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Malnutrition affects one in three people on the planet. A lack of available foods to constitute diversified diets is a crucial factor, especially 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. Globally the reduction of agricultural biodiversity in food systems is of increasing concern. From the 391,000 known plant species, 5,538 are known to have been used as human food. Today just three crop species – rice, wheat and maize – provide more than 50% of the world's calories from plants.


Bioversity International studies the diversity of all accessible local food sources for vulnerable populations, including ‘forgotten’ traditional foods, wild foods and foods available at the local market. Working closely with targeted communities, it builds understanding of why nutrition is important and how to improve nutrition in the diet using available foods, through a mix of activities including cooking demonstrations, food fairs and by creating seasonal food availability calendars. Bioversity International also works with partners to mainstream locally available food biodiversity for sustainable food systems and healthy diets into national policies and programmes on food and nutrition security. 

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Adding colour to rural diets

The Seasonal Availability Calendar Booklet is a template to transform data into an adaptable tool that can be presented back to communities within only a few months after data collection. Developed with partners as part of a project, it aims to revitalize the use of local agrobiodiversity, which typically includes a large assortment of nutritious species that are well adapted to local conditions but remain underutilized for a variety of reasons, including lack of awareness and promotion.

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.

Neglected and underutilized species (NUS)

Non-commodity cultivated and wild species, which are part of a large agricultural biodiversity portfolio today falling into disuse for a variety of agronomic, genetic, economic, social and cultural factors.   

Our work in Vietnam

Read the blogs:
Diverse foods make a difference to nutrition in Northwest Vietnam
Assessing the nutrition potential of diverse local foods in Vietnam
Bringing together best methods to assess food quality and dietary intake in Vietnam 
Improving dietary quality and diversity through systems innovation 
Putting nutrition data to work in the community
Joining the diversity club – how village health workers in Vietnam are putting nutrition back on the menu


Watch the video (In Vietnamese)

The focus of our research in Vietnam's Son La Province – where malnutrition rates are high and a lack of dietary diversity is thought to be a crucial factor – is on women of child-bearing age and children 12 to 23 months old. This age is part of the critical 1000 day window for child development and when they are able to consume a more diverse diet. 

See photographs on Flickr from our work in Vietnam.

Our work in Kenya

Much of our recent work in Kenya is based in the Vihiga and Kitui counties, where Bioversity International and partners are looking into food availability and the nutritional value of local food resources with the aim to enrich the national food composition table. The aim is to improve documentation and promote use of diverse local foods, such as traditional, leafy vegetables. The development of the Agrobiodiversity Diet Diagnosis Interventions Toolkit (ADD-IT) will help capture reliable food consumption data and improve quality of diets.

Learn more: 
Better data for better nutrition
A new initiative for better decision-making in nutrition interventions
Diversity from field to fork
Women at the helm of change – one-on-one with the Kyanika Adult Women Group from field to fork

Watch the video:
African Leafy Vegetables

See photographs on Flickr from our work in Kenya.

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

Bananas for nutrition

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

Biodiversity for food and 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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Call to add value to African diets

Bioversity International, FAO and IUNS Task Force on Traditional and Indigenous Food Systems and Nutrition hold awareness raising dialogue on the role of traditional and indigenous food resources in diversifying diets and improving nutrition in Africa.

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