UNDP/GEF Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Wild Relatives of Crops in China

The Challenge

China is one of the seven independent centres of crop origin in the world. It is estimated that of about 1,200 crop species harvested worldwide, 600 are found in China, and of those up to half originated in China. However, the diversity of wild relatives of crop species (WRCs) in China with high international significance is increasingly threatened by land conversion, improper agricultural practices, intensification of land use, pollution, the spread of invasive species and the impact of genetically modified crops. The underlying causes of these threats include short-term economic development measures at local level, institutional constraints to implementation of conservation regulations, promotion of new cultivars and new techniques by the agricultural extension system, obscurity of population status of wild relatives, etc. These causes if unaddressed will see us lose what remains of this valuable genetic resource.

The Response

This project will integrate production and conservation by mainstreaming conservation of wild relatives of crops (rice, soybean and wheat) in agricultural production landscapes in eight provinces of China. This includes creating sustainable incentives (financial or other) for conservation, establishing a supporting policy, legal and regulatory system, giving stakeholders at central and local level adequate capacity to conserve wild relatives, providing timely and accurate progress updates on threatened species and producing lessons learned and best practices for conservation elsewhere.


The project has demonstrated incentives involving 3 pillars - policy, alternative livelihoods and financial support – for the conservation of WRCs through sustainable agro-production and management at the 8 project sites. This has been replicated nationwide at 64 sites in 15 provinces, protecting 39 different WRC species. This represents clear success in promoting the mainstreaming of agro-biodiversity (ABD) conservation.

The impact of agricultural laws, policies and regulations on ABD have been reviewed for the first time, and recommendations for amendments have been submitted to governmental authorities. The project supported the drafting of administrational regulations and rules on ABD at national, provincial and county levels to address our recommendations.

Awareness of the importance of ABD conservation has been improved among all stakeholders (governmental officials at various levels, technical institutes and local farmers) and their capacity to conserve WRCs has been enhanced by technical training, project publicity, knowledge dissemination and experience exchange.

Lastly, this project has established a WRC monitoring and alerts system to provid local and central level policy makers with accurate and timely information concerning the status of WRCs to develop conservation work plans.

Who finances it?

Donor Amount
UNDP US$ 650,000
Government US$ 12,192,000

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