[In-situ] conservation of local species, varieties and domestic animal breeds requires an adequate system of economic and social incentives, combined with increased consumers awareness.
Biological diversity is best conserved in the wild ([in-situ]), through the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and natural habitats, and the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in their natural surroundings.
[In-situ] conservation means the conservation of biodiversity in the wild through the conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats, and the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in their natural surroundings.
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities. Agenda 21 recommends taking action where necessary for the conservation of biological diversity through [in-situ] conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats, as well as primitive cultivars and their wild relatives, and the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in their natural surroundings, while implementing [ex-situ] measures, preferably in the source country. [In-situ] measures should include reinforcement of terrestrial, marine and aquatic protected area systems to embrace, [inter alia], vulnerable freshwater and other wetlands, and coastal ecosystems, such as estuaries, coral reefs and mangroves.
Many traditional agroecosystems are still found throughout developing countries constitute major [in-situ] repositories of both crop and wild plant germplasm. These plant resources are directly dependent upon management by human groups; thus, they have evolved in part under the influence of farming practices shaped by particular cultures. Because genetic conservation programmes are more effective when preserving the ecosystems in which the resources occur, maintenance of traditional farming systems and adjacent natural ecosystems is proposed as a sensible strategy of [in-situ] preservation of crop and wild plant genetic resources. Preservation efforts should be linked to rural development projects that take into account the ethnobotanical knowledge of rural people and that emphasize both food self-sufficiency as well as local resource conservation. Preservation of these traditional agroecosystems cannot be achieved when isolated from maintenance of the culture of the local people. Therefore, projects should also emphasize maintenance of cultural diversity.
Case studies of potato agriculture in Peru, maize agriculture in Mexico, and rice agriculture in Thailand indicate that farmers frequently engage in [de facto] conservation of landraces. Five principles emerge from these studies to guide planning of [in-situ] conservation: complementarity with off-site conservation, minimal institutional development, continuity with existing programmes, meeting the development goals of increasing income and food, and accepting germplasm as an international public good. Four means to implement on-site conservation are: the institutional framework; the information base; the policy framework; and the role of grassroots organizations.
2. Farmers in many parts of the world are conserving traditional varieties even as they modernize and adopt improved varieties. A new approach to conservation is needed that builds a collaborative programme between farmers, crop scientists, ecologists, biogeographers, and social scientists. A first step is to analyse farming systems that already conserve traditional crop varieties.