Agricultural Biodiversity Project to Improve Nutrition and Food Security Worldwide

Undervalued yet nutritious traditional foods can make a difference in food nutrition in developing nations.

| April 28, 2012

  • amaranth
    Indigenous leafy vegetables and grains, such as amaranth, provide significant sources of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.
    PHOTO: FOTOLIA/NIKOLA HAHN

  • amaranth

Placing renewed emphasis on sustaining the natural variety of crops and animals contributing to agriculture, including neglected yet nutritious traditional foods, can improve food security and address growing global concerns over poor nutrition and its negative health effects, officials said at the launch of a new international project at the World Nutrition Rio Congress 2012.

The Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition Project aims to address the narrowing variety of people's diets, with nutritionally-poor processed foods dominating the dinner table. This trend has led to a raft of health issues worldwide. One third of the world's population suffers from hunger and micronutrient malnutrition, while obesity and diet-related chronic illness have reached critical levels.

The diversity of crops and their wild relatives, trees, animals, microbes and other species contributing to food production — known as agricultural biodiversity — can counter these trends, according to Emile Frison, Director General of Bioversity International, which is coordinating the project to further research and promote the links between biodiversity and good nutrition.

"To meet the challenge of feeding the world population of around nine billion by 2050, we need to consider not only sustainably producing sufficient food but also working towards diversified nutrition, which means providing a healthy diet for all," said Braulio Dias, Executive Secretary, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). "Agricultural biodiversity plays a central role in meeting this challenge."



The Global Environment Facility (GEF), the world's largest public funder of international environmental projects, is supporting the multi-country project led by Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey. Bioversity International is coordinating the project with implementation support from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

"The GEF is making efforts to expand its engagement in the conservation and management of agricultural biodiversity, which provides the mainstay for millions of people worldwide and food security to the world's most vulnerable populations," said Monique Barbut, CEO and Chairperson of the GEF.





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