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Forest foods such as wild fruits, nuts, vegetables, mushrooms and animal products contribute in many ways to global food security. They help maintain household nutrition and provide a lifeline to rural populations especially between harvests or during extreme weather events like extended droughts when food can be scarce. Yet many of these important tree species are under threat.


Bioversity International's Forest Genetic Resources team study important food tree species, looking at their sustainable use within diets, and mapping threats to species that are important for nutrition security. Understanding the combined effects of different threats on the distribution of important indigenous food tree species is essential for priority setting in conservation planning such as ex situ conservation, active regeneration and tree planting.

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The contribution of forest foods to sustainable diets

Globally, it is estimated that billions of people depend on forests and trees. This is true for many people living in developing countries, for whom forests are an essential part of a sustainable food system. Action is needed to better manage forests and their genetic resources to ensure long-term availability of these food resources to rural people who depend on them for their nutrition and livelihoods. Such action requires heightened awareness of the important contribution of forests and trees to food security and nutrition, especially among policymakers.  Bioversity International's Forest Genetic Resources Research Team carry out research on how forest foods can contribute to sustainable diets.

  • Sustainable food systems include food from forests – blog
  • The contributions of forest foods to sustainable diets – article I paper
  • Can the production of wild forest foods be sustained in timber concessions? – paper
  • How and where Bioversity International works on sustainable diets – poster

Relations between forest genetic diversity and use of indigenous fruit tree species

In Cameroon, Bioversity International is in the preliminary phases of research on the value chain of the indigenous fruit tree species Dacryodes edulis. The central focus of this research is the contribution of the fruit tree species to diets and food security, the inter-relationship between management practices and consumer choices, and the genetic, nutritional and sensory diversity of the resource base.

School gardens in the Yaounde municipality and programs providing seedlings to home gardens and public areas will be established to raise awareness of the importance of conserving this valuable fruit tree species.

Keep up to date with the research progress by visiting our ARBOPOLIS project log.

Highlight: Mapping the threats to 16 food tree species

The continued survival of many tree species, a vital source of income and nutrition in rural households, is under threat. Overharvesting, development, mining and climate change are just some of the pressures they face. A question asked by many conservation practitioners is how to effectively target the species that are both the most vulnerable and the most valuable to local communities?

A study in Burkina Faso of 16 important food tree species and the threats they face provides some answers.

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Tropical fruit trees

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Trees for Seeds

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Forest Genetic Resources Training Guide

Available in English and Spanish, the Forest Genetic Resources Training Guideis a tool for teaching and learning about forest genetic resources issues in formal education or on-the-job training. Through its modules, you will learn about the links between sustainable forest management and forest genetic resources, covering areas such as conservation strategies, trees outside forests, seed supply chains, and forest management, forest restoration and logging.

Further reading

Nutrients and bioactive compounds content of Baillonella toxisperma, Trichoscypha abut and Pentaclethra macrophylla from Cameroon – paper

Tapping into Congo Basin's forest foods for increased nutritional security – blog

Forests, Trees and Landscapes for Food Security and Nutrition – IUFRO Global Assessment Report


Bioversity International's research on forest genetic resources is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and is supported by CGIAR Trust Fund Donors. We lead a cluster on safeguarding forest genetic diversity.

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