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Project Title: Conservation and sustainable use of cultivated and wild tropical fruit diversity: promoting sustainable livelihoods, food security and ecosystem services

Implementing Agency: United Nations Environment Programme
Executing Agencies: International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), Italy

India: Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), KABII, New Delhi

Indonesia: Research Institute for Fruits (IFRURI), Solok, West Sumatra

Malaysia: Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute, (MARDI), Kuala Lumpur

Thailand: Department of Agriculture (DOA), Chatuchak, Bangkok
Requesting countries: India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand

GEF Focal Area: Biodiversity

GEF Operational Agricultural Biodiversity (OP#13)

Total Cost of PDF B: US$ 721,000
PDF-B Funding Requested from GEF: US$ 326,000

PDF-B Co-funding: India: $ 62,000

Indonesia: $ 35,000

Malaysia $ 38,000

Thailand $ 35,000

IPGRI $225,000

TOTAL $395,000

Block A grant awarded: Did not apply

Estimated Starting Date of PDF B: June 2004

Estimated Duration of PDF B: 12 months

Estimated Starting Date of Full Project: September 2005

Estimated Total Costs of Full Project: US$ 8,000,000

Estimated Co-funding for Full Project: US$ 4,500,000

Full Project Duration: 5 years
ACIAR Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

ADB Asian Development Bank

AFGRN Asian Fruit Genetic Resources Network

APO Asia, the Pacific and Oceania

CBD Convention on Biological Diversity

CGIAR Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research

COGENT International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (IPGRI)

DGIS Directoraat Generaal Internationale Samenweking ( Netherlands)

DOA Department of Agriculture (Thailand)

FRIM Forest Research Institute of Malaysia

GEF Global Environment Facility

GIS Geographic Information Systems

ICAR Indian Council of Agricultural Research

IDRC International Development and Research Centre (Canada)

IFAD International Fund for Agricultural Development

IPGRI International Plant Genetic Resources Institute

MARDI Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Malaysia)

NATP National Agriculture Technology Project (India)

NGO Non-Governmental Organization

NRCC National Research Centre for Citrus (India)

PDF-B Project Development Fund-B

PGR Plant Genetic Resources

SC Steering Committee

SDC Swiss Development Corporation

UNEP United Nations Environment Programme

UPM Universiti Putra Malaysia

WTLCP Western Terai Landscape Complex Project

TFNet International Tropical Fruit Network

UNDP United Nations Development Programme

UTFANET Underutilized Tropical Fruits in Asia Network

Significance of the Tropical Fruit Genetic Resources in Asia
1. Tropical fruits are important for the well-being of the populations of Asia as sources of supplemental food, nutritionally balanced diets and enhancing both household incomes and national revenues. More than 400 edible tropical fruit species are found in Asia. The total annual production in 2002 was 83.9 million tons, accounting for about 60% of production worldwide. Some species also have specific medicinal uses, while others are used for timber, fuel wood and livestock feed. Tropical Asian countries are the centres of origin and diversity for many globally important tropical fruit tree species. However, many of these species are only slightly domesticated, and the wild and domesticated forms, which can possess very large amounts of genetic diversity, are important both for local communities as fruits as well as other products such as for specific medicinal uses, timber, fuelwood and livestock feed.
2. In forest areas, the rich diversity of fruit species plays an important role as a source of food and shelter to other species of plants and animals, providing stability in complex natural ecosystems. In agricultural areas, tropical fruit trees are important components of multi-crop systems such as home gardens, a characteristic feature in many Asian rural landscapes. Small farms and home gardens are rich in tropical fruit tree species diversity and have a number of economic, social, cultural, aesthetic and ecological functions important to livelihoods (Trinh et al. 2003). In India, more than 120 plant species have been recorded in home gardens, and a survey of Kohima and Mon town markets in Nagaland found that 40 of 68 plant products were harvested from home gardens. Increasing diversity of fruits in home gardens is a sustainable way to ensure quality food, dietary diversity and nutrition, particularly for vulnerable groups such as children, women and the elderly. From the conservation standpoint, home gardens can serve as buffer zones around protected forests or community forests. An example is in Meghalaya, India, where deforestation is eroding Citrus wild diversity while a number of the species are maintained in home gardens (Singh et al. 2001).
3. Most tree species, including the tropical fruits, can be grown in marginal conditions (Verheij and Coronel, 1991). They are therefore important to improved agricultural production in cases where farmers cannot afford inputs such as fertilizer and irrigation. They can also serve as a form of savings, as their products can be "cashed in" during emergencies such as illness or the need to pay school fees. Intensification of tree crop cultivation in home gardens and fallow lands is one response to decreasing land holdings. When even this intensification is insufficient to meet subsistence needs, off-farm employment may be sought and the land placed under low-input perennial tree crops. Tropical fruits, therefore, serve in many instances as major sources either of income or as a source of income stability for farmers living in marginal rural environments
4. Tropical fruit species, being mostly perennial species and components of natural forest ecosystem diversity, are also known to contribute to ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, protection from soil erosion, soil formation, nutrient cycling, hydrologic regimes and biotic regulation in the form of pollination ecology, food web and trophic level relationships (Okey, 1996; Soemarwoto and Soemarwoto, 1984).
5. Studies on the occurrence of the wild relatives of the target species in natural ecosystems are limited. There has been little research on their population sizes, how they are maintained in natural ecosystems and community uses of uncultivated fruits. However, there are indications that Mangifera species constitute a fairly large component of several natural forests in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia (Mukherjee 1985; Bompard and Schaffer 1993; Bompard 1988; Bompard 1995). A similar situation is expected with the other target species, for example, for Citrus species in northeast India and for rambutan and mangosteen in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. Further, drawing inferences from other tree species, it is believed that tropical fruit species are an important part of stable ecosystems in the Asian region, serving as a source of shelter for both plants and animals and playing an important role in the interdependency amongst pollinating, seed dispersing and other ecological functions. Breeding and selection for improving cultivated fruit trees need basic knowledge of the reproductive biology and breeding system of the wild species as well (Soepadmo 1979). There are desired characteristics of wild relatives of cultivated tropical fruit species that could be selected for domestication and commercial production. For example, in Java, Indonesia the common guava Eugenia jambos is grafted onto rootstocks of the wild relative E. densiflora (Saw 1991). Improvement in crops depends on the availability of wild stock of the related cultivated species. To maintain these stocks, breeding populations of such species have to be maintained under natural conditions so that trees can continue to cross with each other and in the long-term continue to evolve new races.
6. Wild fruit trees perform an important ecosystem function as habitat components for pollinators, which include a wide range of insects, birds, bats and other animals (Soepadmo 1989). Reports (Baker and Baker 1983, Proctor and Yeo 1973; Faegri and Van Der Pijl 1979) have indicated that there exist intricate but harmonious interrelationships between floral cues and foraging as well as feeding behaviour of pollinators. Hence, certain wild fruit trees provide critical food resources for animals during periods of food scarcity, which may cause extinction of those species that depend on them. Reduced food resources may impact animal abundance and foraging behaviour which, in turn, could have an effect on forest regeneration (Terborgh 1986; Whitmore 1990).
Threats to Tropical Fruit Genetic Resources
7. Wild and cultivated fruit species diversity in Asia are being threatened by rapid genetic erosion due to natural habitat destruction and other economic and cultural pressures. All the countries have indicated the same threats such as 1) habitat destruction, 2) extension of agriculture, 3) filling up of wetlands, 4) conversion of biodiversity rich sites for human settlement and industrial development and 5) uncontrolled commercial exploitation. Over the last century, deforestation and land use conversion have put external pressure on wild fruit tree resources in the Asia region, with consequent high levels of deforestation and loss of target fruit wild relative. In Malaysia, the deforestation rate from 1990 to 2000 was 1.2% per annum. In 2000, the forest area in India was 21.6% of the land area. In 1966, forest covered 144 million hectares (75%) of Indonesia’s land area. By 1998, the number had dropped to 53 million, or 37% of the land area. Annual rate of deforestation rate in Indonesia from 1990 to 2000 was 1.2% annum. From 1961 to1993, Thai forest cover decreased from 53% to 26%. Thailand had a deforestation rate of 0.7% from the year 1990 to 2000 per annum. ( and FAO, 2003).
8. Land-use conversion results in significant loss of diversity, especially of woody species including wild fruits. In northeastern India, for example, the local tribal people practice shifting cultivation. Large-scale clearing of forests is done during winter months and burning is done during the summer. In India and Nepal, traditional mango varieties are maintained in communal lands in the Terai. Mango diversity in such habitats is disappearing fast because these trees are often grown in communal land, and are harvested for quick income from alternate uses such as for fuel wood for the increasing number of brick factories.
9. A number of factors related to use and management of tropical fruit tree species have placed additional pressure on the resource. Commercialization has increased the land area under a single variety and reduced species diversity in recent years (Trinh et al. 2003). Propagation of orchards from single scion for monocultural commercial farming has increased uniformity and concurrently vulnerability to pests and diseases. These modern commercial cultivars tend to replace the traditional farmers’ varieties, reducing available diversity and the many associated values. One result is loss of options to farmers for coping with change. An extreme example comes from India, where a survey undertaken under the National Agriculture Technology Project (NATP) on Plant Diversity by the National Research Centre for Citrus (NRCC), Nagpur, found that the “Mosaimbi” cultivar of sweet orange was completely replaced by the cash crop sugarcane in Ahmednagar area of Maharashtra State. Commercialization of home gardens has also increased the focus on preferred fruit trees while diminishing diversity of both species and cultivars.
10. Many tropical fruits are underutilized even though they are important sources of livelihood for large segments of the population. A number of these species occur in the wild or are sparsely grown; others are cultivated in medium to large-scale plantations or in home gardens. In addition, many are underutilized even though they are important livelihood assets for large segments of the population. Fruit trees often need long-term investment and security of tenure to merit investment in their maintenance. For example, reluctance to grow mango and mangosteen derives primarily from the fact that economic returns require a long-term investment. Coupled with the fact that older fruit trees are a good source of income as timber and fuel wood, this source of diversity is rapidly disappearing (IPGRI 2003).
Conservation Management of Tropical Fruit Trees at Global Level
11. The effective conservation of tropical fruit tree species presents particular problems and satisfactory methods have not as yet been developed. Ex situ conservation is extremely costly and requires field genebanks because the species are generally characterized by possessing recalcitrant seeds that cannot be stored. These genebanks suffer steady losses of material from disease and other causes and need constant replenishment. The development of in situ methods for these types of materials is in its infancy and needs sustained attention so as to ensure that satisfactory procedures of wide general applicability that are sustainable and economically viable are available. There is an urgent need to develop and upscale successful strategies to conserve both cultivated and wild relatives of tropical fruit species in Asia for economic, cultural, and ecological reasons.
12. To date, tools and methods that support the assessment and adaptive management of crop diversity in production systems have focused mainly on annual crops. Most of the work on long-lived tree species has focused primarily on timber species. An exception is an IPGRI effort underway in Central Asia to promote conservation and sustainable management of temperate fruit species. The “In Situ/On-farm Conservation of Agrobiodiversity (Horticultural Crops and Wild Fruit Species) in Central Asia” project, now at the planning stage and funded through a UNEP/GEF PDF-B grant, complements the proposed project. Other examples are “In-situ Conservation of Genetic Diversity”, a GEF/World Bank project initiated in Turkey in 1993 and the GEF/UNDP project “In Situ Conservation of Native Landraces and Their Wild Relatives in Vietnam” (see Section VI – Linkages). Additional projects have built upon the information gathered from the Turkey project, including collaborative initiatives with IPGRI. Similarly, the GEF/UNDP project “In Situ Conservation of Native Landraces and Their Wild Relatives in Vietnam” will target conservation of some perennial tropical fruit tree species such as citrus, litchi and longan by mitigating the threats to the agrobiodiversity of the target sites and preserving their genetic diversity. Conservation of tropical fruit genetic resources must, therefore, build on lessons learned in projects applied more generally to crop genetic diversity and adapt those to the science and culture relevant to tropical fruit species.
13. Since natural habitats for wild relatives of tropical fruit tree species are increasingly under threat, a portfolio of micro-environments and appropriate strategies are needed to conserve both wild relatives and cultivars. Food security for farming and surrounding communities does not rely solely on small farms and home gardens. It is also derived from uncultivated sources in and around natural ecosystems. It is estimated that more than 55% of the Asian fruit species are gathered by tribal and other people living in close proximity to forests and other common lands for supplementary income and nutrition. This highlights an important interdependence between home gardens, community forests and other natural areas, including protected areas and their buffer zones. Increasingly these elements are viewed as components within a network of microenvironments that help preserve function and resilience of the larger agroecosystem. The IPGRI project “Contribution of Home Gardens to In situ Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources in Farming Systems” describes how new cultivars are introduced in home gardens as a result of exchanges, and wild species are introduced for cultivation. Frequently the wild species are transferred to home gardens when their natural habitat is threatened. In other cases, fruit germplasm is collected by farmers living near protected areas and introduced into their home gardens. On-farm management in tandem with in situ conservation of related wild species1 in natural habitats is, therefore, an important mix for conserving tropical fruit diversity – part of an overall strategy of complementary conservation, increasingly recognized as the appropriate overall framework for effective maintenance and use of diversity.
14. This mixed approach must then be combined with those elements proven effective in other experiences related to conservation of crop genetic diversity. The central elements of such an approach have been tested separately in other initiatives and will be brought together in this project. The first step toward management of genetic diversity is to increase knowledge on the extent and distribution of diversity in the target species and the second is to determine current germplasm conservation efforts (location, collection, conservation and use). Most countries in the region have invested in collection and maintenance of fruit species diversity in field genebanks. Ex situ field genebanks hold the key for characterization and evaluation and for their utilization in fruit improvement programmes. Collecting and characterization of germplasm in key genepools has been the primary focus of the project “Conservation and Use of Native Tropical Fruit Species Biodiversity in Asia” (funded by the ADB, hereafter referred to as “the ADB project”). This work has taken place in 10 countries, including the four that will be involved in the project proposed here (for further information, see Section VI). Conservation using traditional ex situ approaches has proved unsatisfactory, failing to address problems of loss of wild diversity or meet the needs of rural communities.
15. Sustainable on-farm and in situ conservation is possible only when farmers, communities and national institutions perceive benefits in terms of genetic, economic, social and ecological aspects. These benefits accrue in terms of private utility benefits (to the individual farmer or user) and/or public benefits (to society). In Nepal, the project “Enhancing Contribution of Home Gardens to On-farm Management of Plant Genetic Resources and to Improve Livelihoods of Nepalese Farmers” has increased areas producing socio-culturally important crops (for example, Anadi rice and taro cultivars). This has been achieved through value addition of products and links to markets (Sthapit et al. 2003a).
16. Another important element to improved sustainable use is market access and value addition. While it is true that, in general, the market forces tend to "homogenize" or reduce diversity due to preference for certain products which is of economic value and, therefore, favors the growing of those species and varieties that are producing these products, there is increasing evidence from IPGRI's work that these same market forces can be used to conserve agrobiodiversity. There is vast potential for improving the production and marketing systems for tropical fruits and innovative approaches in this area have already been tested for buckwheat and coconut. For example, a case study of buckwheat genetic diversity and sustainable livelihood in China commissioned by IPGRI-APO indicated that, if there are diverse buckwheat products that will be of economic value in the market, this influences farmers decision-making to grow a diversity of landraces of buckwheat. The case study indicated that there are specific landraces of buckwheat, which are good for noodle making, for wine making, baked products, and for medicinal purposes. The market has recognized all of these products and the technology for their processing is readily available. An optimal organizational set-up combines small-scale farmers as producers, the private sector as processors and marketing channels, and the scientists to determine the right genetic materials for the right kinds of purpose. This combination of the private sector production and marketing arms and the research/scientist public sector have enhanced linkages which promoted value addition and income but at the same time the promotion and growing of a diversity of landraces of buckwheat by the local farmers. A similar experience is also demonstrated by IPGRI’s work in coconut with the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT) of IPGRI. The greater income generation which benefited small and poor coconut farmers is through the use of the various products from coconut: coconut water, coconut shell for handicraft, coconut stem for wood products, coconut frond for handicrafts, coconut coir for fiber and handicraft and coconut oil for cooking, cosmetics and medicinal uses. The economic value of these various products can increase the income of coconut farmers by 5-6 times more than just the income derived from dried coconut meat. These coconut products are also linked to the market. However, just like buckwheat, this market pull enhances the conservation and use of various coconut landraces by farmers because these variety of coconut products are linked to the different kinds of coconut varieties. For example, large-shelled coconut variety is good for handicraft products while large-husked varieties are good for products derived from coconut fibres such as doormats, rope and others. This has provided an incentive for farmers to conserve those varieties that are suited for such products, as well as to introduce new, high-value varieties. The seedlings for these varieties are conserved in, and sold through, community-managed nurseries. With good marketing linkages, entire communities are now engaged in producing coco fibre ropes and geotextiles, providing incomes up to five times what they earn from coconut oil and copra (COGENT 2003). Value addition of local fruits has also been successfully carried out by the Agricultural Housewife Group of several villages in Thailand, and marketed by several agencies including Thai Airways ( This project is a component of His Majesty the King's Vision, Leadership and Commitment on Sustainable Land Development Activities. Initial assessment of project fruit market potential is provided in Annex 1.
National and Regional Policies that Provide Support to the Project2
17. India’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, now in draft form, considers the importance of home gardens, participatory approaches, and use of traditional knowledge to in situ conservation of crop species. In India, collecting and conserving mango genetic resources focuses primarily on quality of fruits and, to date, more than 1000 accessions with different horticultural traits have been collected and conserved at different locations in field genebanks. The crop-based institutes on mango and citrus have the mandate to address biodiversity conservation issues, and the Vision 2020 document of these institutions focuses the work to be done in this area. [The Indian Council of Agricultural Research-(ICAR) institutes involved in this exercise are the Central Institute for Subtropical Fruits, Lucknow; the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bangalore; and the National Research Centre for Citrus, Nagpur.] The national symposium “Plant Genetic Resources Management: Advances and Challenges” recommended that national clonal repositories be established for horticultural crops..
18. The Biodiversity Action Plan for Indonesia promotes incentives “to farmers to conserve and cultivate local varieties of food crops” and “to encourage diversification of food and tree crops appropriate to local soil conditions”. Indonesia’s focus of research on rambutan and mango will support implementation of the proposed project. Collection of superior genetic varieties, their evaluation, conservation, documentation, breeding and improvement of various species are the chief objectives of this research. The Indonesian Fruits Research Institute includes a technical task force unit responsible for the national strategy on fruits conservation. The unit works at both national and provincial levels, enabling it to look at overall policy and exploration, collection, and conservation of germplasm. Backed by Indonesian law, which regulates plant cultivation and protects plant varieties, the Institute helps conserve plant genetic resources both in situ and ex situ in response to increasing deforestation and shifting agricultural cultivation systems. It is anticipated that the draft law on conservation and utilization of genetic resources will soon come into force.

19. Malaysia’s National Policy on Biological Diversity (Ministry of Science 1998) includes objectives to optimize economic benefits from sustainable utilization of the components of biological diversity and ensure long-term food security for the nation. The Eighth Malaysia Plan (2001 – 2005) specifies actions to achieve these objectives in the context of managing fruits and vegetables, a priority given their high development potential. Sustainable forest management practices will be expanded. Malaysia’s Third National Agricultural Policy (1998-2010) calls for conservation and utilization of natural resources on a sustainable basis, supports enhancement of research and conservation, capacity building, and access to genetic resources. In Malaysia, work is focused mainly on rambutan and mango. Major areas of research are collection of germplasm, evaluation, documentation, conservation, breeding, and improvement. The Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) holds the largest fruit germplasm collection in the country, with about 4000 accessions. Other institutions that are involved in conservation include the Department of Agriculture at Kuala Lumpur, Sabah and Sarawak, the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM), the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that are involved in a number of related activities (e.g., maintaining fruit trees in school compounds). Malaysia became a member of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in 1993.

20. The aim of Thailand’s Policy on Natural and Cultural Environments (Thailand’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan) is to protect, preserve, conserve, and rehabilitate the natural and cultural environment to maintain the natural and cultural heritage of the country. In addition, Thailand’s National Policy on Natural Resources (1997-2016) combines scientific, management and awareness aspects. It focuses on: efficiency, coordination and sustainability of natural resource uses; building knowledge through research and information management; enhancement of natural resource management through decentralization, public-private linkages and community participation, and adoption of supportive legal and regulatory frameworks; and application of resource economics. Mango, rambutan and lychee are the main species investigated in Thailand. Collection of germplasm, evaluation, conservation, breeding and improvement are the target areas of research. Tropical Fruit Industry development is a priority in Thailand’s National Development Plan.
21. Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are active members of IPGRI network- Regional Cooperation on Plant Genetic Resources (RECSEA-PGR) and India is a member of South Asia Network for PGR (SANPGR). These countries also work together in the AFGRN- the Asia Fruit Genetic Resources Network ( All the countries are members of the Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutes (APAARI) and the Asia Pacific Association of Forest Research Institutes (APAFRI), with whom IPGRI works closely.
22. Working through these networks, partners in the region have become more open to share resources, expertise and in some instances genetic resources. The good practices developed in one country or a subregional network are quickly followed up or piloted in another country or subregion. For example, the agreement between East Asia Plant Genetic Resources Network (EAPGR) partners to carry out multilocation evaluation of adzuki genetic resources, that resulted in the exchange of about 50 accessions between the member countries, has been taken up the SANPGR members and plans for multilocation testing of common species has been planned and preliminary work is underway to select the germplasm to be exchanged. Similarly, based on the successful establishment of a Regional Germplasm Centre under the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT) of IPGRI, where regional partners share the responsibilities to reduce costs of conservation and share genetic resources, a similar initiative is being discussed for tropical fruit trees. These regional initiatives, in addition to avoiding work duplication, promote South-South cooperation in Plant Genetic Resources research and development.
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