous tree species (Chapters 6 and 7). The BIG initiative within the national school systems in the Philippines is relatively unique in its advocacy for the conservation of climate resilient agrobiodiversity of nutritional and local food culture relevance (it advocates for two-thirds of the crops used in school gardens to be locally adapted crops and varieties, featuring intra-species and inter-species diversity).

Local agrobiodiversity of vegetables is now difficult to conserve on-farm but could be effectively conserved in school gardens where they can continue to evolve adapting to changes in the environment. The Crop Museum Initiative (Box 1.6) in schools of the Philippine government Department of Education recommends conserving, multiplying, and sharing this diversity of locally adapted genetic resources through annual sharing events (DepEd et al., 2017). A total of 520 crop museums have been set up by the Department of Education across the country.


Crop museums in schools serve as a focal point for safeguarding crop diversity through saving crop varieties. The crop museum is a garden where teachers, students, and community members can view a diverse range of nutritionally relevant and climate hardy vegetable varieties. It can include trees, shrubs, roots and tuber crops, vines, and short season annual crops. These crop museums serve as focal points for conserving inter-species and intra-species diversity, as propagation centres and seed banks and as platforms of seed exchange fairs. A primary reason for crop museums is to ensure sustainability and outscaling which relies on locally adapted plant materials.

Crop museums serve as nurseries and sources of planting materials that can be distributed and exchanged with surrounding schools and communities (Figure 1.3). Seed banks are maintained in crop museums, and outplanting is done annually. The Philippines was once known for its diverse backyard gardens. However, with modernization and increasing reliance on the commercial import of vegetables, the country is losing this rich diversity of crops and the culinary heritage associated with it. Restoration of local agrobiodiversity is an important new agenda for schools. School gardens and home gardens can be used to restore crop diversity for future generations. Diverse gardens can lead to richer dietary diversity and therefore better nutrition for kids and families.

Source: International Institute of Rural Reconstruction

School gardens across the Philippines now feature crop museums where local agrobiodiversity is demonstrated

FIGURE 1.3 School gardens across the Philippines now feature crop museums where local agrobiodiversity is demonstrated. School gardens serve as a platform for self-learning for parents, students, and the local community.

Source-. IIRR.

Children in urban localities are particularly prone to being disconnected from nature and an understanding of where their food comes from. There are particular challenges facing urban schools in addressing these problems from limited space to grow food to the logistical challenges in visiting rural areas and farms. Trends in greening urban areas and creating move liveable, sustainable cities provide opportunities to address these challenges. While local agrobiodiversity in urban centres may be increasingly difficult to conserve, school gardens can provide appropriate spaces for this to take place, thereby providing an important platform for urban schoolchildren to gain a better understanding of nature and biodiversity and the diversity of foods available and where they come from and their role in healthy eating (Box 1.7).


Although there is a rich body of literature about the impact of school gardens on children's knowledge, preference, and consumption of fruits and vegetables, Cuitart, Pickering, and Bryne (2014) identified a research gap with regard to the evaluation of agricultural biodiversity in school gardens. Thus, they conducted a survey of 23 school-based community gardens in the cities of Brisbane and Cold Coast, located in Southeast Queensland in Australia. The state of Queensland has been experiencing rapid urbanization and growth in population, which has impacted the food environment in its cities and the health outcomes of its citizens. More than one-quarter of children in Queensland are overweight or obese, a persistently high rate that has endured since 2007 (Queensland Government, 2016). Moreover, 96% of children in 2016 did not meet the daily-recommended intake for vegetables, and discretionary foods accounted for 41% of total energy intake. School gardens present a valuable opportunity to address these diet-related issues in Queensland, as it is located in a very fertile region in Australia with a favourable agricultural climate.

Through conducting cross-sectional surveys with school garden managers in Brisbane and Cold Coast, 230 different types of plants, encompassing 159 species in 66 families were identified across 23 schools. On average, each garden hosted 63 different plant types (with the most diverse gardens having up to 139 types of plants), 12 different types of fruits, and 26 different types of vegetables. The size or age of the school garden was not found to have an impact on the diversity of plants, nor with the initial motivations of starting the garden. Moreover, Australian native food plants, such as bush tucker, made up 12% of all plants identified in the gardens. The most common fruits and vegetables found in school gardens were then evaluated using a colour code system to quantify food diversity. It was found that school gardens contained highly diverse environments and that over three-quarters of these grew plants that encompassed the total spectrum of seven colours.


Moreover, the project investigated the motivations behind and the utilization of school gardens in the two cities. Education, health of students, and environmental sustainability were the three most commonly reported reasons for establishing school gardens. Many schools also used the produce in cafeterias, utilized the gardens as a learning space, and encouraged students to bring the produce home. Thus, school gardens in these two cities were found to be a powerful strategy to increase consumption of diverse and nutritious foods for children and good spaces for the conservation of agrobiodiversity.

Source: Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition, (n.d.). School Cardens in the East Coast,


School gardens to increase awareness of climate change

Climate change modelling studies suggest that at the global level, climate change will reduce crop yields and land suitable for agriculture with the greatest impacts in tropical latitudes. Climate change could increase the numbers of malnourished children in the least developed countries. Climate change impacts on food security will spread unevenly, affecting the populations that are currently most at risk. Food prices will increase as a result of climate change, affecting the poor who are likely to eat more carbohydrates and less of the nutrient-dense food. Climate change will also negatively influence the nutritional quality of food produce. School gardens can serve as learning laboratories for understanding the risks and impacts of climate change, and for demonstrating ways to adapt to it (Box 1.8).


Reduction of carbon emissions, healthier diets, and increased attention to the importance of biodiversity for sustainable food production are a few of the benefits that the Edible Schoolyards in Leith have brought along. It all started with the founder of Edible Schoolyards, Evie Murray's enthusiasm about children's physical and emotional well-being, and concern about climate change, mass extinction, and the role of industrial agriculture. She realized that by creating gardens where children could grow their own fruits and vegetables it was possible to address all these issues at once. Furthermore, by teaching in the garden she experienced how much simpler it was to explain environmental concepts, referencing to plants, pollinating insects, and compost making directly, compared to teaching these themes in the classroom. She also noticed that spending time in the garden was important, especially for children with difficulties in class.

News about the success of this one school garden quickly spread, and neighbouring schools got keen on establishing their own vegetable gardens. Therefore, supported by the Climate Change Fund, the Edible School Cardens concept was developed and rolled out in one nursery and four schools under the foundation Leith Community Crops in Pots. Today, throughout the year, children learn about soil health, nutrient cycles, pollination, and photosynthesis in the gardens. They experience how to plant fruit trees, sow seeds, harvest vegetables, and plant out seedlings and potatoes, and thus get a much better understanding of the whole producing cycle.

It all started in the backyards of a few schools, but the outreach has moved far beyond. The school gardens today function as a channel to transmit messages about the environment and sustainable living to the broader community. Furthermore, events celebrating the environment, the establishment of a community orchard, and the community growing area known as 'Leith Community Croft' are now all part of this community movement that has led to reduced food waste, more sustainable shopping patterns, more people growing wild flowers for the bees, and more people composting their organic waste in Leith. Through the schools and community gardens, the Edible Schoolyards have reached people that have never grown their own food before and that were not particularly concerned about biodiversity, climate change, and environmental topics before. Moving back to the original purpose of the establishment of the gardens in Leith, the project has also shown clear evidence of a positive correlation between children's engagement in nursing the plants and their general well-being and health.

Source: our-initiatives/edible-schoolyards/

School gardens in the Philippines have effectively promoted and scaled climate resilient approaches such as water-conserving agrobiodiverse, BIGs across the national school education system (Chapter 4). BIGs are considered Climate Smart Agriculture. Such gardens, advocated by the bio-intensive agriculture movement of the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction in the Philippines, and others feature deep-dug beds that serve to harvest rainwater (including excess rain associated with climate change) and conserve limited water during dry periods (as result of a deeper soil profile rich in organic matter including residues of roots, mulch, and cover crops). Deep beds allow for the close planting of diverse crops which extract both nutrients and moisture from different parts of the soil profile, thus maximizing efficient use of nutrients. At harvest time, plant roots are retained in the ground to regenerate soils and rebuild and enrichen soil life. Biodiversity below the soil is conserved as the result of the combination of deep beds; rich organic matter, above and below ground; and well-conserved moisture (Figure 1.4). Multipurpose trees grown on garden boundaries help sequester

Green leaf manure (with Gliricidia) helps to feed soil microbial life, to regenerate soils, to store moisture, and to store carbon in the soils in school gardens

FIGURE 1.4 Green leaf manure (with Gliricidia) helps to feed soil microbial life, to regenerate soils, to store moisture, and to store carbon in the soils in school gardens.

Soimr. IIRR.

carbon, storing it in tree biomass and soils. By advocating that two thirds of the crop selections should feature locally adapted and climate resilient crops/varieties risks are substantially reduced. School gardens have been challenged by sustainability issues associated with a range of factors. Climate change is the new threat to sustainability of gardens and must be dealt with in ways that can be managed with local resources and with the lowest costs. Efficient and regenerative gardening systems with climate resilient practice can contribute to a better understanding of adaptation options by schoolchildren and local communities.

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