2018 was a tough year. Seemingly every day another headline appeared in the international news media on the increasing urgency of the climate change or biodiversity loss emergencies. When the newspapers were not talking about the planet’s increasingly fragile health, human health came under the spotlight, in particular the rise of diet-related illnesses and premature deaths. It’s easy to get despondent at what appears to be a lack of policies and action to tackle these problems.
So I am going to buck the trend and serve up some good news – a hero of the hour has arrived to save the day! Biodiversity can provide the tools and pathways to get us out of trouble, to a safe operating space for humanity. By eating it and planting it, we not only improve dietary diversity for people, but also the health of the farming systems that provide food and income security for millions of people around the world. The even better news? By using more of it in diets, markets and production systems, we will safeguard it for the future.
Today’s global challenges of poverty, malnutrition, climate change, land degradation, and biodiversity loss call for new solutions, innovations, and stronger partnerships that can deliver higher impact.
To respond to these challenges, and building on their complementary mandates and long collaboration, in 2018, Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) committed to joining forces to create an Alliance.
Healthy diets from sustainable food systems
Productive and resilient farms, forests and landscapes
Effective genetic resources conservation and use
In the research highlights section of the Annual Report, you will find stories based on scientific papers and tools produced by Bioversity International scientists working with partners.
These highlights represent just a small selection of the 145 papers produced in 2018.
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. Supported by CGIAR Trust Fund members and 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, in 2018 Bioversity International participated in:
- Three Agri-Food System CGIAR Research Programs (Forests, Trees and Agroforestry; Grains, Legumes and Dryland Cereals; and Roots, Tubers and Bananas)
- Four Global Integrating Programs (Agriculture for Nutrition and Health; Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security; Policies, Institutions and Markets; and Water, Land and Ecosystems)
- Two Research Support Platforms (Genebank Platform; and Platform for Big Data in Agriculture)
We thank all of our partners for their critical and continued support.
In 2018, total revenue was US$30.5 million and expenditure $32.3 million, resulting in a deficit of $1.6 million. This deficit was purposefully incurred as part of the 3-year development plan for the period 2017–2019, which applied reserves to invest in the growth of Bioversity International by incurring operational deficits in those three years. 2020 will be planned and managed to result in a breakeven position. Despite the deficit recorded, operational reserves remain at a healthy level, equivalent of 127 days of average expenditure, well above the minimum target of 90 days set by the Board of Trustees. This application of reserves has allowed strategic maintenance or increase in staff capacity in key areas, and to shift the income portfolio to increase financial resilience.
For more information, download our 2018 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:
Trish Malloch Brown
M. Ann Tutwiler
Doug van den Aardweg
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
Trish Malloch Brown
Writing: Carlo Angelico, Nora Capozio, Jeremy Cherfas, Samantha Collins, with contributions from many of our scientists
Contributors: Maria Garruccio, Annie Huie, Allison Poulos, Consuelo Tenente
Design: Pablo Gallo
Project Manager: Nora Capozio
A new tool helps communities to identify local fruits and vegetables that can improve their diets. But a disquieting review reveals that research is still ignoring most vegetables, a situation affecting many nutrient-dense foods.
In October 2018, the leading scientific journal Nature published a sober assessment of the impact of the global food system on planetary health. It concluded that if we were to stand any chance of feeding 10 billion people in 2050 without breaching the “safe operating space for humanity,” global food systems would have to change in several important ways. Among them, “changes towards healthier, more plant-based diets.” In particular, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and pulses are lacking in our food systems as low intakes of these plant-based foods are identified among the top dietary risk factors.1
Bioversity International scientists contributed to the Nature paper, but our contributions to the changes it seeks long predate that paper. Most recently, we have been extending our understanding of nutritious but neglected plant species to help communities make better use of these assets.
In many countries, basic household surveys have revealed two common patterns; there are times of year when people experience food insecurity, and their diets are often not very diverse, often lacking fruits and vegetables. We have also asked communities about the fruits and vegetables they grow and that they harvest from the wild, showing that there are many more species that could contribute to diets which are more diverse and more nutritious.
Working in several locations, we developed Seasonal Availability Calendars, which help people to see what they could be growing, harvesting and eating throughout the year.
In Guatemala, India and Mali, we developed booklets based on a template that allows us to give the data back to communities in a form that they can use within a few months of talking with them. The booklets use local names and simple identification pictures that we have checked with the community to ensure that they are easy to recognize. Community members are then encouraged to use the calendar to plan their home gardens so that they offer a year-round supply of fruits and vegetables, adding colour and flavour – and, more importantly, nutritional value – to their meals.
In Vietnam, the calendar was used as part of Diversity Clubs – community-based groups that promote the use of local nutritious biodiversity – and “was shown to improve the quality of diets,” said Jessica Raneri, Nutrition Research Specialist.
“Use goes beyond local communities,” explained Gina Kennedy, Theme Leader, Diet Diversity for Nutrition and Health. “The calendar can be a reference for local governments and regional bodies responsible for developing food-based dietary guidelines and other forms of consumer education. This has already happened in Benin.” In Mali, the Ministry of Public Health and Hygiene was engaged in validating the nutrition messaging included in the booklet. In Vietnam, the approach has attracted government attention from the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) who included the Diversity Clubs in an independent national impact assessment of effective nutrition interventions for potential upscaling.
In all the communities Bioversity International has worked with, we have discovered nutritious species neglected by mainstream research. But how widespread is this neglect? To find out, we trawled through a classic handbook of horticulture to identify 1,097 species eaten in one form or another. Then we looked at the research and information on each. Our results published in the journal Agriculture show that the greater majority of these species have received limited attention from research, conservation and national production statistics, and the neglect is worst for species that originate in Africa and in the Pacific region.
“The vegetables that have received the most attention are annual plants,” said Gennifer Meldrum, Research Officer and lead author of the paper. Many shrubs and trees provide leafy vegetables and “more research on these is needed because these plants can pave the way to more integrated, holistic farming systems that can adapt to climate change and supply more nutrient-dense food.”
Recent studies2 pointed out that if every person on the planet tried to eat their recommended daily amount of 400g of fruits and vegetables, there would be a global shortfall of 22%, rising to 50% in some low-income countries. But we also know that more fruits and vegetables in the diet is good for human health and planetary health alike.
Tools like the Seasonal Availability Calendar Booklet, which are easily adapted to specific communities, can help to improve the year-round supply of nutritious fruits and vegetables. Boosted by a little more research, these species could show the way to the globally significant changes to the food system that are so important to future sustainability.
 Afshin et al. (2019) Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. Lancet 393: 1958–7
 Siegel KR, et al. (2014) Do we produce enough fruits and vegetables to meet global health needs? PLoS ONE 9(8):e104059
‘Options for Keeping the Food System within Environmental Limits’
This paper was co-authored by Bioversity International scientist Fabrice DeClerck with partners from many research institutes worldwide.
Springmann M., Clark M., Mason-D’Croz D., Wiebe K., Bodirsky B.L., Lassaletta L., de Vries W., Vermeulen S.J., Herrero M., Carlson K.M., Jonell M., Troell M., DeClerck F., Gordon L.J., Zurayk R., Scarborough P., Rayner M., Loken B., Fanzo J., Godfray H.C.J., Tilman D., Rockström J. and Willett W. 2018. Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits. Nature. (SJR: 17.87) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0594-0.pdf
‘Issues and Prospects for the Sustainable Use and Conservation of Cultivated Vegetable Diversity for More Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture’
This paper was co-authored by Bioversity International scientists Gennifer Meldrum, Stefano Padulosi, Gaia Lochetti, Rose Robitaille with partners from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Italy.
Meldrum G., Padulosi S., Lochetti G., Robitaille R. and Diulgheroff S. 2018. Issues and prospects for the sustainable use and conservation of cultivated vegetable diversity for more nutrition-sensitive agriculture. Agriculture 2018, 8(7): 112. (SJR: 0.33) http://www.mdpi.com/2077-0472/8/7/112
Bioversity International and Universidad del Valle de Guatemala. 2018. Calendario estacional defrutas y vegetales para la diversidad dietética en Jocotán y Camotán, Chiquimula, Guatemala. Rome, Italy.
Download the booklet Download the poster
Bioversity International and Action for Social Advancement. 2018. Seasonal calendar of fruits and vegetables for a diversified diet in Mandla and Dindori Districts, Madhya Pradesh, India.
Download the booklet Download the poster
Bioversity International and Institut d’Economie Rural. 2018. Calendrier saisonnier des fruits et légumes pour une alimentation diversifiée (Ségou, Mali).
Download the calendar in French Download the calendar in Bamanankan
Raneri, J., Hoang, K. & Le Thi N. 2015. Agrobiodiversity and Nutrition Education Material – Calendar for Diversity Clubs. Bioversity International
Download the calendar
Raneri, J., Hoang, K. & Le Thi N. 2015. Agrobiodiversity and Nutrition Education Material – Leaflet Diversity Clubs. Bioversity International
Download the leaflet
Seasonal calendars for Mali, Guatemala and India were prepared by G. Lochetti, N. Lauridsen, R. Robitaille and G. Meldrum with inputs from J. Raneri, Y. Koreissi, G. Kennedy, T. Agrawal, S. Priyam, N. Amaya, M. Ahern, S. Roy, R. Cifuentes, A. Sidibe, S. Padulosi and others during the project “Linking agrobiodiversity value chains, climate adaptation and nutrition: Empowering the poor to manage risk" supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); the European Union; and the CGIAR Research Programs on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), which are supported by CGIAR Trust Fund Donors.
- More than a thousand vegetables, many of them forgotten
- Adding colour to rural diets year round with the Seasonal Food Availability Booklet
- Joining the diversity club – how village health workers in Vietnam are putting nutrition back on the menu
- Underutilized crops to enhance resilience and nutrition in Mali, India and Guatemala