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The challenge

Current agricultural yields of rice, wheat, and maize are plateauing, leading many to speculate about how we can produce enough to feed a growing population. Just as pressing is the challenge of maintaining a healthy population, as one in three people in the world suffers from micronutrient deficiencies, while nearly 2 billion people are overweight or obese. These challenges are intertwined with heightened concerns over farmer livelihoods and environmental sustainability.

The research approach

The 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 subsequent 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 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.

Where we work

Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Turkey.

Brazil

BFN’s national food composition data research has demonstrated the high nutritional value of many indigenous species, such as camu-camu, over their more commonly consumed counterparts. Research with the Plants for the Future Initiative has promoted a wider market for diverse crops, with major policy successes including Brazil’s 2014 Dietary Guidelines and 2016 Ordinance N. 163 on Sociobiodiversity. The latter identifies 64 neglected and underutilized species for further utilization, and recognizes the key role of sociobiodiversity for food and nutrition security.

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Kenya

BFN implemented a three-focus approach in Busia County, Kenya that simultaneously addressed biodiversity loss and malnutrition in an area with poverty levels of around 40%. Nutrition analysis of local foods and sustainable agricultural practices for indigenous crops, such as cowpea leaves or Bambara groundnut, were shared
with farmers and information provided to consumers and policymakers. The culmination of this collaborative process was the updating of the national food composition table and the implementation of Busia County’s Biodiversity conservation Policy in March 2018, which can serve as a blueprint for the other 46 counties to recognize and utilize nutrient-rich local foods.

Our partners

The GEF 'Mainstreaming biodiversity for nutrition and health' initiative is led by Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey and coordinated by Bioversity International, with implementation support from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and additional support from the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health.

It 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


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