Why agricultural biodiversity matters - nutrition & health
An estimated 5,500 plant species in the world have been used for human food (Kew, 2015), but today over 50% of our plant-derived calories come from only 3 species: rice, wheat and maize (FAO, 1997).
A diverse diet is the basis of food pyramids and nutrition guidelines around the world. A healthy diet includes multiple food groups, made of diverse foods. The heavy reliance on a narrow diversity of food crops puts future food and nutrition security at risk. The 2017 Global Nutrition Report states that 1 in 3 people are malnourished and that 88% of countries face a serious burden of either two or three forms of malnutrition.
Nutrient content varies among species and among varieties within a species.
Minor millets have protein levels close to that of wheat and are rich in B vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc. Yet they account for less than 1% of the food grains produced in the world (FAO, 1995). Millets are resilient plants that require little water and are mostly grown in marginal areas where major cereals would fail.
|Common millet||12.5 g||3.5g||8 mg||2.9 mg|
|Finger millet||7.7 g||1.5 g||350 mg||3.9 mg|
|Kodo millet||9.8 g||3.6 g||35 mg||107 mg|
|Wheat (average)||11.6 g||2.0 g||30 mg||3.5 mg|
Table source: FAO 1995: Hulse, Laing and Pearson. 1980: U.S. National Research Council/NAS. 1982: USDA/HNIS.