“Carrying out superficial repairs to our existing food systems will no longer suffice. We need disruptive change within and across today’s varied and complex food systems. To be sustainable, food system policy choices must focus on environmental as well as nutritional and health consequences.” This was the stark warning from experts at the 44th Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS44) in October 2017.
That this disruptive change needs to include agricultural biodiversity was the central message in Bioversity International’s flagship book published this year. Mainstreaming Agrobiodiversity in Sustainable Food Systems: Scientific Foundations for an Agrobiodiversity Index presents the most recent scientific evidence on how to use agricultural biodiversity in diets and in production systems to help achieve sustainable food systems.
In Bioversity International's 2017 Annual Report, we celebrate our science, our partners, and how #agrobiodiversity nourishes people and sustains the planet @JMartonLefevre @AnnTutwiler @BioversityInt
Agricultural biodiversity is the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms that are used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture.
Bioversity International's vision is that agricultural biodiversity nourishes people and sustains the planet. Our mission is to deliver scientific evidence, management practices and policy options to use and safeguard agricultural and tree biodiversity to attain sustainable global food and nutrition security. Below are some research highlights from 2017 linked to our four strategic objectives which are to diversify diets, production systems, seeds and planting material, and to safeguard agricultural biodiversity.
In the research highlights section of the Annual Report, you will find ten stories based on scientific papers produced by Bioversity International scientists working with partners.
These highlights represent just a small selection of the 169 papers produced in 2017.
Bioversity International works with partners around the world including a wide range of funders and research partners who share our vision and mission to deliver scientific evidence, management practices and policy options to use and safeguard agricultural and tree biodiversity to attain sustainable global food and nutrition security.
Bioversity International is proud to be a CGIAR Research Centre. We participate in six CGIAR Research Programs and two Platforms supported by CGIAR Trust Fund members in close collaboration with the other 14 CGIAR Centres and hundreds of partner organizations, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia and the private sector.
We thank all of our partners for their critical and continued support.
Mobilizing funds for international agricultural research remains challenging. Nonetheless, Bioversity International’s overall revenue from bilateral grants has grown by 21% since 2012 – the highest level of bilateral funding ever! We thank all of our funders for their critical and continued support.
In 2017, our relationships with the governments of Belgium, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Peru and Switzerland were further strengthened. Our partnerships with multilateral organizations keen to mainstream agrobiodiversity in sustainable food systems such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), European Commission (EC), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Environment and the Global Environment Facility have also been strengthened, as has our support from foundations. These commitments are complemented by many other supporters of our work who are listed in this report.
We would also like to highlight important additional in-kind contributions of facilities and experts from Belgium’s Katholieke Universiteit of Leuven and the governments of China, Germany, India, and Italy among others. We estimate the value of in-kind contributions amounted to at least $5 million in 2017.
For more information, download our 2017 Financial Statements
Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias
M. Ann Tutwiler
Douglas van den Aardweg
Bioversity International created a UK registered charity (no. 1131854) in October 2008 to increase awareness and support for its research agenda and activities. Bioversity International UK is governed by an independent Board of Trustees.
M. Ann Tutwiler
Bioversity International USA, Inc aims to engage and inspire a wide range of partners and donors to ensure that agricultural biodiversity nourishes people and sustains the planet. It is led by a committed and highly regarded Board of Trustees:
M. Ann Tutwiler
Writing: Arwen Bailey, Jeremy Cherfas, Samantha Collins, Mirna Franic, Marta Millere, with contributions from many of our scientists
Contributors: Nora Capozio, Oonagh Darby, Maria Garruccio, Karen Harmann, Annie Huie, Allison Poulos
Design: Pablo Gallo
Web Editor: Carol Blay
Project Manager: Samantha Collins
Bioversity International and partners are investigating how vitamin A-rich bananas from South Asia and the Pacific can be integrated into Eastern African diets to tackle one of the biggest health problems in the region, vitamin A deficiency. A recent study highlights taste tests and agronomic trials’ positive contributions to farmers’ high receptiveness to species from the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and Ghana.
To say that vitamin A deficiency is a health issue in Eastern Africa is an understatement.
Numbers of people especially children below five years old who are affected go way beyond the World Health Organization acceptable level of 15% and can reach 39% in Burundi and Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Vitamin A deficiency increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections among children and poor pregnancy outcomes among women. On top of that, it is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children.
Many of these affected children live in places where bananas – diverse enough to have varieties naturally rich in vitamin A – are an important food crop. In Eastern Africa, people can eat as many as 11 bananas a day. In DRC, bananas are the second most popular staple after cassava.
In Burundi and DRC, bananas – a term used to describe dessert bananas, cooking bananas and ensets – have a wide range of uses and recipes. Bananas of incredible colours, fascinating shapes and different sizes are consumed raw, boiled, pan fried, roasted, made into a flour for porridge and even mashed and fermented to make banana juice, beer and wine.
Given the regional popularity of this fruit and the high vitamin A levels of some ‘international’ banana cultivars, Bioversity International scientists and authors of 'Sensory evaluation of provitamin A carotenoid-rich banana cultivars on trial for potential adoption in Burundi and Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo' decided to explore them for addressing vitamin A deficiency in the region.
With the help of experts at the Bioversity International Musa Germplasm Transit Centre, the first step was to screen more than 400 varieties to identify those with high levels of carotenoids. Bananas are notoriously difficult and expensive to breed, so ‘fast-tracking’ existing vitamin A-rich varieties for testing in this way saved time and money.
Based on these results, 11 varieties from Ghana, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Philippines, Hawaii and Thailand with carotenoid levels high enough to meet a child’s recommended daily need for vitamin A by eating just one banana, were planted in agronomic trials in Burundi and DRC that were set up by Bioversity International for evaluation.
Sensory evaluations in 8 sites in Burundi and DRC were then used to test peoples’ organoleptic – or sensory – acceptability of 8 of the above-mentioned introduced banana cultivars against at least 3 local ones. A gender-balanced group of 450 panelists tested – well, they tasted – fried, boiled, roasted and raw bananas and rated them on a 5-point hedonic scale, a commonly used testing method in the food industry. Following a briefing by the research team and local community mobilizers who explained the aim of the project and concept of banana diversity, men and women of different ages shared their thoughts on the look, taste and smell of the different bananas.
As described in the study co-authored by Ekesa, Nabuuma, Kennedy and Van den Bergh, several vitamin A-rich cultivars show good potential for adoption within farming systems and diets in Burundi and DRC.
Initial feedback to introduced varieties has been positive in terms of their agronomic performance and peoples’ acceptance, with farmers’ showing high receptiveness and desire to share the introduced varieties with their neighbors and friends.
So far, over 1,400 farmers have received more than 11,000 vitamin A-rich banana planting materials both directly from the research initiative and indirectly from fellow farmers.
One of the first ones to take part in this process was Telesphore Ngaruye, a Burundian with almost 30 years of banana farming experience. Every year since 2014, he has been thrilled to see Apantu, Bira and Pelipita – varieties from Ghana, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines, respectively – mature in his 20 acres large field alongside other banana varieties, maize, cassava, beans and numerous other vegetables.
“I thought they were small [at first] but they have grown well and produced suckers which have enabled me to increase the number of mats on my farm. I was impatient to see the harvest […], but when the bananas reached maturity, I noticed that the bunches were good,” said Telesphore. He described his family enjoying the three varieties when cooked and served with beans.
Because of ‘influencers’ such as Telesphore the word – and banana suckers – started to spread.
“After eating some of the bananas at my home, they [community members] asked for the suckers so that they too could plant [them] in their fields,” he said. Between 2014 and 2017, Telesphore reported having shared the banana suckers with over 70 farmers, each receiving 3 to 5 suckers, many of whom were women as “men in the area are still interested in growing only the traditional beer bananas as a source of income”.
Overall, 9,797 households in Burundi and DRC have been reached by Bioversity International and partners with information on banana management, nutrition and dietary diversity: knowledge that will be critical for the scaling up of this initiative. Based on these results, Bioversity International has extended this work to Tanzania and Uganda and plans are underway to include Kenya.
While several of the vitamin A-rich cultivars showed good potential for adoption in Burundi and DRC, the authors concluded that the introduction of a new variety of any crop into people’s farms and diets cannot succeed without a firm understanding of whether people like how it looks and tastes. In all sites and for all of the cultivars used in the study – as described in the paper – there was a significant correlation between the scores for texture in the mouth, taste and the scores for peoples’ overall acceptability.
Bioversity International and partners, in collaboration with the communities, are now following up with participatory development, organoleptic testing, and laboratory analysis of the nutrient content of recipes based on vitamin A-rich bananas. In addition, an efficacy study to establish the actual contribution of regular consumption of vitamin A-rich bananas on the body vitamin A stores is in the pipeline. The ultimate goal is to have millions of farmers and non-farming community members within Eastern Africa accessing and consuming diverse nutritious diets that incorporate vitamin A-rich bananas.
'Sensory evaluation of provitamin A carotenoid-rich banana cultivars on trial for potential adoption in Burundi and Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo'
Citation: Ekesa, B.; Nabuuma, D.; Kennedy, G.; Van den Bergh, I. (2017) Sensory evaluation of provitamin A carotenoid-rich banana cultivars on trial for potential adoption in Burundi and Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Fruits 72(5), p. 261-272. ISSN: 0248-1294; http://hdl.handle.net/10568/90576
.@BioversityInt and partners are investigating how vitamin A-rich bananas from South Asia and the Pacific can be integrated into Eastern African diets to tackle vitamin A deficiency.
As described in a study co-authored by @BioversityInt's scientists, several vitamin A-rich #banana cultivars show good potential for adoption within farming systems and diets in Burundi and Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
A @A4NH_CGIAR @BioversityInt @RTB_CGIAR study highlights taste tests and agronomic trials’ positive contributions to farmers’ high receptiveness to bananas from the Philippines, Papua New Guinea & Ghana.