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Nourishing people, nurturing the environment: a new book on Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition

Image from the book's cover: a chef demonstrates culinary uses of local biodiversity, Brazil. Credit: Brazilian Ministry of the Environment

The importance of diverse, local foods is underscored by the newly published book “Biodiversity, Food and Nutrition: A New Agenda for Sustainable Food Systems”.

Current discussions on food systems emphasize the urgent need to embed resilience and 'build back better' for a healthier and more sustainable planet[1]. This week, as attention is given to the role of biodiversity in this transformation, a newly published book offers examples of how the many species and varieties around us can be leveraged to improve food, health, livelihoods, and ecosystem services:

  • In Brazil: National school feeding policies include Amazonian fruits on lunch trays and textbook covers after their high vitamin content was documented by regional universities and research centers.
  • In Kenya: Smallholder farmer groups grow African leafy vegetables and sell them directly to schools, improving local livelihoods and child nutrition, especially in times of harsh weather and food shortage.
  • In Sri Lanka: Women become their families’ primary earners through 'True Sri Lankan Taste' food businesses that utilize traditional varieties of grains, pulses, fruits, vegetables, and tubers.
  • In Turkey: nearly a million visitors flock to an annual herb festival to learn about foraging and cooking Aegean wild edible plants, a nutritious part of local cuisine and culture as well as an opportunity for niche marketing.

These four countries’ work on research, policy, markets, and awareness-raising make up the heart of “Biodiversity, Food and Nutrition: A New Agenda for Sustainable Food Systems”, the latest addition to the Routledge Earthscan series Issues in Agricultural Biodiversity.

Compiling lessons learned in dialogue with a global perspective, the book is the brainchild of the Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition Project, a multi-country, cross-sectoral initiative begun in 2012. Barriers and bright spots in promoting biodiversity for improved diets, livelihoods, and ecosystems are explored with insights from country partners, reflections by researchers, and consideration of how localized activities can be adapted to additional countries and regions.

With sections guest-authored by specialists on topics ranging from urban-rural linkages to sustainable gastronomy, the book will be of interest to policymakers, practitioners, and NGOs working on food and nutrition, as well as students and scholars of agriculture, food systems and sustainable development.


"Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition: A New Agenda for Sustainable Food Systems" was released in May 2020 in print and e-book formats, and will be freely accessible online in 9 months. For more information or to preview the book, click here. 

[1]See the Alliance’s response to COVID-19 here.

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