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Smallholder Innovation for Resilience (SIFOR) – Biocultural innovations to confront climate change

SIFOR is working to stem the loss of traditional knowledge and agricultural techniques by strengthening communities’ capacity to innovate through participatory action-research.


Traditional knowledge, crops and livestock all serve to build communities’ resilience to climate change. But, with the spread of modern agriculture and development models, they are fast disappearing. SIFOR is working to stem the loss by strengthening communities’ capacity to innovate through participatory action-research.

Methods and Tools

Our approach is guided by the concept of biocultural heritage — a complex system of interdependent parts centred on the relationship between indigenous peoples and their environment. Biocultural innovations are new ways of doing things, which emerge from interactions between these parts, or between traditional knowledge and science.

In 2013, we used focus groups, semi-structured interviews and household surveys to develop a baseline on biocultural innovations in three main areas:

  • agrobiodiversity
  • livelihoods and food security
  • social capital.
Figure 1. Biocultural heritage is made up of interdependent parts. Interactions between these result in biocultural innovations.


The baseline study covers 64 communities across four countries: Peru, China, Kenya and India. In each country we have identified the challenges posed by climate change alongside the biocultural innovations that have been developed to tackle these.

The poster provides a summary of the challenges presented, and the innovations made for enhancing agroforestry, improving livelihoods and food security and strengthening social capital in each country.

In all instances the common ingredients that supported biocultural innovation were: Elders and women; traditional values, beliefs, institutions and ceremonies; community organisations; capable and committed leaders; inter-village networking and seed exchange; interaction with scientists; and innovative external partners.

Poster Contact

This poster was produced by Krystyna Swiderska, IIED ([email protected]; also see

This poster is one of the posters featured at the 9th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation (CBA9) which took place in Nairobi, Kenya, from April 24-30 2015. The CBA series of conferences focus on the latest developments in community-based adaptation to climate change. The theme of this year’s event was “Measuring and enhancing effective adaptation”, and all the posters presented at the conference were summaries of projects related to the conference theme. For more information about CBA9, visit: . If you want to learn more about community based adaptation, please visit the .

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