The Andes region is the origin of many crops and has a long history of domestication. The area is known for high agricultural biodiversity, traditional knowledge, and crop-livestock systems that date back millennia. The high mountain ecosystem is characterized by many fragile micro-environments that are prone to soil erosion and threatened by climate change. Traditional production systems are being stressed to meet increasing food demand and income needs, and glacial melt is reducing water resources for irrigation. Some national governments in the region are interested in abiotic and biotic local climate change indicators which could be used to help communities adapt to climate change, and some are also placing more emphasis on on traditional farming knowledge and exploring mechanisms to incorporate it into mainstream research and development programs.
The Andes community of practice (CoP) encompasses Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru and counts among its members a wide range of partners, including research institutions, farmer groups, non-governmental organizations, and government agencies. The CoP supports integrated and diverse production systems that embrace conservation and native agricultural biodiversity. Funding is directed toward conservation of agricultural biodiversity, breeding and variety selection, seed systems, integrated crop and pest management, risk management and climate variability, nutrition, soil fertility management, and market development.
Raising the profile of traditional knowledge and understanding its relationship to scientific research are key goals of the Andes CoP. The CoP is funding projects to determine the strengths and shortcomings of existing systems of traditional agriculture knowledge and the extent to which they can be adapted on a large scale. In response to government interest in local climate change adaptation strategies, several CoP projects are researching biological indicators and will be producing data and evidence to contribute to scientific and policy discussions on this issue.
Because many CoP members are development organizations, there is a strong emphasis on the connection between research and development in terms of outcomes and impacts. The CoP focuses on strengthening projects’ capacity to use mixed research methods, build tighter collaborations between social scientists and biophysical scientists, and increase rigor around data collection and analysis. The CoP strategy emphasizes more structured social science research and provides targeted support.