Market with a big variety of vegetables.
Biodiversity ensures that people have the vitamins and minerals they need and is therefore crucial for food security. ©CGIAR

Our planet has remarkable biological diversity. Agrobiodiversity ensures that people have the vitamins and minerals they need and that the ecosystems used for food production function effectively. It is therefore crucial for food security. The SDC is committed to the preservation of agrobiodiversity and takes into account local knowledge and traditions in its projects.

The SDC's focus

Defined as the variety of plants and animals, biodiversity is a key factor in a balanced and healthy diet, by guaranteeing an adequate supply of nutrients through food. The SDC is not only committed to securing enough food for all, but also to a balanced and healthy diet for all. The preservation of agrobiodiversity plays a crucial role in this respect.

At the global level, the SDC participates in efforts to preserve seeds from the most frequently used crop varieties in seed banks. It also works to improve existing seed systems. In collaboration with Bioversity International, a research organisation active in South America, Asia and Africa, the SDC is helping local farmers to preserve and market local crop varieties.

Local people play an important role in the preservation of agrobiodiversity in each country, as they are the ones with knowledge about native plants and land use practices. The SDC takes this aspect into consideration in its biodiversity projects. It works with local, regional and global institutions to ensure that local populations in each country accept and maintain the sustainable use of ecological systems.


The issues surrounding biodiversity are complex. On the one hand, the conversion of natural ecosystems into large tracts of agricultural land results in more agricultural production and a better food supply. On the other hand, however, these developments threaten species diversity and thereby the self-sufficiency of local populations. The challenge is to use agricultural land considerately for the benefit of all stakeholders. Biodiversity is also important for medical research since natural and wild plants are often the basis for developing medicines.

Worldwide, there are an estimated 7,000 different plant species used for human nutrition, but rice, maize and wheat now provide more than 50% of all calories obtained from plant sources. In 2019, 75% of the food consumed by people worldwide comes from just 12 plant and five animal species. The diversity of agricultural plant species and varieties has declined sharply over the last century. In China, for example, there were more than 10,000 local wheat varieties in 1949, while barely 1,000 are still cultivated today. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), humanity has already lost three quarters of plant diversity that originally contributed to our diet.

This focus on a small number of grain and vegetable crops is inherently risky. Sufficient genetic diversity of crops provides long-term protection against unexpected plant pests and diseases.

At the global level, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity is geared towards the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of biodiversity. The FAO's Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture focuses more specifically on agrobiodiversity issues.

Under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, Switzerland has pledged to double its international commitment within 10 years. As a country whose own species diversity is heavily threatened, Switzerland is thus contributing to global efforts to conserve biodiversity.


Current projects

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Exchanging knowledge and experience to protect Andean forest ecosystems

Part of the Andean forest covered in mist.

01.11.2011 - 31.12.2019

The forests of the Andes are valuable in a variety of ways: they store and purify water, provide protection against natural hazards, and absorb environmentally harmful greenhouse gases. With the ANFOR project, the SDC is contributing to the long-term protection of Andean forests.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Andean Region
Adaptation to the effects of climate change
Adaptation to the effects of climate change
Mitigation of the effects of climate change
Mitigation of the effects of climate change
Forestry development
Environmental policy and administrative management
Forestry policy
Environmental policy and administrative management
Biosphere protection
Biosphere protection

01.11.2011 - 31.12.2019

CHF 8'072'000

Global Sustainable Land Management Platform for Knowledge Management and Decision Support (WOCAT)

01.12.2015 - 30.11.2019

Sustainable Land Management (SLM) is essential for reducing land degradation, restoring degraded land and striving to achieve land degradation neutrality. WOCAT, the Global Sustainable Land Management Platform, is recognised by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) as the primary database for SLM best practices reporting, offers robust and up-to-date knowledge, tools and methods for evidence-based decision-making to implement the most appropriate practices within a given context and to improve land resources, ecosystems and livelihoods. The phase will focus on enhancement of knowledge uptake in decision support.

Support to Recovery and Reconstruction in Nepal Programme (SRRNP)

05.06.2015 - 30.06.2019

Three major earthquakes left over 8’500 people dead, 3 mio homeless and affected one third of the population in Nepal. Switzerland’s contribution to the recovery and reconstruction efforts will ensure the equitable distribution of services and provisions especially from a gender and social inclusion perspective through, the provision of direct recovery and reconstruction support to the affected people, capacity building of the local government and other service delivery agencies.

BIOCULTURA 2015 - 2019

01.06.2015 - 31.12.2019

In the last 5 years the Biocultura programme has elaborated an environment compatible approach for the development of rural communities – known as „Vivir Bien“ in Bolivia, and has contributed to the definition of a legal framework for the climate issue. In the 2nd phase 15.000 families in 400 communities have been receiving support to assimilate the climate changes and national capacities for an efficient and transparent management of the national climate budget have been constructed.

Angewandte Forschung zur Anpassung an den Klimawandel

01.06.2013 - 30.06.2019

Bolivien ist von den negativen Auswirkungen des Klimawandels (KW) stark betroffen – insbesondere 500‘000 besonders anfällige in Armut lebende Familien in den Höhenlagen der Anden. Mit dem Projekt soll die Resilienz von armen Familien in den Anden verbessert werden. Mittels eines Wettbewerbs sollen in 4 Jahren rund 100 Forschungsprojekte der zwei bekanntesten Universitäten des Landes finanziert werden. Es geht dabei um angewandte Forschung zu Themen, die den konkreten Bedürfnissen der am stärksten vom KW betroffenen andinen Dorfgemeinschaften entsprechen.

Sustainable conservation on Hungarian Natura 2000 sites

01.04.2012 - 31.10.2016

Countrywide surveys and assessments of data-deficient forest and wetland species and habitats deliver lacking data necessary to decide on corrective measures. Based on the data, management plans for Natura 2000 areas are elaborated in close cooperation with all stakeholders as farmers or the forest industry. The plans contain corrective measures and will contribute to preserve the areas combining the interests of environment and economy. 

Sky-high schoolroom

01.04.2012 - 31.12.2016

Forest educational institutions are a perfect means for developing environmental consciousness of future generations. The project supports educational institutions in participating in such programs which familiarize children with protected areas such as Natura 2000. Thanks to the project, at least 12’600 children shall have the possibility to participate in such a program.

Biodiversity assessment in the Carpathian region

01.04.2012 - 31.03.2017

Surveys on forest and endangered bats, insects and birds in the Natura 2000 areas in the Northern Medium Mountains are carried out and provide the basis for effective measures to protect them. Integrated in forest management and Natura 2000 management plans after project closure, the conservation measures will be taken by stakeholders such as forestry or farmers.

Thematic Fund Civil Society Participation Bulgaria

two old women sitting on a bench

01.07.2011 - 30.11.2019

The goal of the Thematic Fund „Civil Society Participation“ is to empower the Bulgarian civil society organizations as important actors in development and democratic process. Specific objectives are to bring concrete solutions for specific environmental and social challenges as well as to build capacities of the various implementation partners.


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