ALN logo; link to Arid Lands Newsletter Home page No. 48, November/December 2000
Linkages between Cultural Diversity and Biodiversity

Selected resources of interest

annotated by Elaine Cubbins and Katherine Waser


Cultural memory and biodiversity, by Virginia Nazarea
Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press. 1998, US$40.00.
ISBN 0-8165-1681-2
The University of Arizona Press
1230 North Park Avenue, Suite 102
Tucson, Arizona 85719
Tel: +1 (520) 621-3920
Fax: +1 (520) 621-8899

Ex-situ preservation of plant germplasm in seeds banks is not a new idea, and such methods of preservation are extremely valuable. Seed bank preservation of landraces (that is, folk varieties of crops that have evolved through years of indigenous selection and breeding), for example, is an important step in helping to preserve agrobiodiversity. Yet, by themselves alone seed banks are not sufficient to ensure such preservation. In this exceedingly interesting book, Virginia D. Nazarea, Professor at the University of Georgia, makes a strong case for the concomitant importance of cultural memory banks--that is, compendia of farmers' knowledge regarding the crops represented by the seeds being preserved, as well as knowledge of the traditional farming techniques used to cultivate them.

In the Philippines, Dr. Nazarea worked with small farmers in two areas to develop a cultural memory bank revolving around sweet potatoes, a major crop for subsistence and cash production alike. Using both oral histories and scientific data to good effect, she charts the development of a "memory banking protocol," transferable to other regions, for gathering and preserving the cultural information without which, ultimately, the seeds themselves are in danger of becoming marginalized or even useless (as she points out, if nobody remembers how to grow a particular crop or what uses it is good for, then having the seeds alone is of limited value). Furthermore, the book strongly supports the value of linking cultural memory banks to in-situ preservation by the small farmers who know these crops best--not only as a means of helping to preserve biological diversity but also to provide small farmers with alternatives to increasing reliance on large-scale commercial monoculture crops. Based on evidence that local knowledge of locally adapted crops tends to be highest among farmers living in marginalized areas and/or among women (who traditionally tend to be more involved in growing subsistence crops than cash crops), she presents studies comparing two such groups and their approaches to in-situ germplasm conservation.

This book contains information that will be of value to anyone interested in starting community-based conservation and/or cultural memory banks, no matter where in the world they are located. It is a valuable tool for those who believe that the traditional knowledge of local farmers is as important as the "advanced" knowledge embodied modernized agricultural techniques. Contains appendices, bibliography, and index.

An excerpt from the preface and first chapter of the book may be read online at the University of Arizona Press web site; the URL is

Managing Mobility in Drylands: The Legitimization of Transhumance
Maryam Niamir-Fuller, editor
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Beijer International Institute of Ecological Economics, IT Publications, 1999
FAO ISBN: 1 85339 473 4
IT ISBN: 92 5 104297 7
Intermediate Technology Publications Ltd.
103-105 Southampton Row
London WC1B 4HH
United Kingdom
Web site:

The topic of this book is pastoral mobility and transhumant systems in the drylands of Africa. Drawing on new understanding in areas such as range ecology, it posits that "...we have less to fear from pastoral land-stewardship than was previously thought." In light of this conclusion, the main purpose of the book is to take the main tenets of this &new paradigm" of range management and turn them into practical guidelines. This is done primarily through case studies from a cross-section of African drylands, including Mauritania, Mali, Sudan, Uganda, Namibia, southern Africa and the Maghreb region of North Africa.

Preceded by a succinct and very useful chapter reviewing the recent literature in the field, these case studies are presented in either English or French. Abstracts in both languages are presented for each chapter, and the entire introductory chapter is presented in both languages.

Most of these studies are concerned with local-level efforts to manage resources or conflicts. All of them, however, recognize the important links (both in a positive and in a negative sense) with the macro level, such as national policies, regional and international markets, and legal mechanisms.

Ultimately, this interesting and valuable book promotes a growing recognition, supported by research, that there are strong environmental and economic reasons to create and support organizations that can, in turn, support pastoral mobility in drylands. While acknowledging that this is no easy task, the book suggests both practical tools and underlying principles that can help to legitimize the importance of transhumance as a sustainable land management strategy for drylands around the globe.

The book also contains contributor information, numerous an extensive bibliography, an index, and extensive maps, illustrations and tables.

Terms for Endearment: Business, NGOs and Sustainable Development
Contributing Editor: Jim Bendell
Greenleaf Publishing Ltd., 2000. 280 pp.
ISBN 187 47192 84 (hbk); 187 47192 92 (pbk)
Special price for ALN readers (use code "ALN" when ordering):
hardback: USD 55.00/ pounds sterling 30.00
paperback: USD 30.00/ pounds sterling 16.95
Greenleaf Publishing Ltd.
Aizlewood Business Centre
Aizlewood's Mill, Nursery Street
Sheffield S38GG
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 114 282 3475
Fax: +44 (114) 282 3476

Traditionally, "big business" has been driven by the need for profits and by shareholder interests, rather than by principles or the interests of society as a whole. However, as business has become more influential and government's power to regulate transnational corporations has weakened, a new model is beginning to emerge: one that recognizes a link between profits and principles, and that promotes the notion of accountability to all stakeholders, not just shareholders.

In this emerging model, NGOs, or civil society organizations, are playing an increasingly important role as "watchdogs of globalization." NGOs collectively give voice to the millions of people, many of them individually powerless to affect the role of business, who are increasingly determined that social and environmental responsibility MUST become cornerstones of business practices and commercial success.

That this growing relationship between NGOs and corporations has not always gone easily is well-known. Interactions between businesses and NGOs have often been extremely adversarial and, in fact, as more than one of the articles comprising the book points out, this adversarial role continues to be important. But increasingly, many businesses and NGOs are realizing that by collaborating they can promote social and environmental sustainability while still maintaining the profitability that is crucial to business success. The reasons for such collaboration, and the forms it is taking, are the main focus of this book.

The articles comprising the book are arranged into six sections. Part 1 considers the driving factors for business-NGO engagement (globalization, corporate need for legitimacy, and the Internet). Part 2 presents several case studies of business-NGO interactions in different industrial sectors, whereas Part 3 focuses on case studies focusing on individual organizations. Part 4 outlines some of the managerial issues pertinent to any business-NGO interaction intended to promote sustainable development. Part 5 considers different ways to conceptualize this growing trend; Part 6 focuses on the future directions of business-NGO relations and describes an emerging civil framework for conducting business in the 21st century.

Taken together, the chapters comprise a thought-provoking overview of this important topic, as well as providing many concrete and practical suggestions. In addition, a web site and discussion list have been created to help interested readers further explore and keep up with developments in the field. The "Business-NGO-Relations Online Gateway" can be accessed at

The book is concluded by an extensive bibliography list, a list of acronyms, biographical information on all authors, and an index.

Arid Lands Management: Toward Ecological Sustainability
Thomas W. Hoekstra and Moshe Shachak, Technical Editors
University of Illinois Press, Urbana, Illinois, in cooperation with the International Arid Lands Consortium, 1999. 280 pages.
ISBN 0-252-06717-7 (pbk.: acid-free paper)
University of Illinois Press
1325 South Oak Street
Champaign, IL 61820-6903
Tel.: +1-217-333-0950
Fax: +1-217-244-8082
Web site: (for ordering information)

"If I can see any national problem that I shall tackle, it doesn't have a national answer but a regional answer. Water, markets, economy, deserts: we have to deal with nature, not with politics." - Shimon Peres, Prime Minister, State of Israel.

Sustainable development meets the needs of the living without hindering the opportunities for those in the future to meet their own needs. To many, development is synonymous with growth, but for the purpose of this book, development means "the realization of potential."

This work is a collection of chapters comprised primarily of technical papers that either were presented or evolved out of a 1994 workshop held in Israel, and organized by the International Arid Lands Consortium and the JNF-Keren Kayemeth Leisrael. The purpose of the workshop was to "establish the state of knowledge on arid lands ecological systems and their management": (1) to identify the best directions for research monies to go for development of the knowledge base, and (2) to provide usable information to arid lands managers for implementation into their management plans.

The book is divided into the following sections:
  • The Ecological Framework for Sustainability
  • Ecological Systems and Their Management
  • Arid Lands Management Principles and Analyses
  • Progress toward Ecological Sustainability

Throughout the text, sentences are identified with single or double daggers to indicate that the preceding text contains management or research implications, respectively. The book contains maps, tables, charts, diagrams, illustrations, and mathematical and statistical formulae. An index and a list of contributors are also included. This work is appropriate for individuals or groups who are involved with research or management of arid lands and their resources.

Shared Space: Rethinking the U.S. - Mexico Border Environment
Edited by Lawrence A. Herzog
Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, La Jolla, California, 2000. 368 pages. $26.95
ISBN 1-878367-43-9 (paper)
Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive, Dept. 0510
La Jolla, CA 92093-0510
Tel.: +1-858-534-4503
Fax: +1-858-534-6447
Web site: (for ordering information)

"For the United States and Mexico, the twenty-first century will be a time to contemplate the myriad problems and opportunities posed by economic integration and free trade. Lying squarely in the path of these debates is the physical environment shared by the two nations as they interconnect across their land border...the new millennium will witness the continued emergence of the borderlands as a primary region for Mexico - U.S. economic expansion. The challenge will be to harness the economic potential of the border region without compromising either the quality of life for its growing population or the environmental resources for future generations."

The Center for U.S. - Mexican Studies (, a research unit of the University of California, San Diego, was organized in 1979, and is the largest research center in the U.S. for the study of Mexico and U.S.-Mexican relations. This publication emerges from an ongoing Center project for research and public education, "Economic Integration and the Environment: Promoting Sustainable Development along the U.S. - Mexican Border." The authors included in the book, all Center fellows over 1996 - 1999, met on February 5-6, 1999, for a workshop/seminar to discuss their research and debate issues, and to finalize their manuscripts for inclusion in this work.

The book is divided into four sections:
Part I: Rethinking the Environmental Future
Part II: Decentralization and Local Governance
Part III: The Politics of Land and Water Development
Part IV: Alternative Approaches to Sustainable Development Policy Making
Also included is a list of acronyms and brief biographies about each contributor; illustrations include maps, graphs, charts and tables. An extensive bibliography follows each chapter.

Note: Applications for the Researcher-in-Residence Fellowships are available online at the Center's web site.

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