Sustainable Food and Agriculture

Enhancing biodiversity for food and nutrition in Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey

03 April 2020

Untapped potential

Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey host a wide variety of species and ecosystems, and a wealth of traditional and indigenous local ecological knowledge has emerged as a consequence of this agro-biological diversity. Food supply chains in these countries and beyond are underpinned by this unique expertise and connection to local resources and ecosystem services.

But while natural resources in these countries are varied and abundant, local communities often aren’t yet enjoying the full nutrition and livelihood benefits these resources could offer. This is partly because of the untapped potential of indigenous, largely plant, genetic resources, which are still scarcely explored, appreciated or conserved.

The project

The Mainstreaming biodiversity conservation and sustainable use for improved human nutrition and well-being project sought to address the issue by promoting knowledge of the importance of biodiversity in ensuring the availability of high-quality, nutritious foods.

Co-financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by Bioversity International with support from FAO, through its Nutrition and Food Systems Division, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and by ministerial, academic, NGO, private sector and community partners, the project aimed to build knowledge and enhance the capacity of several stakeholders at national level for improving well-being, livelihoods and food security of smallholder and vulnerable communities.

Driving progress

Between 2013 and 2019, the project facilitated a number of positive outcomes, spurring positive change across the four countries.

Documenting the link between agrobiodiversity and nutrition

The project established a network of 50 universities and agencies collecting data across Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey. This network gathered information about local edible biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge, leading to the generation of new food composition data and updated national food composition tables and databases, all of which are instrumental in creating informed and effective national policies and action plans.

Mainstreaming sustainable approaches into national action plans

The project succeeded in mainstreaming sustainable agriculture approaches at national level across the four countries, driving policies and strategies in support of conservation of biodiversity for food and nutrition.

In Brazil, for example, ‘Conservation of biodiversity for food and nutrition’ was included as an indicator of biodiversity health in the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, while the Federal Government of Brazil legislated in support of measures for the production and sale of native “neglected and underutilized” species with significant nutritional value.

National policies and action plans in Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey were similarly informed by initiatives carried out under the project.

Sharing knowledge

A variety of knowledge products, peer-reviewed papers and publications were produced, and events organized, to promote biodiversity for food and nutrition. 

The project has led to the development of a set of best practices and methodologies which are still being documented at country and global levels, with countries developing training manuals and guidelines for the collection and sustainable use of targeted biodiversity and documenting recipes and information based on traditional knowledge.

These materials are available on a dedicated website, also created under the project, to share and showcase information and results:

Empowering communities

A key aim of the project was to build knowledge and resilience at the local level. This was achieved through initiatives across the project countries, including:

  • Four communities in Kenya, 121 villages in Turkey, Quilombola communities in the Central-West region of Brazil, and communities at three pilot sites in Sri Lanka engaged with the project to help document traditional ecological knowledge and practices. 
  • Eight Kenyan farmer groups secured 14 tenders with institutional markets for the supply of African leafy vegetables to schools. A farm-to-school network programme was established to secure farmers’ livelihoods while providing 5 500 students with healthy, nutritious meals.
  • In Sri Lanka, awareness-raising activities were organised in schools and traditional foods promoted through initiatives across the country.
  • Food festivals and diversity fairs celebrating local biodiversity for food and nutrition were organized in Brazil, Kenya and Turkey.

Going forwards

The project has been showcased in numerous international fora and venues such as the 2019 regular session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and within publications such as the State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture as well as books and journals. It is currently being used as a case study for reframing sections of the new post-2020 framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

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