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From a total of 391,000 known plant species, 5,538 are known to have been used for human food since the origin of agriculture. Out of these, just three—rice, wheat, and maize—provide more than 50% of the world’s plant-derived calories. The reduction of agricultural biodiversity in global food systems is of increasing concern—leading to a lack of available foods to constitute diversified diets, particularly in the developing world.

Bioversity International leverages the potential of diverse crop species and varieties in order to strengthen food security, increase access to nutritionally-adequate diets, build resilience to crop production, and help communities to diversify local food production.

We work with farmers to increase their food security, both directly and indirectly, and improve their access to markets. By increasing the markets for diverse species, farmers perceive the incentives to cultivate them and expand their livelihoods. Along with this indirect strengthening of food security, communities also benefit directly from consumption of diverse and nutritious species and varieties. 

Research highlights

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.

The inclusion of millet as one of the grains subsidized by the government in India’s National Food Security Act—which guarantees a quantity of grain per person at low prices—has also served to highlight the grain. 

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Andean grains

Quinoa, amaranth and cañahua are highly nutritious grains that are able to survive through harsh growing conditions such as strong winds and drought. Important for the food security and livelihood of many farmers in the Andes, these grains have been displaced by cereal crops, grown for global markets.

Bioversity International works to develop value chains for Andean Grains, linking farmers to markets.

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African leafy vegetables

Bioversity International works with partners in Sub-Saharan Africa to revive the interest of researchers, growers and consumers in nutritious and resilient African Leafy Vegetables in order to promote income and food security.

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Chilli peppers

The Andean Region of South America is the centre of origin for many traditional varieties of chilli pepper (Capsicum).

Bioversity International led a 3-year project to collect and screen traditional Capsicum varieties to determine traits with the potential to be commercially viable.

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What's next?

We are working in Mali, India and Guatemala to build the capacity of farmers, researchers and government actors to integrate nutrition, resilience and income considerations in the development of more sustainable farm and livelihood systems.

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Latest news

Students of St Mary's School, Mundika, Kenya, lining up for their school meal and selecting African leafy vegetables over common kales. Credit: Aurillia Manjella/BFN Kenya

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CGIAR partnership


This research area contributes to CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets – our role is to address key research questions relating to the role of agricultural biodiversity in value chains and how market strategies based on the conservation and use of agricultural biodiversity can help improve income for people living in rural poverty. It also contributes to the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security