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How can we nutritiously and sustainably feed 9 billion people by 2050 – without causing additional resource depletion and damage to our planet? This is the challenge ahead of us. We are witnessing population growth coinciding with more poorly nourished people, while health problems related to poor nutrition are on the rise:

  • One in three people on the planet are affected by malnutrition.
  • Almost 2 billion people are obese or overweight – up from 875 million in 1980 
  • 2 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies - when the diet lacks essential vitamins and minerals required for proper growth and development, such as vitamin A, iron, zinc and calcium.

A lack of available foods to constitute a diversified diet is a crucial factor. This is particularly the case in the developing world where diets often consist of starchy staples with not enough nutrient-rich sources of food, such as animal source foods, fruits, vegetables, beans and pulses.

From 391,000 known plant species, 5,538 are known to be used for human food.
Just three – rice, wheat and maize – provide more than 50% of the world's plant-derived calories.

Bioversity International's research approach

Bioversity International is investigating how agricultural and tree biodiversity can be better used within local food production systems to improve access to nutritionally-rich food sources and increase dietary diversity, with a particular focus on women of reproductive age and children under two.

We work with partners to mainstream locally available food biodiversity for sustainable food systems and healthy diets into national programmes and policies on food and nutrition security.

Find out more about how diet diversity can help meet global challenges in nutrition and health in this factsheet.

Download the factsheet

 

Where we work

A primary focus of our work in nutrition is mothers and young children in West, East and Southern Africa as well as Asia and Latin America, with research initiatives that can be adapted to other regions.

Results

  • Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition – a GEF Initiative, led by Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Turkey
    Brazil is implementing a school-feeding programme to promote healthy eating in schools which also ensures that 30% of procurement is from local family farmers.  Read more
  • Banana diversity in Eastern Africa
    In an area where severe vitamin A deficiency is one of the major public health problems, varieties of banana identified as high in vitamin A pre-cursors are not only growing well in local conditions but are also accepted by local communities for taste and use in traditional recipes.  Read more
  • Nutrition-sensitive landscape approaches provide systems-thinking for more sustainable diets, improved well-being and a healthier, more resilient ecosystem. Read more
  • Millets in India
    Nutritious millets were once a strong part of traditional diets in Southern India but have since become a 'forgotten food'. Bioversity International has been working with partners for 15 years to promote millet use and conservation. In 2013, millets were incorporated into India's National Food Security Act meaning these nutritious grains are now available to more than 800 million people at a subsidized rate.  Read more
  • Using agricultural biodiversity to improve diets in Western Kenya
    Early analyses show that nutrition education motivates the caregivers of infants and young children to improve the quality and diversity of complementary diets by using accessible local food resources.

Download the factsheets on our work in Western Kenya:

Research highlights

A food biodiversity indicator to rule them all

Careful analysis and amalgamation of dietary data sets has brought to light a much-needed and validated food biodiversity indicator capable of evaluating the positive correlation between agricultural biodiversity and diet quality.

 

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Putting vitamin A-rich bananas to the taste test

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.

 

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Dietary species richness as a measure of food biodiversity and nutritional quality of diets

Dietary species richness as a measure of food biodiversity and nutritional quality of diets introduces a new metric that can help researchers, practitioners and policymakers better understand the relationship between food biodiversity and diet quality, to identify where food systems can be improved.

Guidelines on assessing biodiverse foods in dietary surveys

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with Bioversity International, as one of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health's Managing Partners, has jointly produced new scientific guidelines guidelines for collecting information on food biodiversity through dietary surveys.

Guidelines on Assessing Biodiverse Foods in Dietary Intake Surveys, will assist researchers and practitioners to generate more reliable data and implement best practices related to assessing food biodiversity.

Bioversity International Initiatives

This research is carried out through Bioversity International's 'Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems' Initiative

CGIAR Partnership

This area of work contributes to the following CGIAR Research Program:

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