Health, Seeds, Diversity and Terraces

  • Salvatore CeccarelliEmail author
Part of the Environmental History book series (ENVHIS, volume 9)


Modern plant breeding has moved towards uniformity, while the increasing demand for nutritious and safe food would require the maintenance and enhancement of biodiversity to respond to climate changes, to improve resilience at farm level and to improve health through a diversified diet. Thus, a change in the way new varieties are produced is necessary, and this is offered by participatory plant breeding, which combines modern science with farmers’ knowledge and emphasizes specific adaptation. This is particularly relevant for remote, difficult to access agricultural landscapes such as terraced agriculture. Yemen, a typical country with large areas covered by terraces, offers an example that participatory plant breeding can be successfully implemented even in these challenging situations: in a three years programme, new varieties of barley and lentil, two key food crops in Yemen, were obtained. A methodology, which can be even more suitable to terraced agriculture, is evolutionary plant breeding through which farmers can manage independently a large and evolving genetic diversity. This allows them to quickly respond to climate changes and associated new pests, to be the owner of their own seed, to diversify their agricultural systems and increase their resilience and, more importantly, to improve their nutritional status with a more diversified diet without depending on external inputs.


Terraced crops Health Seeds Diversity and biodiversity Agricultural systems Food safety and security Modernization Climate change Resilience Evolutionary plant breeding Farmers’ knowledge Yemen 



This work would not have been possible without the collaboration of men and women in the three villages in the Kuhlan Affar area. Dr. S. Grando, Dr. M. Martini and Dr. A. Aw-Hassan, then barley breeder, gender specialist and socio-economist at ICARDA, respectively, gave an important scientific support, and Mr. A. Luft, cereal breeder and head of AREA gene bank, was instrumental in making this work possible.

This work was supported by a small grant from the System-Wide Program on participatory Research and Gender Analysis (SW-PRGA).


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rete Semi RuraliScandicciItaly

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