In May, in the heart of the Monfragüe Biosphere Reserve (Extremadura, Spain), the Aprisco Association organised the technical conference “Crop Wild Relatives: The Value of Biodiversity for Food Security” at the experimental farm of Las Corchuelas del Medio.

The event was part of the project “DEHEWILDVALUE: establishment of a genetic reserve of Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) as an added value of the Extremadura dehesa” funded by the Junta de Extremadura, and focused on the conservation of CWR present in an area of dehesa ecosystem, “montado” in Portuguese (mediterranean oak savannah) in which 39 CWR species had been found in a previous prospection.

The threats facing CWR populations are the same as those facing the dehesa, and include abandonment of the countryside, intensification of agricultural practices and loss of traditional land management practices such as, in our case, sustainable extensive livestock farming or transhumance.

Through this genetic reserve, therefore, we want to conserve the entire ecosystem, including the human being as a fundamental part of it. We want to enhance it by spreading the immense value that, once again, the rural environment proves to have for global wellbeing, highlighting the value of biodiversity conservation as a basis for food security and human well-being, but also focuses on the importance of maintaining traditional management associated.

The genetic reserve was initially planned to cover 3 hectares and focus on 10 species of crop wild relatives from the priority list included in the “National strategy for the conservation and utilisation of crop wild relatives and wild plants for food use”. Thanks to COUSIN co-funding, the gene pool will be expanded to a minimum of 4 hectares and will have an active conservation strategy for a total of at least 14 CWR species.

The event was attended by young people who are studying to become producers, farm managers, livestock farmers and environmental educators.

Basic concepts related to CWR, such as domestication and loss of genetic diversity, CWR value in plant breeding and food security, as well as the threats facing CWR populations today, were discussed. The process of establishing a genetic reserve was also introduced, from the initial field work required, to the documentation and population monitoring tasks associated with the long-term conservation function.