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Montreal Declaration

On Small-Scale Women Farmers for Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Use


Montreal Declaration

On Small-Scale Women Farmers for Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Use

We launch a “Montreal Declaration on Small-Scale Women Farmers for Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Use” for enhancing a diverse cross-border platform with includes local communities, scientific research institutions, social organizations, and enterprises. This declaration aims to promote multi-stakeholder groups to share good practices and knowledge, and jointly carry out exchanges and cooperation in farmer seed systems enhancement for sustainable biodiversity and traditional knowledge conservation and utilization for the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity targets and SDGs.  


We, representatives of small-scale farmers belonging to Indigenous Peoples and local communities, global indigenous networks, national and international civil society and research organizations, and Community Foundations from Asia, Africa and South America, on the occasion of the 15th Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, declare:

Globally, approximately two-thirds of the developing world’s three billion rural people live in about 475 million small farm households, according to the FAO, working on land plots smaller than two hectares. Asia is the continent with the largest population of small farmers, followed by Africa and South America. China is the world’s biggest smallholder farming country with an estimated 260 million small-scale farmer households, averaging a farming area of less than 0.6 hectares. The great majority of these small-scale farmers are women, who play a critical role in conserving genetic diversity and biodiversity-rich farming landscapes for food, nutrition and climate resilience. However, small-scale women farmers often go unrecognized and typically lack rights to land, seeds and credit.

Small-scale women and men farmers belong to Indigenous Peoples and local communities whose Biocultural Heritage, particularly indigenous knowledge, innovations and practices and cultural values, are essential for designing and implementing solutions for biodiversity conservation and healthy ecosystems. Indigenous knowledge is embedded in a philosophy that considers nature as sacred and acknowledges that people are part of nature. The interlinked knowledge, cultural values, seeds and landscapes of small-scale women and men farmers is critical for the provisioning of food, water, fertile soil, housing and medicines and sustainable ecosystem management, contributing to climate adaptation and mitigation through seed enhancement, exchange and co-evolution.

Small-scale farmers, particularly women, are unsung heroes in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiverse seed and food systems globally. The food and nutritional security of the world depends on them. They produce one third of the world’s food and act as stewards for a rich diversity of plants, animals, forests and other ecosystems on and around their farms, including resilient traditional crop varieties, livestock breeds and crop wild relatives. 

However, the resilient varieties, species and agroecological practices of small-scale farmers have been disappearing due to policies that promote corporate agribusiness, which has consolidated an unequal food system based on seed privatization, biopiracy, industrial agriculture, and land grabbing of small farmers’ land and Indigenous Peoples’ territories. As a result, their diverse biocultural seed and food systems developed over 10,000 years have become critically vulnerable, threatening local and global food security, nutrition, human and ecosystem health, resilience, and sustainability.

We, the undersigned, bring more than two decades of experience on community-based farmer seed and food systems initiatives in different regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, illustrating the effectiveness of community-based conservation and farmer-led solutions to reverse the decline of genetic resources, biodiversity and ecosystems. We strongly call on Parties to the CBD at COP 15 negotiating and finalizing the Global Biodiversity Framework to:

  1. Recognize small-scale women farmers, as well as men, youth and elders, as heroes for their role in sustaining diverse local seed and food systems, ensuring biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, and protecting wild and domesticated species, as well as for their critical contributions to climate change adaptation and mitigation through farmer-led solutions.

  2. Ensure the full and effective participation of, and support for, small-scale women, men, youth and elderly farmers from Indigenous Peoples and local communities in achieving the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and targets; and effectively integrate the protection of farmers’ biodiverse seed food, and landscape management systems in Targets 1, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 20, 21 and 22.

  3. Meaningfully integrate support for agroecological initiatives, safeguards to stop land grabs, effective land reform, and appropriate funding for sustainable rural development and smallholder women’s organizations across the post-2020 biodiversity targets.

  4. Establish a cross-border multi-stakeholder platform to support the scaling out and up of small-scale farmers’ best practices for conserving agrobiodiversity and local seed systems and nurturing diversified agroecological systems, that are critical for Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ food and nutrition security and for environmental, climate, social, cultural and economic resilience.

  5. The multi-stakeholder platform should include representatives of smallholder women, men, youth and elderly farmers, Indigenous Peoples and local communities, research and social organizations and small farmer enterprises at local, country, regional and global levels. It should promote the sharing of good practices and knowledge, and jointly carry out exchanges and cooperation in supporting small farmers and Indigenous Peoples.

We believe that the above action points are critical for the success of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework targets, the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change. 

Montreal 09 December 2022

For more information, please contact:

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As of 9 December 2022, over 18 organizations and institutions have signed the declaration, including the following organizations:

Asociacion ANDES (Peru)

Asociacion de Comunidades del Parque Chalakuy (Peru)

Asociacion de Comunidades del Parque de la Papa (Peru)

College of Plant Protection, Yunnan Agricultural University (China)

Community Cloud Forest Conservation (CCFC, International)

Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT, Zimbabwe)

Farmers’ Seed Network (FSN, China)

Foodthink (China)

Guangdong Harmony Community Foundation (GHCF, China)

International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED, UK)

International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples (INMIP, Peru)

Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI, Kenya)


Red de Mercados de Trueque Chalay (Peru)

SeedChange (Canada)

The United Nations Environment Programme – International Ecosystem Management Partnership (UNEP-IEMP)

Third World Network (TWN, Malaysia)

Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden of Chinese Academy of Sciences (XTBG-CAS, China)


COP15 Side Event

Small Farmers, Farmer Seeds Systems and Sustainability

13:15—14:45, December 9, 2022
Asia and the Pacific Meeting Room, 511C-F

This side event co-hosted by Farmers’ Seed Network (FSN-China), United Nations Environment Programme-International Ecosystem Management Partnership (UNEP-IEMP), Foodthink, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), ANDES, International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples (INMIP), and Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT)

Sign the Declaration

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Mashanguzhai_Picking the Organic Vegetables.jpg
Mashanguzhai_Picking the Organic Vegetables.jpg

With IIED, Foodthink

The unsung heroes for nature and climate

With a recent IIED survey showing that smallholder farmers are China’s biggest investors in climate and nature action, we call on world leaders gathering in Montreal for the 15th Convention on Biological Diversity conference to strengthen their commitments to locally-led efforts to build a resilient future for nature and people.

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