Front Cover
 Our common goals
 Kinds of diversity
 Sustainability in perspective
 An example -- The Green Revolu...
 Diversity by design
 Demand-led diversification
 Complementarity and competitio...

Title: Diversity by design
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00080061/00001
 Material Information
Title: Diversity by design conserving biological diversity through more productive & sustainable agroecosystems
Physical Description: 11 p. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Harrington, L. W ( Larry W )
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center
Publisher: CIMMYT
Place of Publication: Mexico D.F
Publication Date: 1996?
Subject: Biodiversity conservation   ( lcsh )
Agricultural ecology   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 8-11).
Statement of Responsibility: Larry Harrington.
General Note: Caption title.
General Note: "Presented at Biodiversity and Sustainable Agriculture, a workshop arranged by the Swedish Scientific Council on Biological Diversity, Ekenas, Sweden, August 14-17, 1996."
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00080061
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
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Resource Identifier: oclc - 36532593

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Our common goals
        Page 1
    Kinds of diversity
        Page 2
    Sustainability in perspective
        Page 3
    An example -- The Green Revolution
        Page 4
    Diversity by design
        Page 5
    Demand-led diversification
        Page 6
    Complementarity and competition
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
Full Text


Presented at Biodiversity and Sustainable Agriculture, a workshop arranged by the Swedish Scientific Council

on Biological Diversity, Ekenas, Sweden, August 14-17, 1996.

Diversity by Design: Conserving Biological Diversity

Through More Productive & Sustainable Agroecosystems

Larry Harrington'

Our common goals
There are a number of reasons for fostering
diversity in agroecosystems. More diverse
systems can take better advantage of ecological
niches. Those species best adapted to different
stresses (e.g., waterlogging, soil acidity, shading,
drought) can be carefully positioned where they
have a comparative advantage (Chambers 1990).
In addition, greater system diversity can
improve stability and resilience. Diverse
agroecosystems offer multiple pathways for
energy and nutrient cycling; consequently,
system productivity is not held hostage to the
performance vagaries of any particular species
(Carroll, Vandermeer, and Rosset 1990). When
properly designed, more diverse systems reduce
problems associated with pests, diseases, and
weeds (Edwards 1987) and decrease reliance on
external inputs (Gliessman, Garcia, and Amador
1981). Finally, more diverse systems can foster
in-situ conservation of food-grain landraces and
folk varieties (e.g., Smale et al. 1991).

Agroecosystem biodiversity is not an end in
itself. Rather, it is a means of achieving other
ends-productivity, stability, resilience,
improved environmental quality, and the
conservation of crop genetic diversity. On a

broader scale, these are but part of a larger set of
societal goals-sustainable food security,
reduced poverty, and improved public health.
Thus, agroecosystem biodiversity is often prized
to the extent that it contributes to the attainment
of these overarching goals.

Societies also value natural biological diversity
in a broad sense. People are concerned about the
possible extinction of species, partly because of
their potential future benefits, partly because of
the role they play in ecological balances, and
partly because people simply value their
continued existence, regardless of possible
future human benefits. These "option" or
"existence" values are immensely important, but
exceedingly difficult to quantify (Serageldin and
Steer 1994; Bishop 1978).

Agroecosystem biodiversity is linked in
complex ways with system sustainability and
productivity. These, in turn, are linked in
complex ways with natural biological diversity.
The objective of this paper is to explore some of
these links in the overall context of our common
goals-sustainable food security, reduced
poverty, improved public health, and greater
natural biological diversity.

1 Presented at Biodiversity and Sustainable Agriculture, a workshop arranged by the Swedish Scientific Council on Biological
Diversity, Ekenas, Sweden, August 14-17, 1996.
2 Larry Harrington is the Manager of CIMMYT's Natural Resources Group, Apdo 6-641, Mexico DF 06600, Mexico.
E-mail: LHarrington@CIMMYT.Mx. The author acknowledges the helpful assistance of Jeff White and Tim McBride.
Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of CIMMYT.

Diversity by Design

Kinds of diversity
The notion of agroecosystem biodiversity can be
understood in several different ways:

* Crop genetic diversity. This embraces such
factors as varietal concentration; pace of
varietal change over time; genetic similarity
among major cultivars; the conservation and
pyramiding of favorable genes in breeders'
varieties; the conservation and use of
important genes present in folk varieties,
land races, and wild relatives; and
opportunities for expanding crop genetic
diversity through wide crosses and
biotechnology (Smale 1995).

* Crop species diversity over space. This refers to
the extent and complexity of mixed
cropping, intercropping, relay cropping, and
agroforestry practices, usually at the plot
level. Spatial species diversity may be
exceedingly narrow (e.g., a Javanese sawah
monocropped rice field) or exceedingly
broad (e.g., a Javanese pekarangan home
garden featuring simultaneous cultivation of
fruit trees, banana plants, coffee, spices, and
palawija food crops such as maize, cassava,
and soybean) (Charoenwatana and Rambo
1988). Plots with low species diversity and
high species diversity often are found within
the same farming system.

* Crop species diversity over time. This refers to
the extent and complexity of annual or
longer-term relay cropping or rotations.
Temporal species diversity may be narrow
(e.g., one maize monocrop crop per year,
every year); broad within a year (e.g., an
annual sequence of multiple cropping
involving cereals, legumes, and horticultural

crops); or broad over several years (e.g., rice-
potato-wheat patterns, broken every few
years by a sugar cane crop, as found in parts
of the South Asian Indo-Gangetic Plains)
(Harrington et al. 1992). Crop species
diversity over space and over time are not
necessarily related.

* Agroecosystem biodiversity through crop-livestock
interactions. The presence of livestock in a
system tends to enhance the value placed on
non-crop components of agroecosystems
(crop residues, grazing lands, forest
resources) and typically features nutrient
cycling between rangeland and cropland,
thus fostering improved productivity and
sustainability of cropping systems and a
higher potential for spatial and temporal crop
species diversity (Powell and Williams 1993).

* Natural biodiversity within agroecosystems.
More diverse agroecosystems-particularly
those with greater spatial diversity and those
with trees-may provide habitat for a wider
array of flora and fauna, including
microorganisms as well as wildlife.

* Natural biodiversity as indirectly affected by
agroecosystems. Highly productive
agroecosystems can indirectly foster natural
biodiversity by making it unnecessary to
farm marginal or fragile areas, or to clear new
forest areas for agriculture. Natural
biodiversity in subtropical and tropical
countries often is associated with the extent
and quality of forested area (Pieri et al. 1995).
These indirect links between agroecosystem
productivity and sustainability and the
conservation of habitat for natural
biodiversity are a major theme in this paper.

Diversity by Design

Efforts to foster biodiversity in agroecosystems
can focus on any of the above. Opportunities for
broadening system diversity may be achieved
by increasing crop genetic diversity, expanding
crop species diversity over space and over time,
fostering crop-livestock interactions, or
improving productivity in favored agricultural
areas to protect biologically diverse fragile,
marginal, or forested areas from agricultural

What are the links between the introduction of
more sustainable agroecosystems and the
preservation of agroecosystem biodiversity (and
natural biodiversity)? The answer to this
question depends on what is meant by

Sustainability in perspective3
Sustainability issues are commanding more
attention from agricultural scientists, but only in
part because such issues are closely linked to
issues of biological diversity. Few themes can
match "sustainability" for the broad range of
questions to which it relates and (as a
consequence) the sense of perplexity that it all
too often engenders. The notion of sustainability
encompasses population growth and pollution,
deforestation and land degradation, agroecology
and energy cycling, erosion and
intergenerational equity, not to mention food
security, global warming, and the ultimate fate
of humankind. It is a formidable topic.

Considerable effort has been expended in
defining and interpreting the concept of

sustainability. Although the definition suggested
by the CGIAR4 has drawn widespread support,
that support is not unanimous. There are a
number of well-defined alternatives, including
some that rather narrowly emphasize
agroecosystem diversity and resilience (Conway
1986) and others that stress the ethical duty of
mankind to serve as steward of natural
resources for the benefit of future generations
(Batie 1989). Still others emphasize the global
nature of food security and resource quality
questions, given opportunities for trade
(Crosson 1992). Most definitional differences
stem from the diverse answers given to the
fundamental question, "What do we wish to

Sustainability would be a more meaningful
objective if we could measure it. Many scientists
agree that the ability to quantify sustainability is
fundamental to making the concept useful
(Hildebrand 1989). Unfortunately little progress
has been made in this regard, despite
considerable work on developing sets of land-
quality indicators (e.g., Pieri et al. 1995) or on
constructing a unique indicator that
encompasses the various consequences of using
a particular agricultural technology (near-term
on-site productivity, longer-term on-site
productivity, off-site costs and benefits,
environmental costs and benefits) (e.g.,
Harrington 1994).

Most commonly, indicators of sustainability are
narrowly driven by definitions. This often leads

Much of the discussion in this section is drawn from Harrington (1992a) and Harrington (1992b).
"Sustainable agriculture should involve the successful management of resources for agriculture to satisfy changing
human needs while maintaining or enhancing the quality of.the environment and conserving natural resources"
(CIMMYT 1989).

Diversity by Design

to arguments that are merely circular. For

* If agroecosystem sustainability is defined in
terms of zero external input use, then any
technical change leading to reduced external
input use can be said to foster sustainability.

If agroecosystem sustainability is defined in
terms of low levels of environmental
pollution, then any technical change leading
to less environmental pollution can be said
to foster sustainability.

If agroecosystem sustainability is defined in
terms of high agroecosystem biodiversity,
then any technical change leading to higher
agroecosystem biodiversity can be said to
foster sustainability.

If agroecosystem sustainability is defined in
terms of local self-reliance in agricultural
production (i.e., avoidance of international
markets), then any technical change leading
to greater local self-reliance can be said to
foster sustainability.

All of these definitions, and their corresponding
indicators, are inadequate-even when
combined. They all emphasize the plot or farm
community level of analysis, ignoring higher
levels. That is, they succumb to what may be
termed the fallacy of scale: what appears to be
unsustainable at one level of analysis may be a
strong element in favor of sustainability at a

higher level of analysis. Researchers and policy-
makers must take explicit account of possible
fallacies of scale, and alternative levels of
analysis, when they engage in the design of
diverse, sustainable systems.

An example-The Green Revolution
An example may clarify the phrase fallacy of
scale. Green Revolution technologies for rice and
wheat in South Asia are often criticized as being
unsustainable (Bramble 1989; Pingali and
Rosegrant 1994). At the level of the
agroecosystem, these technologies may feature
low species diversity,5 high reliance on external
inputs and energy sources, environmental
pollution from pesticides and fertilizers that
negatively affect public health, and degradation
of soil and water resources devoted to
agriculture (Byerlee and Siddiq 1994).

However, at higher levels of analysis, the
widespread diffusion of Green Revolution
technologies in parts of South Asia has been
associated with accelerated economic
development in Bangladesh (Allaudin and
Tisdell 1991); higher incomes through
employment generation in Uttar Pradesh
(Sharma and Poleman 1994); improvements in
income distribution in Pakistan (Renkow 1994);
reduced rates of population growth in Green
Revolution areas of India (Vosti 1994); and the
saving of approximately 40 million ha from the
plow (or the woodcutter's axe) in India alone
(Borlaug 1996). That is, in the absence of Green
Revolution technologies, another 40 million ha

Although not all rice-wheat systems are identical-many of them are surprisingly diverse either within a cropping year
or over several years. Legumes, pulses, horticultural crops, potatoes, and sugarcane often can be found in these systems
(Fujisaka, Harrington, and Hobbs 1994; Harrington et al. 1992). In addition, there is evidence that modem plant breeding
and the international exchange of germplasm have increased, not decreased, bread wheat genetic diversity in South Asian
Green Revolution areas (Smale 1995).

Diversity byi Design

of rice and wheat area would have been needed
to meet human demands for food.

Of course, there wasn't another 40 million ha of
land in India to devote to agriculture. Still, the
Green Revolution undoubtedly played an
immense role-a role that is almost entirely
unrecognized-in reducing pressures to
cultivate biologically diverse fragile, marginal,
or forested areas. Moreover, without the Green
Revolution, food prices would be higher,
employment growth (especially off-farm
employment) would be slower, poverty would
be more widespread, and population growth
would be more rapid-exacerbating the threat
to natural biological diversity over the coming

So, in a very real sense, resource degradation
and environmental pollution in favored Green
Revolution areas have been (at a higher level of
analysis) a cost associated with the defusing of
longer-term threats to resource quality and
natural biological diversity in biologically
diverse fragile, marginal, or forested areas.

Researchers and farmers must work together to
reduce this cost. Plot-level threats to
sustainability in Green Revolution areas must be
addressed. Fortunately, it appears that much of
the resource quality damage in these areas is
reversible (Fujisaka, Harrington, and Hobbs
1994). The challenge for the future is to generate
a "doubly green revolution" (Lele 1995)-one
that maintains the powerful and favorable
indirect consequences of highly productive
agricultural technology, while improving
resource quality and reducing pollution in these
favored areas. Sustainability is not enough-
productivity must increase as well.

Diversity by design
This paper contends that greater agroecosystem
biodiversity-particularly crop genetic diversity
and spatial and temporal species diversity-can
help achieve sustainable improvements in
agricultural system productivity. In addition, it
contends that these improvements in
productivity can help achieve sustainable food
security, while alleviating poverty and helping
to conserve natural biological diversity (by
reducing the need to expand agriculture into
new and biologically diverse areas).

How, then, does one go about fostering the
widespread use of more biologically diverse
agroecosystems? There are at least two ways:

* Diversity by design-Researchers and farmers
collaborate in the conscious design of more
biologically diverse agroecosystems, which
then are taken up on a large scale by farming
communities. This process includes
participatory research on indigenous
technical knowledge about system diversity,
with a view to extrapolating such
knowledge to comparable areas.

* Demand-led diversification-Higher incomes
and reduced poverty generated by more
productive agricultural practices shift the
structure of food demand towards a more
diverse array of products, among them
fruits, vegetables, and animal products.
Farmers follow market signals and diversify
their farming systems.

The path of "diversity by design" is a direct one.
It is the path taken by cropping systems and
farming systems research (FSR). Certainly, the
central objective of such research in Asia was to

Diversity by Design

diversify cropping patterns by introducing a
second non-rice crop into rice-based systems
(IRRI 1982). The opportunity to do this, of
course, was a consequence of the introduction of
short-duration, non-photoperiod sensitive rice

In Africa, the emphasis has been less on system
intensification and more on reconciling food
security and system sustainability requirements,
in the context of biotic and abiotic stresses that
affect crop production and widespread labor
migration (e.g., Drinkwater and McEwan 1994;
Holden 1993). Even in Africa, however, diversity
has been a major theme in FSR. "Diversity by
design" also has been characteristic of research
on agroecology (Altieri 1987; Harwood 1988).

The lessons learned from FSR and from research
on agroecology have been exceedingly valuable.
They have vastly improved researchers' interest
in and capacity to work with farmers in
understanding and improving farming systems.
However, these lessons have had more impact
on research management and style than in
farmers' fields. They have not led to the
expected widespread adoption by farmers of
more diverse, productivity-enhancing resource-
conserving agricultural systems (Shinawatra
1994; Grafton, Walters, and Bertelson 1990; Tripp
et al. 1991). Moreover, farmer adoption of new
technologies that can be attributed to
investments in FSR has been concentrated in
crop component technology, particularly varietal
change (Tripp 1991).

Work is urgently needed to improve the
effectiveness of research (measured in terms of
widespread adoption) aimed at designing
biologically diverse, productive, and sustainable

agroecosystems. Until then, the path of
"diversity by design," on its own, is unlikely to
lead to the attainment of our common goals.

Demand-led diversification
By contrast, the path of "demand-led
diversification" is relatively indirect, but it has
already led to widespread changes in farming
systems, particularly in Asia. Higher incomes
and reduced poverty generated by more
productive agricultural practices (in the case of
Asia, through new rice and wheat technology)
have led to a shift in the structure of food
demand. Consumers have reduced their per
capital intake of basic grains in favor of a more
balanced diet featuring fruits, vegetables, and
animal products. Farmers have followed market
signals and have diversified their farming
systems accordingly (Schuh and Barghouti 1987;
Barghouti, Timmer, and Siegel 1990). Spatial and
temporal species diversity have both increased,
though not necessarily at the plot level.

A classic example of this process is described for
Indonesia by Roche (1988). Increased rice
productivity in favored lowland areas expanded
the supply of rice and reduced its price.
Marginal rice areas (often on hillsides) became
unprofitable, and farmers in these areas ceased
producing rice. However, higher incomes in
both rural and urban areas (in large part due to
improved productivity of rice and its
consequent lower price) shifted the structure of
demand for food towards fruits and vegetables.
As a consequence, rice fields in hillside areas
(e.g., of East Java) were converted to perennial
fruit trees (especially papaya). This process was
not entirely attributable to improved rice
productivity, of course, as improvements in
market infrastructure also were important.

Diversity by Design

This same process is evident in other areas
where new technology has increased the
productivity of basic grain production (e.g., the
Indian Punjab) (Singh 1992).

In contrast, stagnating grain productivity (in this
case maize) in Southern Africa has led to a
continued crisis in food security, the expansion
of maize cultivation into areas hitherto reserved
for wildlife (Waddington et al. 1994), and a
relative absence of market signals that would
induce farmers to diversify their farms into cash
crops. It is no coincidence that "diversification
out of grain production" is not high on the
Southern Africa research and policy agenda.

Success in demand-led diversification is
sensitive to the policy environment. It has been
argued by Barghouti, Timmer, and Siegel (1990)
that the following are needed:

* An overall policy environment that
encourages more flexible and broader
cropping systems rather than commodity-
support programs;

Laws and institutions that facilitate efficient
marketing by establishing grades and
standards for different commodities and
developing and distributing farm inputs;

Public investment in physical and social
infrastructure, communications, and
information systems;

A rural financial system that mobilizes rural
savings, makes credit available to traders,
and diversifies the rural economy; and

* Rural training and education systems to help
prepare rural people for non-agricultural

Demand-led diversification will lead to more
biologically diverse agroecosystems at the
aggregate (e.g., regional) level, but does not
guarantee increased biodiversity at the plot or
farm level. Moreover, plot-level trends in
resource quality, external input use, and
environmental pollution may increase or
decrease, in accord with the practices adopted as
farmers learn to manage a new set of

The path of "demand-led diversification," on its
own, also may not to lead to the attainment of
our common goals.

Complementarity and competition
Attainment of the overarching goals of
sustainable food security, reduced poverty,
improved public health, and conservation of
natural biological diversity requires the
widespread use of more productive, stable,
resilient agroecosystems, and the conservation
of crop genetic diversity. In turn, these will

1. An emphasis on sustainable productivity
improvement in favored areas-to reduce the
pressure to cultivate biologically diverse
areas unsuited for agriculture, and to foster
"demand-led diversification." However, this
must be done in ways that conserve soil,
water, and genetic resources and that reduce
environmental pollution within these
favored areas-a doubly green revolution.

Diversity by Design

Agricultural research and development
(featuring roles for scientists, extension
workers, farmers, and policy-makers) can
help by focusing on:

Cereal varieties that are more tolerant to
biotic and abiotic stress and that are more
nutrient use efficient;

Productivity-enhancing, resource-
conserving crop management practices (e.g.,
IPM, reduced tillage, and the use of green
manure cover crops);

More effective "diversity by design"-
widespread adoption of new cropping
patterns, farming systems, and land
management systems (featuring staple
cereals) that capitalize on the advantages of
system diversity to sustainably improve

2. An emphasis on sustainable productivity
improvement in marginal, fragile areas-
acknowledging that the pressure to cultivate
biologically diverse areas unsuited to
agriculture can be reduced, but not
eliminated. Again, varieties, crop
management practices, cropping patterns,
farming systems, and land management
systems offer leverage points.

3. An emphasis on sustainable management of
"demand-led diversification "-The
introduction of fruit and vegetable crops
may either exacerbate or ameliorate
problems of erosion, soil fertility loss, water-
induced land degradation, external input
dependence, or environmental pollution. A
greater temporal and spatial diversity of
enterprises does not necessarily ensure
sustainability. As "demand-led

diversification" takes hold, the stakeholders
in agricultural research and development
(scientists, extension workers, farmers and
policy-makers) must foster sustainable
management strategies.

In the end, it is not a case of competition, but
rather of complementarity. It is not a case of
"Green Revolution" vs. "alternative
agriculture," or "diversity by design" vs.
"demand-led diversification." We must use all
of the tools at our disposal-following all
promising paths-to reach our common goals.

Diversity by Design


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