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FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Future Smart Foods

‘Future Smart Food’ to Tap Huge Potentials of Neglected and Underutilized Species for Zero Hunger

Download the full publication  Future Smart Food: Rediscovering Hidden Treasures of Neglected and Underutilized Species for Zero Hunger in Asia

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is at the heart of the work of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), especially the SDG 2, which calls for the eradication of hunger and all forms of malnutrition. Dietary and production diversity are recognized factors in strategies to improve food security and nutrition. Currently, agriculture has an over-reliance on a handful of major staple crops.

FAO considers that neglected and underutilized species (NUS) have a central role to play in the fight against hunger and malnutrition, and that they are currently being overlooked. Today, just 103 out of the nearly 30,000 edible plant species worldwide provide up to 90 percent of the calories in the human diet. NUS are very rich in Asia. To tap the potentials of NUS, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific has launched a Future Smart Food Initiative, in collaboration with 30 national and international organizations, as part of its Regional Initiative on Zero Hunger.

Future Smart Food: Rediscovering Hidden Treasures of Neglected and Underutilized Species for Zero Hunger in Asia has as its purposes: i) to demonstrate the multidimensional benefits of Neglected and Underutilized species (NUS) and their potential contribution to achieving Zero Hunger; ii) to identify promising NUS that are nutrition-dense, climate-resilient, economically-viable and locally available or adaptable as FSF; iii) to highlight the challenges and opportunities for harnessing these less-mainstream food crops encounters; and iv) to provide strategic recommendations to create an enabling environment for the promotion, production, marketing and consumption of Future Smart Food, assuring healthy diets for the future.

Future Smart Food, referring to NUS that are nutrition dense, climate resilient, economically viable and locally accessible, represent a promising abundance of food resources and constitute the bedrock of the food system. As José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General highlighted, these foods are smart because they can bolster dietary diversification, improve micronutrient intake, enhance soil health, require fewer inputs such as chemical fertilizers and often prove resilient to climate change and adverse farming conditions.

To tap the high potential of NUS, FAO RAP has organized a Regional Expert Consultation on Scoping and Prioritizing NUS through an interdisciplinary priority-setting exercise in December 2016, in collaboration with the FAO Special Ambassador for the International Year of Pulses, ICARDA, ICRISAT, MSSRF-LANSA, ACIAR, Mahidol University, the University of Western Australia, ICIMOD, CATAS-TCGRI, CFF, national governments and research institutes of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, Vietman and India, as well as civil society (Akshaya Patra Foundation). It adopts an innovative methodology to identify NUS as FSF that meet four criteria on nutrition, agriculture, ecology and socio-ecological dimensions, which led to the priority list of Future Smart Food at the country level.  Future Smart Food: Rediscovering Hidden Treasures of Neglected and Underutilized Species for Zero Hunger in Asia presents the major outcome of this regional priority-setting exercise on NUS.

The Foreword of the publication is given by Dr. José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General, following his endorsement of FSF Initiative of FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

The publication is also highly recommended by Dr. Patrick Caron, the Chair of the High Level of Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) Steering Committee of Committee of World Food Security (CFS): “The identification of species that are nutrition-dense, climate-resilient, economically-viable, and locally available or adaptable as Future Smart Food for Zero Hunger will have significant importance from policy, institutional and technical perspectives to enhance food security and nutrition strategies. It will certainly contribute to improve practices promoting agriculture and diet diversification and healthy eating at national, regional and global levels.”