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Challenge

Agricultural yields of rice, wheat and maize are plateauing, fueling concerns as to how we can produce food of sufficient quantity — and quality — to maintain a growing population. Homogenous diets and poor food access mean that one in three people in the world suffers from micronutrient deficiencies, while nearly 2 billion people are overweight or obese. Food production and diets are further interlinked with heightened concerns over farmer livelihood resilience and environmental sustainability.

Solution

The Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition (BFN) Project envisions a more resilient food system that addresses these issues through the lens of agrobiodiversity; in short, by sharing the wide variety of indigenous crops that can sustain people and the environment. While the nutritional value of crops such as quinoa or acai has gained recognition and increased demand, other crops with the capability of benefiting both producers and consumers are yet to be fully utilized.

BFN takes a multi-level approach to the conservation, revival, and promotion of these biodiverse nutrient-rich plant species. Our work falls under three main goals:

Provide Evidence

We explore the nutritional value, cultural significance and market success of traditional plants for everyday diets.

Influence Policies

We push for agricultural biodiversity to be included as a key focus of national policies, programmes and markets that aim to improve health and food security.

Raise Awareness

We broaden knowledge and understanding of how biodiversity can improve food and nutrition by developing tools, sharing best practices, and holding engaging public events.


Thematic research areas

Trees for nutrition

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Orange-fleshed Fei banana, rich in vitamin A. Credit: Bioversity International/A.Vézina, courtesy of www.musarama.org

Bananas for nutrition

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Dishes prepared on site for a food fair held in the Barotse floodplain, Zambia. The food was judged in a competition for the most nutritious dish.
Credit: Bioversity International/E.Hermanowicz

Diet diversity

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Traditional Sri Lankan dishes and vegetables. Credit: Bioversity International/S.Landersz

Biodiversity for food and nutrition

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About BFN and our donors and partners

BFN is funded by the Global Environment Facility and coordinated by Bioversity International, with implementation support from the United Nations Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and additional support from the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. National partners come from relevant ministries, the scientific community, non-government organizations, civil society and local communities.

The multi-country, multi-partner initiative led was launched in April 2012 to address growing concerns over the rapid disappearance of agricultural biodiversity, particularly traditional crops and wild species with nutritional potential, in four countries: Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey.

Visit the official Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition website

Where we work

Brazil

BFN’s research has demonstrated the high nutritional value of many indigenous species – such as the vitamin-C rich camu-camu (see the graph below) – over their more commonly consumed counterparts. Collaborations with national universities and the Plants for the Future Initiative have promoted a wider market for diverse crops, building off a policy framework that includes Brazil’s 2014 Dietary Guidelines and 2016 Ordinance N. 163 on Sociobiodiversity. The latter identifies 81 neglected and underutilized species for further utilization, and recognizes the key role of sociobiodiversity for food and nutrition security. This encourages indigenous species cultivation by smallholder farmers, and links them with schools and development organizations through a direct procurement model.

Read the blogs:

Mainstreaming biodiversity for nutrition in Brazil

From dish to podium – it’s about a lot more than just sports in Rio

Procuring biodiversity for schools as part of government plan to improve food and nutrition in Brazil

Kenya

Due in great part to BFN’s efforts, in 2018 Busia County became the first of Kenya’s 47 counties to pass a policy that identifies and creates an action plan to mainstream biodiversity. This cross-sectoral policy is intended to inspire other regions to conserve and promote indigenous crops and recipes. Additionally, BFN and its local partners have developed a Farmer Business School, trained over 4,000 farmers on sustainable farming techniques and traditional crop knowledge, and piloted a Homegrown School Feeding procurement programme.

Read the blogs:

Busia, first county in Kenya to endorse a Biodiversity Conservation Policy

Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition in Busia County, Kenya

The SUN shines brightly on Kenya's efforts to link nutrition and agriculture

Sri Lanka

Extensive data analysis of 52 edible cultivars has been added to the Plant Genetic Resources Centre genebank. Additional nutrient content, medicinal uses, and recipes of edible plants are publicly accessible through the BFN Sri Lanka online database. BFN also assisted in the formation of the Hela Bojun traditional food market outlets, which empower local women as cooks and business owners, and have gained a popular following with tourists as well as the local community.

Read the blogs:

Unlocking the potential of wild edibles

Turkey

Turkey has actively promoted wild edible plants with education outreach and cultural events. The annual Alaçatı Herb Festival celebrates biodiverse species at the gastronomic and cultural level, while scientific research of 43 species has yielded nutrition and food composition data and contributed to the FAO INFOODS database. Information from 2443 market surveys, combined with private sector collaboration, has led to intensified cultivation and increased market capacity for three regionally prioritized species: Golden Thistle, Foxtail Lily, and Einkorn Wheat.

Read the blogs:

Wild edible plants take centre stage in plant and food festival

Unlocking the potential of wild edibles


An interactive map with BFN case studies can be found here:

View map

Contact

Teresa Borelli

Programme Specialist


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