|Landraces of Andean maize |
credit: Karl Zimmerer, Penn State
Science Daily is reporting that what is left of the world's crop diversity is being held by small farmers--that is, farmers who hold between three and seven acres (1-3 hectares) of land.
To quote from the Penn State news release:
What the census shows is that small farmers, in many cases women, are the ones preserving landraces of food crops. A landrace is a locally adapted, traditional variety of a domesticated species. Depending on the crop, farmers may plant anywhere from one to 15 different landraces. While the livelihoods of small land users are often precarious, these landraces provide vital farm and food resources.Small farmers tend to plant different landraces in the same field, encouraging hybridization. Maize, for example, hybridizes quite easily, while potatoes do not. This means a farmer may plant 3 or 4 landraces of maize, but up to 30 or more landraces of potatoes.
But the landraces are not just preserved by farmers in remote rural areas. Frequently they are found also in peri-urban areas--where people live near, and depend upon urban areas--where people are growing local food for local consumption.
The press release alone makes for fascinating reading, and leaves us with some hope for the diversity of foods.