This year’s World Environment Day, June 5, is being hosted by Angola and explores the scourge of the illegal wildlife products trade, from rhino horns to rare orchids.
Themed Go Wild for Life, WED celebrates the stronger laws to combat illegal trade and greater global awareness of the problem, yet acknowledges there is much work yet to do.
“More people need to understand the damage this illicit business is doing to our environment, livelihoods, communities and security,” said the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in a statement on its Web site (WED is the brainchild of UNEP). “We must change our habits and behaviour so that demand for illegal wildlife products falls.”
By shining a light on this type of threat, UNEP is encouraging global citizens to think broadly about all the ways they can protect thousands of species of both plants and animals for the sake of future generations. An example of CIP’s work to safeguard potato species are ongoing trials in Uganda to develop crops that can better resist late blight, the number-one disease afflicting the global potato crop.
Late blight, a huge problem everywhere, is especially intense in Southwestern Uganda, where the trials are occurring.
While fungicide application has historically been the smallholder farmer’s best weapon with which to combat late blight, its costs cuts deeply into the farmer’s profit margin, says Marc Ghislain, program leader at CIP. To make matters worse, some potato varieties no longer respond to the fungicide.
One of the potatoes being trialed now, a variant of the Victoria cultivar, is exhibiting resistance to late blight, which renders fungicide application moot. The new potato is a result of cross-breeding the white Victoria potato with several of its non-edible wild relatives to confer their disease resistance into the new cultivar.
Threats to food security posed by late blight – and to farmers’ financial security due to their being forced to siphon off a substantial chunk of their income to purchase fungicide – must be considered in a global environment context.
CIP salutes UNEP for its continual campaign to bring awareness to a wide array of environmental issues via World Environment Day. To learn more, visit http://www.wed2016.com.