Conserving Crop Diversity
For thousands of years, in the northern Andean highlands of Ecuador, people surrounding the town of Cotacachi have cultivated crops across a wide range of elevations, climates, and soils. The result is a microcenter of agricultural diversity. ARS researchers under National Program Crop Production, 305from the Beltsville Area's National Germplasm Resources Laboratory set-up and now advises a program designed to promote conservation and increase the use of local crops in the area. This program involved partnering with an indigenous community organization, the Union of Indigenous and Peasant Communities (UNORCAC), scientists from Biodiversity International, and their ARS equivalent in Ecuador. This Cotacachi project was in large part responsible for UNORCAC being awarded the Equator Prize from the United Nations Development Program in 2008 in recognition of efforts to conserve agricultural biodiversity.