Greater recognition needed for value of ‘wild nutrition’

30 May 2017, Rome - One in seven people are thought to benefit from “wild” nutrition, or wild plants and animals, for food and health, yet these foods do not receive sufficient recognition, a seminar in Rome heard last week. The seminar, “Wild but edible and nutritious – Exploring new (and old) ways to contribute to the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition and the SDGs,” pooled together some of the most recent scientific evidence on forest foods and their contributions to nutritious and diverse diets.

Forest-based food systems have long provided nutritious foods such as edible nuts, mushrooms, fruits, herbs, spices, aromatic plants, game and insects, and they enhance the resilience of forest-dependent peoples particularly in times of climatic and economic uncertainty. FAO typically refers to these forest foods (and other non-edible forest resources) as “non-wood forest products” (NWFPs).

However, as FAO Forestry Officer Thais Linhares Juvenal explained: “NWFPs do not play a prominent role in forest sector policies. This hinders their potential contribution to national sustainable development goals, including to food and nutritional security outcomes.”

Eva Müller, Director of FAO’s Forestry Policy and Resources Division, said: “At FAO, nutrition is our combined responsibility. It is a timely moment to have this discussion because the policy focus in agriculture seems to finally be shifting from calories to nutrients – nutrients which can be found in many forest foods.”

Anna Lartey, Director of Nutrition and Food Systems Division at FAO, said: “The Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), the 2030 Agenda and the Nutrition Decade have placed nutrition firmly at the heart of the development agenda.”

ICN2 has proven to be particularly fruitful in bringing all actors together to rediscover the power of collaborating more closely on food systems and nutrition-related issues, Lartey underlined.

Boitshepo Giyose, FAO Senior Nutrition Officer, added that we need to rethink the way we do nutrition, underlining the need to adopt more synergistic approaches.

The seminar was a joint initiative between FAO’s Forestry Technical Network (FTN) and Nutrition and Food Systems Division as part of a broader effort within the organization to improve how nutrition is mainstreamed across sectors. It comes just weeks before the launch of the Committee on Food Security’s High Level Expert Panel Report on Sustainable forestry for food security and nutrition 2017.

last updated:  Wednesday, May 31, 2017