Agricultural biodiversity key for resilience

Communities are constantly adapting to changes in their environment, from climate change to market fluctuations and consumer preferences.  The more diverse a community or the local context is, the greater its capacity to adapt to changes. So, it is important to understand, assess and monitor sources of and changes in social and biological response diversity, of which agricultural biodiversity is a key component.

A community-led process for assessing resilience in agricultural biodiversity contexts

The CSAR process was co-created by a working group within the Agricultural Biodiversity Community, an international group of farmers, practitioners and scientists working to promote and defend agricultural biodiversity. The intention was to outline a process for communities to self-assess resilience that is empowering and can be used in different contexts. The process builds on a narrative developed by the community through facilitated story-telling, using for example eco-cultural mapping or community resource mapping, collective cooking and eating together, graphic illustration or simple discussions. The narrative allows communities to tell their stories and identify, validate and evaluate attributes of resilience, including agricultural biodiversity, and plan for the future.

Although various tools exist for assessing this capacity to respond to changes, so called resilience assessments, few assessments have been done in socio-ecological production landscapes in a development context, and fewer by communities themselves. The concepts, language and approach used in resilience assessment are sometimes seen as exclusive, extractive and complex, prohibiting a truly participatory process.

In our experience, resilience assessment is most powerful when communities of custodians, users and managers of agricultural biodiversity themselves assess changes in social and ecological resilience and identify necessary actions – be it actions within their communities or communicating to external actors or sharing with a larger community of practice.

What is Resilience?

Many different definitions of resilience exist. For the purpose of the process for Resilience Self-Assessment by Communities, several key characteristics of resilience were identified:

  • Resilience can only be understood in context: resilience of what and to what?
  • It is more than just an ability to bounce back, it involves a preparedness and ability to cope with, absorb and move with (unexpected) change
  • Resilience is fluid and evolving – you don’t build resilience, you build adaptive capacity

Resilience attributes of a rural community relate to many components of the system (e.g. farm, markets, knowledge, culture, environment, social structures) and not all attributes are quantifiable

To learn more about what resilience is, download this booklet or visit the Stockholm Resilience Website to watch introductory videos describing a scientific perspective of resilience.