Biocultural Heritage

Promoting resilient farming systems and local economies

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China's farmers innovate to adapt to climate change

Krystyna Swiderska
17 Dec 2013

The film "Planting for Change" tells the story of how farmers in Guangxi and Yunnan provinces have responded to climatic adversity by using their own innovations and biocultural heritage – and by improving this heritage by working with scientists on participatory plant breeding projects.

For the past three years, this region, which is rich in biocultural heritage and landscape beauty, has been hit by drought.

Farmers have reverted to using traditional maize varieties which are more drought resistant than their modern equivalents. They have also adopted ecological farming practices, such as rearing ducks in the rice fields to control crop pests.

As a result, they no longer suffer the serious health risks of pesticide use. They have significantly higher incomes too. Their organic produce attracts a market premium and an organic restaurant in the provincial capital ensures a steady demand.

Their actions have wider benefits. Agriculture contributes over 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and is the biggest source of groundwater pollution in China. These farmers have reduced both their greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, by ceasing to use chemical farm inputs.

Planting for Change highlights the critical need to safeguard not only the landscapes in which China's agricultural biodiversity still thrives, but also the local knowledge that enables farmers to use and improve this diversity to enhance food security in the face of climate change.

IIED produced the film in association with the Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, which has worked with the farmers in Guangxi since 2000 through China's first participatory plant breeding programme, and is now scaling up these innovations to Yunnan.

This work is supported by IIED's project "Smallholder Innovation for Resilience", with funding from the European Union and UK Aid. For more information see: www.bioculturalheritage.org.

Krystyna Swiderska is a senior researcher in IIED's Natural Resources Group (Krystyna.swiderska@iied.org).

Watch an extended version of the film (10 minutes) or Chinese translations of the two versions (five minutes and 10 minutes) of the film below. The two Chinese translations are available on IIED's Vimeo site.

This blog post also appears on www.iied.org. Please follow this link to view and post comments: 
http://www.iied.org/chinas-farmers-innovate-adapt-climate-change