Enabling Biodiversity

India is one of the world’s largest and oldest agricultural societies.  The country falls in domain of South-East Asia Region, having diverse rich-mosaic of population and cultures.  India is classified as one among the 12 mega-diversity centers of the world, as it is epicenter of bio-diversity to many significant species of crops, animals and livestock.  The country displays a wide variety or array of climatic, ecological and agro-ecological conditions, displaying the richness in bio-diversity.

The key part of biological diversity is agricultural biodiversity, prominently known as agro-biodiversity or genetic resources for food and agriculture.

Historically, agro-biodiversity was practiced and effectively carried out by farmers through the process of natural and careful selection, inventive or ingenious developments by farmers, herders and fishers over the millennia.  Farmers grew wide variety of crops with traits, which were resilient to new climatic and changing environment conditions i.e., increase in average temperature, solar radiation, salinity in water, poor irrigation system, increase in number of hot days, shorter growing seasons, moisture stress and combination of pests and diseases.  The migrating and trading between populations in the region also led to the introduction of new species and varieties, which were subsequently adapted to local conditions and bred with local varieties.

This diversity eroded with modernisation of agriculture leading to monoculture of crops and varieties.

We at Centre for Sustainable Agriculture focus on documentation of existing agrobiodiversity, conservation and revival, establishing seed banks and seed producing cooperatives, setting up a seed library and an coordinating an open source seed network.

Agrobiodiversity at threat


  • Since the 1900s, some 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers worldwide have left their multiple local varieties and landraces for genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties.
  • 30 percent of livestock breeds are at risk of extinction; six breeds are lost each month.
  • Today, 75 percent of the world’s food is generated from only 12 plants and five animal species.
  • Of the 4 percent of the 250 000 to 300 000 known edible plant species, only 150 to 200 are used by humans. Only three – rice, maize and wheat – contribute nearly 60 percent of calories and proteins obtained by humans from plants.
  • Animals provide some 30 percent of human requirements for food and agriculture and 12 percent of the world’s population live almost entirely on products from ruminants.

FAO. 1999. Women: users, preservers and managers of agrobiodiversity (available at www.fao.org/FOCUS/E/Women/Biodiv-e.htm).

Key Objectives

  • Documenting Agrobiodiversity: Status, issues and challenges, best practices, policies etc
  • Conservation and Revival: documenting local diversity, Conservation and revival of relevant varieties
  • Establishing Biodiversity Blocks and Seed Library
  • Establishing Community Seed banks and Seed Enterprises

Documentation of Agrobiodiversity

Conservation and Revival of Agrobiodiversity

  • Mapping local diversity in crops, food and other bioresources
  • Conservation and revival of traditional/farmers varieties
  • Creating value for the agrobiodiversity: traditional varieties of rice, cotton, vegetables, value added products with Jackfruit and Mahua
  • Documenting Value for Cultivation and Use

Know more about our work on Open Source Seed Systems

Downloads from Open Source Seed Systems, India

Sustainable Seed Systems Concept Note

Open Source Seed Material Knowledge Transfer Agreements

Building Open Source Seed Systems

Best Practices in Biodiversity Conservation

Speciality Rice Varieties

Downloads from Open Source Seed Systems, Global Community

The Open Source Seed Initiative: Liberating Seeds From (All but One!) Use-Restrictions


Financing Organic Plant Breeding—New Economic Models for Seed as a Commons

Open Source Seed, a Revolution in Breeding or Yet Another Attack on the Breeder’s Exemption?

How do consumers perceive open-source seed licenses? Exploring a new credence attribute

Open source: an opportunity to strengthen farmers’ seed systems – nine propositions

Open Source Seeds and the Revitalization of Local Knowledge

Farmers’ Rights and Digital Sequence Information: Crisis or Opportunity to Reclaim Stewardship Over Agrobiodiversity?