NUS Underutilized Species - Neglected and - Bioversity International

NUS Underutilized Species - Neglected and - Bioversity International
Fighting Poverty, Hunger
and Malnutrition with

Neglected and
Species                                 Needs, Challenges and
                                        the Way Forward

Stefano Padulosi, Judith Thompson and Per Rudebjer
NUS Underutilized Species - Neglected and - Bioversity International
Bioversity International is a research-for-development organization working with partners worldwide
to use and conserve agricultural and forest biodiversity for improved livelihoods, nutrition, sustainability
and productive and resilient ecosystems. Bioversity International is working towards a world in which
smallholder farming communities in developing countries of Africa, Asia and the Americas are thriving
and sustainable. Bioversity International focuses on rain-fed farming systems, primarily managed by
smallholder farmers, in areas where large-scale agriculture is not a viable option. Its research influences
policy decisions and investment in agricultural research, from the local level to the global level.

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organizations engaged in research for a food secure future. CGIAR research is dedicated to reducing rural
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Bioversity International’s headquarters are near Rome, Italy, along with the Rome-based UN food agencies
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organization, founded in 1974, has more than 300 staff and scientists worldwide working with around
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Padulosi, S., Thompson, J., Rudebjer, P. 2013. Fighting poverty, hunger and malnutrition with neglected
and underutilized species (NUS): needs, challenges and the way forward. Bioversity International, Rome.

Bolivian farmer in her field of cañihua, an underutilized Andean crop that farmers value for its cold
tolerance, a trait increasingly appreciated for adaptation to climate change. Photo: S.Padulosi/Bioversity.

ISBN 978-92-9043-941-7
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© Bioversity International, 2013
NUS Underutilized Species - Neglected and - Bioversity International
Acknowledgements                                    iv

Summary                                              1

Introduction                                         6

What are NUS? Why are they important?                9
     Neglected and marginalized                     12
     Food security and resilience of food systems   13
     NUS and nutrition                              15
     NUS, income and livelihoods                    17
     Cultural identity                              18

Status of NUS around the world                      21
     Sub-Saharan Africa                             21
     Latin America                                  23
     Europe                                         24
     Western Asia                                   24

Stories of impact                                   27

Key challenges facing NUS today                     31

What needs to be done?                              37
     1. Change perceptions                          38
     2. Develop capacity                            39
     3. Enhance research                            40
     4. Improve conservation                        42
     5. Involve stakeholders                        43
     6. Add value and upgrade market chains         45
     7. Create a supportive policy environment      46
     8. Increase cooperation                        48

Conclusions                                         51

References                                          53
NUS Underutilized Species - Neglected and - Bioversity International
     This publication draws heavily on a number of research papers and publications
     developed by Bioversity International, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the
     UN (FAO) and the Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment (CINE).
     The underlying research work has been conducted for the CGIAR Research Program
     on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) by Bioversity International with support
     from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Technical Centre
     for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für
     Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The technical advice from Crops For the Future
     (CFF) is also warmly acknowledged.

iv   Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species
NUS Underutilized Species - Neglected and - Bioversity International
                         Neglected and underutilized species (NUS) are those to
                         which little attention is paid or which are entirely ignored by
                         agricultural researchers, plant breeders and policymakers1.
                         Typically, NUS are not traded as commodities. They are wild
                         or semi-domesticated varieties and non-timber forest species
                         adapted to particular, often quite local, environments. Many of
                         these varieties and species, along with a wealth of traditional
                         knowledge about their cultivation and use, are being lost at an
                         alarming rate.

                         Yet NUS present tremendous opportunities for fighting poverty,
                         hunger and malnutrition. And they can help make agricultural
                         production systems more resilient to climate change. Not least,
                         acknowledgment of the value of NUS in traditional foods and
                         cultures can empower indigenous communities (women in
                         particular) and reaffirm their identity.

                         The time for action on NUS is now. There is a growing
                         realization that agriculture must diversify. NUS have an
                         important role to play in advancing agricultural development
                         beyond the Green Revolution model of improving and raising
                         the yields of staple crops.
                             In this document we shall focus only on plant genetic resources.

Mangosteen (Garcinia
mangostana) on sale at                                                                          1
an Indian market.
NUS Underutilized Species - Neglected and - Bioversity International
Neglect by agronomic researchers and policy makers, genetic erosion,
                            loss of local knowledge, marketing and climate change are major
                            challenges to the sustainable use of NUS. Reversing the neglect,
                            tackling these challenges, and ensuring that NUS are conserved and
                            used sustainably, means taking urgent action in eight areas:

                            Change the perceptions of NUS as unimportant ‘poor man’s food’.
                            The neglect of NUS and failure to use them fully stems from a lack
                            of awareness of their economic and nutritional value. Researchers,
                            farmers, consumers and policymakers focus on the major commodity
                            crops. Public awareness campaigns, better information and training can
                            help farmers and consumers realize the benefits NUS can bring and can
                            encourage scientists and policymakers to optimize and promote these

                            Develop capacity in researching, teaching, policymaking,
                            trading and farming NUS.
                            The entire agricultural sector needs to recognize the importance of NUS
                            and to protect and conserve traditional knowledge about NUS for future
                            generations. This means training farmers and other groups along value
                            chains in, for example, crop management, producing good quality seed,
                            selecting varieties, intercropping systems, managing soil health, adding
                            value and developing products, packaging, bookkeeping and marketing.
                            Training is particularly important for women as it empowers them to
                            play an important role in taking NUS to markets. Broadening agricultural
                            curricula to include the conservation and use of NUS along with the
                            staple crops will encourage young scientists to take food and nutritional
                            approaches to agricultural development. Information campaigns can
                            help convince policymakers of the need for incentives and support for
                            programmes promoting the use of NUS. Supporting the development of
                            infrastructure and institutions, such as providing better cultivation tools,
                            processing machinery and storage facilities, will also be important.

                            Undertake more research on NUS, particularly with regard to
                            their adaptive qualities and the links between NUS and nutrition
                            and livelihoods.
                            Investing in research on NUS will help realize the full potential of these
                            crops. Properly documenting, characterizing and collecting and sharing

2   Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species
NUS Underutilized Species - Neglected and - Bioversity International
data on NUS are essential. In particular, research on the nutritional
    aspects of NUS, and their adaptive traits are important. Research will
    need to include molecular work to identify NUS material suitable for
    breeding. Links between scientific and traditional knowledge systems
    will need to be created and inter-disciplinary research networks

    Set up global on-farm NUS conservation programmes.
    Setting up global NUS conservation programmes will strengthen in situ
    conservation of wild species and ex situ conservation in genebanks.
    A combination of in situ and ex situ approaches will empower local
    farmers, particularly women. To do this, local, national, regional and
    international agencies can finance programmes to conserve and use
    NUS, and leverage existing mechanisms and programmes that focus on
    major staples and commodity crops.

    Involve the full range of stakeholders in participatory
    partnerships to promote and conserve NUS, particularly farmer
    and women’s organizations.
    Addressing challenges, needs and opportunities related to promoting
    NUS calls for active collaboration with local communities and
    mainstreaming gender-sensitive approaches. Through each step of the
    research and development processes, stakeholders – from smallholder
    farmers to policymakers – must be consulted and involved through
    open participatory processes. Farmer organizations and traditional seed
    systems can help make programmes to promote the relevance and
    effectiveness of NUS more effective.

    Find innovative ways to upgrade NUS market chains and to
    develop and market value-added products.
    Key priorities in marketing NUS are improving access to markets,
    adding value and stimulating demand. Because new technologies
    developed for commercial crops are not always suited to traditional
    NUS, this means finding innovative solutions to simplify processing,
    create new products and establish multi-stakeholder platforms for
    NUS value chains. Top chefs, restaurants and food retailers can play
    a leading role in promoting the use of NUS in gastronomy and food

                         Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species   3
NUS Underutilized Species - Neglected and - Bioversity International
                            Put in place legal frameworks, policies and financial incentives
                            to promote NUS and encourage agricultural diversification.
                            Policies, such as including NUS in school feeding programmes and
                            promoting them as components in sustainable diets, enriching food
                            aid with nutritious NUS and subsidising cultivation and marketing
                            of NUS, can encourage their use. Incentives can support farmers
                            to grow and conserve NUS on-farm, and can be complemented by
                            incentives to conserve NUS ex situ. Governments can mainstream NUS
                            best practices, methods and tools into routine operations. Financial
                            support can take the form of schemes such as payment for conserving
                            agrobiodiversity. At the international level, including NUS in the Annex 8
                            International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
                            will be important.

                            Encourage collaboration in researching, promoting, conserving
                            and sustainably using NUS, and coordinate activities and multi-
                            stakeholder platforms across sectors.
                            More needs to be done to ensure that NUS are no longer ignored and
                            neglected by researchers and markets. This means strengthening
                            cooperation among stakeholders and creating synergies at national,
                            regional and international levels. Coordination to promote NUS at
                            different levels and in different areas will help establish common
                            approaches, such as standard methods for documenting and monitoring
                            on-farm conservation and international policies for trading NUS. The
                            current lack of interaction across sectors (agriculture, nutrition, health,
                            education) and stakeholder groups (farmers, researchers, value chain
                            actors, decision makers) limits the potential of NUS. Mechanisms and
                            processes that facilitate strategic synergies among national, regional
                            and international networks, and collaborative platforms, need to be
                            encouraged and supported.

4   Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species
NUS Underutilized Species - Neglected and - Bioversity International
Buckwheat (Fagopyrum
esculentum) at flowering stage
in a Chinese field.

                                     Bioversity/Beijing Office

NUS Underutilized Species - Neglected and - Bioversity International
      ‘Nature’s bounty’ is a term that needs no definition. It is
      what feeds us, clothes us, warms us, shelters us, defines
      our livelihoods and underlies the myriad cultures of human
      populations. All of this bounty rests on plant life, upon which
      all animal life, including that of humans, ultimately depends.
      Approximately 30,000 edible plant species have been identified,
      of which more than 7,000 plant species have been used in the
      history of humanity to meet food needs (FAO 1998). At present,
      however, no more than 150 species are commercially cultivated
      and, of these, just 103 crops provide up to 90% of the calories
      in the human diet.2 Just four of these (rice, wheat, maize and
      potato) account for fully 60% of the human energy supply.3
          Prescott-Allen and Prescott-Allen 1990

    Amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus)
    at the INIA Research Station in
    Cuzco, Peru.

Almost all the efforts of the Green Revolution              extension services. In many areas these
                        from the 1960s through the 1980s focused                    crops are being lost altogether, along with a
                        on improving these major staple crops.                      wealth of traditional knowledge about their
                        However, from the perspective of sustainable                cultivation and uses.
                        food security, relying on such a narrow food
                        base makes our food supply extremely                        At the same time, pervasive malnutrition,
                        vulnerable. Basing our diet on a very small                 widespread poverty, degradation of
                        number of major crops has dire implications                 agroecosystems and the impacts of climate
                        for both food security and nutrition. The lack              change on agricultural production call
                        of genetic diversity within the genepools                   urgently for new efforts on neglected and
                        of these few crops leaves our agricultural                  minor crops, similar to those already being
                        systems vulnerable to pests and diseases,                   made in support of the primary food crops.
                        and to abiotic stress. In this inter-connected              It is becoming increasingly clear that bolder
                        world, a variation on the devastating Irish                 and more consistent action is needed to
                        potato famine of the nineteenth century                     broaden the food basket of the world by
                        could have far-reaching and disastrous                      supporting the development of traditional
                        consequences. Foretastes of what could                      crops marginalized by current research and
                        happen were experienced in the 1970s, when                  agricultural policies.
                        hybrid varieties of maize were shown to be
                        sensitive to leaf blight, in 1930 when a fungus             Internationally, there is rising interest in
                        damaged all taro cultivation in Samoa, and                  new foods and other products that can
                        in 1875 when a rust fungus devastated the                   contribute in novel ways to human health
                        coffee crop in Sri Lanka. A current global                  and nutrition. This interest can be exploited
                        threat to wheat production is stem rust. This               to develop markets for non-staple crops
                        aggressive and very destructive disease first               from which poor communities can benefit,
                        appeared in Uganda, but has spread through                  providing incentives for farmers to plant
                        the Middle East, destroying wheat crops. It                 these crops. Agriculture must go beyond the
                        is threatening wheat-producing countries                    Green Revolution technologies of the last
                        worldwide where resistant varieties are                     half century, which were based on genetic
                        lacking. To prevent this and other food crop                improvement and increased yields of the
                        calamities, there is clearly a need to maintain             staple crops, but at high external cost. While
                        diversity both within and between crops in our              these increases did allow countries to reduce
                        production systems.                                         hunger, they also resulted in inappropriate
                                                                                    and excessive use of agrochemicals, wasteful
                        As a consequence of the commercial                          use of water in inappropriate irrigation

                        advantages of mono cropping and the                         schemes, loss of beneficial biodiversity
                        high yield of many improved hybrid crops,                   (pollinators, soil fauna, etc.), water and soil
                        crop diversity – typified by local, traditional             pollution, and significantly reduced crop and
                        crop varieties and minor crops – is being                   varietal diversity.
                        neglected by agronomists as well as

                                                                 Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species   7
Black cumin (Nigella sativa)
    at the AREA Research
    Station in Dhamar, Yemen.

What are NUS?
                        Why are they important?
                        Agricultural species that are not among the major staple crops
                        often come under the heading of ‘neglected and underutilized
                        species’ (NUS) and are sometimes called ‘orphan’ crops.
                        The NUS concept applies to useul                 managed with traditional systems, use
                        plant species which are marginalized,            informal seed sources and involve a
                        if not entirely ignored, by researchers,         strong gender element. Their processing
                        breeders and policy makers. They are             can be laborious, grading and packaging
                        non-commodity crops and belong to a              primitive and the products marketed
                        large, biodiverse group of thousands of          locally with limited involvement of large
                        domesticated, semi-domesticated or wild          enterprises. Having long been neglected
                        species. They may be locally adapted             by mainstream agriculture for a variety of
                        minor crops as well as non-timber forest         agronomic, genetic, economic, social and
                        species. The designation ‘NUS’ is also           cultural reasons, today these crops are
                        fluid, as when a crop is simultaneously          receiving increasing recognition because
                        a well-established major crop in one             of their potential role in mitigating risk in
                        country and a neglected minor crop in            agricultural production systems. Over the
                        another. In some countries, moreover,            last ten years or so, an increasing number
                        agricultural statistics and research do          of projects have directed their attention
                        not distinguish between NUS and other            to the significance of NUS in improving
                        crops.                                           nutrition, generating income, maintaining
                                                                         ecosystem health and empowering the
                        NUS differ from staple crops in                  poor and marginalized, as well as in
                        fundamental ways. They tend to be                promoting cultural diversity.

                                                            Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species   9
Examples of NUS used for food from around the world4

                                                                                  Cereals and
          Roots and tubers
                                                                                  Einkorn (Triticum monococcum), emmer
          Yams (Dioscorea spp.), yacon (Smallanthus                               (T. dicoccon), spelt (T. spelta), tef (Eragrostis tef),
          sonchifolius), ulluco (Ullucus tuberosus),                              fonio (Digitaria exilis), cañihua (Chenopodium
          taro (Colocasia esculenta), arracacha                                   pallidicaule), finger millet (Eleusine coracana),
          (Arracacia xanthorriza), American yam                                   kodo millet (Paspalum scrobiculatum), foxtail
          bean (Pachyrhizus spp.), maca (Lepidium                                 millet (Setaria italic), little millet (Panicum
          meyenii), oca (Oxalis tuberosa), parsnip                                sumatrense), proso millet (Panicum miliaceum),
          (Pastinaca sativa), cocoyam (Xanthosoma                                 amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus), buckwheat
          sagittifolium)                                                          (Fagopyrum spp.), Job’s tears (Coix lacryma-jobi)

          Fruits and nuts
          Maya nut (Brosimum alicastrum), breadfruit                              carissa (Carissa edulis), coccinia (Coccinia
          (Artocarpus altilis), jackfruit (Artocarpus                             trilobata), acacia (Acacia toritilis), kei apple
          heterophyllus), baobab (Adansonia digitata),                            (Dovyalis caffra), tree grapes (Lamnea spp.),
          jujube (Ziziphus mauritiana), cherimoya (Annona                         medlars (Vanguera spp.), pitanga (Eugenia
          cherimola), cape gooseberry (Pysalis peruviana),                        uniflora), Malabar chestnut (Pachira aquatica),
          naranjilla (Solanum quitoense), pomegranate                             camu camu (Myrciaria dubia), dragon fruit
          (Punica granatum), noni (Morinda citrifolia),                           (Hylocereus spp.), Brazil nut (Bertholletia excels),
          marula (Sclerocarya birrea), tamarind (Tamarindus                       egg nut (Couepia longipendula), quince (Cydonia
          indica), Annona (Annona spp.), safou (Dacryodes                         oblonga), Yara Yara (Duguetia lepidota), Araza
          edulis), mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana),                              (Eugenia stipitata), lúcuma (Lucuma obovata),
          monkey orange (Strychnos cocculoides), salak                            miracle fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum)
          (Salacca spp.), nipa palm (Nypa fruticans), duku
          (Lansium domesticum), boscia (Boscia spp.),

             More can be found at

10   Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species
Moringa (Moringa oleifera), African eggplant                  (Solanum nigrum), ivy gourd (Coccinia grandis),
(Solanum aethiopicum), leaf amaranth                          gourd (Lagenaria siceraria), celosia (Celosia
(Amaranthus spp.), brassica (Brassica rapa                    argentea), dika (Irvingia spp.), egusi (Citrullus
varieties), locust bean (Parkia biglobosa),                   lanatus), marama (Tylosema esculentum),
winged bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus),                    shea butter (Vitellaria paradoxa), giant swamp
chayote (Sechium edule), chrysanthemum                        taro (Cyrtosperma merkusii), akoub (Gundelia
(Chrysanthemum coronarium), bitter gourd                      tournefortii), crambe (Crambe spp.), cardoon
(Momordica charantia), angle gourd (Luffa                     (Cynara cardunculus), eru (Gnetum africanum),
acutangula), snake gourd (Thrichosantes                       purslane (Portulaca oleracea), golden thistle
cucumerina var. anguina), Ceylon spinach                      (Scolymus hispanicus), bitter leaf (Vernonia
(Basella rubra), spider plant (Cleome gynandra),              amygdalina)
jute (Corchorus olitorius), black nightshade

                                                              Spice, condiment,
Legumes                                                       food dye agent
                                                              Makoni (Fadogia ancylantha), annatto
Mungbean (Vigna radiata), adzuki bean
                                                              (Bixa orellana), mustard seed (Brassica
(V. angularis), ricebean (V. umbellata), lupin
                                                              juncea), fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-
(Lupinus mutabilis), Bambara groundnut
                                                              graecum), pandan (Pandanus amaryllifolius),
(Vigna subterranea), jack bean (Canavalia
                                                              polygonum (Poligonum odoratum),
ensiformis), grasspea (Lathyrus sativus),
                                                              antidesma (Antidesma venosum), uer
lablab (Lablab purpureus), pigeon pea
                                                              (Lippia carviodora), rocket (Diplotaxis spp.),
(Cajanus cajan), African yam bean
                                                              caper (Capparis spinosa), monkey cola
(Sphenostylis stenocarpa), Kersting’s
                                                              (Cola lateritia), sea buckthorn (Hippophae
groundnut (Macrotyloma geocarpum)
                                                              rhamnoides), nigella (Nigella sativa)

                                           Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species   11
Farming families in poor rural areas                                    favour of a few commercially dominant
     consume NUS, use them for medicine and                                  crops and, in the process, forget
     to generate income. In many areas women                                 the accumulated knowledge of the
     are the main custodians of these crops                                  properties and uses of these traditional
     and the associated traditional knowledge;                               crops. Crucially, major crops dominate
     men in many cultures concentrate                                        national and international markets and
     on producing staple and commercial                                      government policies, to the detriment of
     crops, meaning NUS can be particularly                                  hundreds of other minor and local crops
     important for empowering women.                                         that together have huge significance. The
                                                                             underlying reasons for this may be as
     NUS offer tremendous opportunities                                      much political as economic. The frequent
     to all countries – regardless of their                                  result is that NUS are being lost at an
     development status – to: improve                                        alarming rate before they can be fully
     people’s diets and to strengthen the                                    characterized, researched and promoted.
     potential for income generation not
     only for farmers, but also for all the                                  Scientific efforts since the Green
     other actors engaged in the associated                                  Revolution have focused primarily on
     value chains. Their use also empowers                                   major crops and staples, to the neglect
     indigenous communities (women in                                        of local crop diversity and related
     particular), reaffirms people’s identity                                knowledge, culture and traditions.
     by placing a value on traditional food                                  Decades of policies biased towards
     and the associated culture, and makes                                   supporting major crops have contributed
     agricultural production systems more                                    to the marginalization of NUS, despite
     resilient in the face of climate change.                                their inherent important adaptive and
                                                                             pro-livelihood features. For these reasons,
                                                                             countries’ capacity for research on NUS is
     Neglected and                                                           generally weak (Rudebjer et al. 2013). The

     marginalized                                                            fact that governments provide subsidies
                                                                             only for major crops is an illustration of
     NUS often suffer from a negative image.                                 the political and economic neglect that
     Traditional crops or landraces, local                                   has plagued the development of NUS.
     varieties and wild relatives of crops may
     be deemed old-fashioned and associated                                  One consequence of the very limited
     with the rural poor, particularly in the                                research support for NUS has been
     eyes of newly urbanized populations in                                  a lack of crop improvement. Very few
     developing countries, who may prefer                                    NUS are improved but are traditional
     modern, exportable or imported food                                     varieties, landraces or ecotypes, or
     stuffs. And rural people themselves often                               are undomesticated, as in the case of
     scorn the crops of their ancestors in                                   NUS harvested directly from the wild.

12   Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species
These local crops are, therefore, largely
conserved not in genebanks, but in situ                      Kyanika Women’s
                                                             Group in Kitui, eastern
or on-farm, thanks to the work of millions
                                                             Kenya, conserves local
of farmers who maintain crop genetic                         landraces of beans and
diversity along with traditional knowledge,                  other crops.
often on small patches of land and in
home gardens. It is on these small farms
that work to conserve this valuable
genetic heritage must concentrate.

Food security and
resilience of food
Many NUS have the potential to
contribute to food security at local
and regional levels. In an increasingly
globalized and interdependent world,
eradicating hunger is a prerequisite for
peace and world security. If we are to

                                                                                                                                     Yusuf Wachira/Bioversity
feed 9,000 million people in 2050 in a
sustainable way, while at the same time
protecting the environment, providing
healthy and nutritious food for all, and
enhancing the livelihoods of farmers, we
need more diverse agricultural and food

At the national level, NUS can strengthen                 Scientific efforts since the Green
a country’s food and buffer economic                     Revolution have focused primarily
and social shocks that might hit the                        on major crops and staples, to
population as a result of concentrating
on fewer and fewer crops. Often known
                                                         the neglect of local crop diversity
as ‘famine food’, farmers have returned                        and associated knowledge,
to and relied on NUS throughout history                               culture and traditions.
whenever major staple crops have failed.
NUS can also provide a safety net during
periods of stress and following disasters

                                           Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species   13
and other emergencies. This was

                                                                                                 demonstrated in several Asian countries
                                                                                                 following the 2004 tsunami and in West
                                                                                                 Africa and other regions following war
                                                                                                 and civil strife.

                                                                                                 Although NUS characteristically have
                                                                                                 lower yields than the main staple crops,
                                                                                                 they often compensate for this by being
                                                                                                 more resistant to biotic challenges
                                                                                                 and providing dependable harvests in
                                                                                                 unfavourable climatic conditions or on
                                                                                                 difficult soils. This adaptive capacity
                                                                                                 is one of the key traits of many NUS.
Student practicing their interviewing
                                                                                                 They are often grown in poor areas
skills: nutrition survey in Benin.
                                                                                                 where difficult agroecological conditions
                                                                                                 predominate, and where smallholder
                                                                                                 farmers do not have the means to adopt
                                                                                                 the high-input agricultural practices
                                                                                                 geared to major staple crops. Farmers
                                                                                                 maintain high levels of traditional varietal
             The relationship between crop                                                       diversity. This provides insurance
                  diversity, dietary diversity,                                                  since traditional varieties are often
                                                                                                 best adapted to marginal ecosystems
               nutrition and health remains                                                      and heterogeneous environments, and
          complex and the subject of many,                                                       the most resistant to local pests and
                   often conflicting studies.                                                    diseases.

                                                                                                 The erosion of agricultural diversity,
                                                                                                 especially of NUS, thus has serious
                                                                                                 implications for agriculture – the loss of
                                                                                                 resilience in the face of climate change,
                                                                                                 social and economic shocks and less
                                                                                                 ecosystem functionality. Enhancing
                                                                                                 diversity by growing alternative food
                                                                                                 and forage crops will not only diversify
                                                                                                 agroecosystems, but will also improve
                                                                                                 their adaptability to extreme climatic
                                                                                                 conditions and provide resilience to biotic

 14       Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species
and abiotic stresses (Padulosi et al. 2002).       NUS in food security and resilient food
In addition, forests and forest biodiversity       systems, since crop diversification is one
provide environmental services, such as            of the best ways to ensure sustainable
clean water and carbon sequestration.              agricultural production systems. This, in
                                                   turn, calls for more reliable seed systems
Examples of these functions have been              that allow farmers to exploit the abiotic
recorded in all regions of the world.              resistance traits to be found in many
Padulosi et al. (2009) reported that minor         NUS.
millets in India, because they have a
short biological cycle and an efficient root
system, have a comparative advantage               NUS and nutrition
where water is scarce and rainfall is low.         In the Green Revolution and the decades
This, plus the fact that they offer modest         that followed, the focus of agricultural
yields from marginal/poor soils with low           research was on increasing crop yields
inputs, has made them important in                 to ensure adequate calories for people
mountain, tribal and hill agriculture. In          who would otherwise have gone
Sahelian Africa, diversity in traditional          hungry. However, less attention was
varieties of sorghum and pearl millet              given to nutritional quality – providing
appear to have been an important                   a sufficient quantity of food trumped
component of the survival strategies of            providing nutritious food. As a result,
poor farmers over the 20-year period               diets deficient in essential vitamins and
of drought in Niger and Mali (from the             micro-nutrients still persist in many parts
mid 1980s). Diversity was maintained,              of the world. Of the world’s estimated
traditional varieties adapted to changing          7,000 million people, 500 million still
environmental conditions and there was             suffer from protein-energy malnutrition,
an increase in early maturing types.               but over 1,600 million suffer from iron
(Kahane et al. 2012). In many areas, NUS           deficiency, over 200 million from vitamin
play an important role in resistance to            A insufficiency (WHO 2008, 2009)
pests and diseases. They are likely to be          and it has been estimated that over
increasingly important in strategies to            400,000 children die each year from
limit damage by pests and diseases, as             effects directly related to zinc deficiency
farmers recognize that crop diversification        (HarvestPlus 2011). Underutilized crops
can reduce the frequency and severity of           provide essential micro-nutrients and thus
epidemics.                                         complement staple foods. Additionally,
                                                   NUS provide flavouring in local cuisine,
Examples such as these, combined with              strengthen local gastronomic traditions
growing concerns over climate change               and provide income opportunities for
and its impact on agriculture, contribute          both the rural and urban poor. Many NUS
to a better appreciation of the role of            are high in carotenoids and minerals and

                                      Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species   15
therefore could play a role in helping to                               species have not yet been adequately
     improve the micro-nutrient content in                                   researched, marketed or improved by
     the diets of millions of people around the                              plant breeding.
                                                                             In countries where urbanization is
     Strategies based on diverse local                                       changing the ways of life, green
     food crops can provide a valuable and                                   vegetables and fresh fruits are often given
     sustainable complement to other means                                   pejorative labels, and are considered
     of tackling malnutrition. It is widely                                  to be the food of the poor or suitable
     accepted that increased consumption of                                  only for women and children. In many of
     locally available indigenous or traditional                             these countries, researchers find micro-
     fruits, vegetables, grains, roots and                                   nutrient deficiencies in populations that
     tubers can improve nutrition and increase                               have achieved sufficient caloric levels
                                                                             to remove them from the ranks of the
                                                                             hungry. Increased consumption of NUS of
     The transition from traditional                                         fruit and vegetables could help address
     diets based on local foods to a                                         such deficiencies.

     ‘Western-style’ diet, high in fats,
                                                                             The transition from traditional diets
     salt, sugar and processed foods,                                        based on local foods to a ‘Western-
     increases the incidence of non-                                         style’ diet, high in fats, salt, sugar and
     communicable diseases, such as                                          processed foods, increases the incidence
                                                                             of non-communicable diseases, such
     diabetes, obesity, heart disease
                                                                             as diabetes, obesity, heart disease
     and certain types of cancer.                                            and certain types of cancer. This trend
                                                                             is global, but is particularly worrying
     human productivity (Bala Ravi et al.                                    when combined with poor micro-
     2006; Smith and Longvah 2009; Frison                                    nutrition. This ‘hidden hunger’ – enough
     et al. 2011; Mayes et al. 2011; Kahane                                  calories, but insufficient vitamins and
     et al 2012). However, for many people in                                minerals – affects both developed and
     developing countries fruit and vegetables                               developing countries, but is increasingly
     are difficult to find and afford (Ruel et al.                           evident in sub-Saharan Africa and
     2005), and while fortified food products                                South Asia. NUS can be effective in
     and increased consumption of fish and                                   curbing both food insecurity and hidden
     animal products are effective means of                                  hunger, and are particularly useful in
     addressing some nutrient deficiencies,                                  improving diets which are too rich in
     these products are often out of reach                                   refined carbohydrates and fats. NUS
     for the poorest in society. In addition,                                offer opportunities to enrich diets with
     many locally available fruit and vegetable                              healthier food (particularly legumes, fruits

16   Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species
and vegetables) in ways that reflect food
culture, besides contributing to making
meals more interesting.

The relationship between crop diversity,
dietary diversity, nutrition and health is
complex and is the subject of many, often
conflicting, studies. One study, carried

out in Kenya by Bioversity International,
Save the Children UK and the National
                                                     Fruits of the strawberry
Museums of Kenya, examined the role                  tree (Arbutus unedo) on
of wild NUS in reducing the cost of a                sale at a local market in
nutritionally adequate diet. The study               Rome, Italy.

found that adding wild foods to the
diet not only lowered the cost, but also
helped meet micro-nutrient requirements,          commercially competitive by developing
especially for iron, in women and in              improved ‘modern’ varieties. Poor
children between one and two years of             competitiveness also stems from lack of
age. It is unlikely that poor households          capacity in poor rural areas to negotiate
would be able to afford a nutritionally           with the private sector to access the new
balanced diet without wild foods. Wild            technologies and markets which would
foods and other NUS, especially those             increase the potential demand for these
which are locally available and culturally        local crops.
acceptable, would thus seem to be ideally
placed to play a much greater role in             Several studies and projects have
improving nutrition and health (Kahane et         highlighted the consistent contribution
al. 2012).                                        of NUS to generating income in both
                                                  domestic and international markets
                                                  (Asaha et al. 2000; Mwangi and Kimathi
NUS, income and                                   2006; Chadha and Oluoch 2007;
livelihoods                                       Joordan et al. 2007; Rojas et al. 2009).
                                                  In India, for example, adding value to
Higher incomes for small-scale farmers            little millet enhanced farmers’ incomes
and entrepreneurs are often quoted as             three-fold and generated employment
one of the benefits of improving the              in villages – particularly for women. This
production and quality of NUS, especially         also enhanced women’s social status
high-value crops, such as local fruits and        and self-esteem (Vijayalakshmi et al.
vegetables. Strategic interventions to            2010). Internationally, there is a rising
that end will involve making NUS more             interest in new foods and other products

                                     Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species   17
which can contribute in novel ways to                                   and are willing to pay for products that
     human health and nutrition. This interest                               support diversity. Higher-value niche
     can be exploited to develop markets                                     markets can be developed through
     for non-staple crops from which poor                                    strategic placements of NUS in large
     communities can benefit, if promotion                                   commercial outlets, such as supermarkets
     takes the right approaches. Promoting                                   catering to urban populations and the
     niche markets through denomination                                      developing middle-classes. Training
     of origin (DO), eco-labelling, fair trade,                              stakeholders in value chain development
     organic, and Slow Food initiatives                                      is important, as is increasing the
     (Kahane et al. 2012) may be particularly                                availability of credit to small producers
     useful.                                                                 and micro-processors. Training will need
                                                                             to be broad and cover areas such as
     Marketing another category of NUS, non-                                 processing, packaging, bookkeeping,
     timber forest products (NTFP), received                                 economies of scale, accessing market
     considerable attention as a strategy to                                 information (e.g. through channels such
     alleviate poverty in forest margin or forest                            as text messaging on mobile phones),
     dwelling communities, particularly during                               negotiating with different actors and
     the 1990s. Because most NTFP have low                                   learning how to respond to market
     cash values and are consumed within                                     changes (Kahane et al. 2012).
     communities rather than offered for sale,
     they provide food, dietary supplements
     or income in times of shortage and are an                               Cultural identity
     important safety net. A few NTFP already
     have a commercial value, contribute                                     Increasingly it is being recognized that
     significantly to rural cash incomes and                                 traditional food systems are intertwined
     are entry points for rural development                                  with the cultural identity of indigenous
     strategies (Wollenberg and Belcher 2001).                               peoples. Their knowledge of local
     These include rattan and bamboo, resins,                                ecosystems and food sources has
     various fruits and nuts, and medicinal                                  evolved over generations. It is becoming
     plants. The FAO, a global leader in                                     clear that conserving traditional food
     promoting the sustainable use of NTFP,                                  systems is a powerful way to contribute
     estimated that 80% of the populations of                                toward saving local ecosystems and
     developing countries use NTFP to meet                                   food sources as well. While modern
     their needs in health and nutrition (FAO                                agriculture has succeeded in increasing
     1998).                                                                  the yields of staple crops to feed a
                                                                             burgeoning world population, at the same
     Local, national and global markets will                                 time there have been some unintended
     be effective in supporting diversity only if                            consequences with regard to the food
     consumers are educated about diversity                                  systems of traditional, indigenous

18   Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species
farming systems in many regions of the               Support to seed systems for traditional
world. Indigenous populations, those                 crops is also a priority for many
who “… retain knowledge of the land                  programmes initiated by international
and food resources rooted in historical              aid and scientific organizations. Many
continuity …” (Kuhnlein 2009) have often             activities focus on the women in the
faced problems of extreme poverty,                   communities, as women often play key
discrimination and marginalization. These            roles in cultivating, gathering, preparing
problems are accompanied by the loss                 and storing foods as well as in managing
of the cultural and traditional knowledge            the family diet. Often the objective of
associated with their foods and lifestyles           these activities is to increase the self-
and in many cases by the disappearance               esteem of women and to introduce
of the crops themselves. As Kuhnlein                 ways of “… lightening the burden of
(2009) has noted, “… traditional food                food preparation methods by including
systems … touch the full spectrum of                 food scientists and engineers in project
life in ways that modern food systems                intervention plans.” (Kuhnhein 2009).
do not.” Increasingly sophisticated
agricultural technologies have “… led to
                                                     The conservation of traditional food
great disconnections between people and
                                                     systems is important among the migrant
their food.”
                                                     groups that characterize modern
                                                     societies. Many migrants are from
Because of the benefits traditional food
                                                     traditional rural communities where off-
systems offer in terms of physical health
                                                     farm labour is an important component
and the continuity of cultures, many
                                                     of livelihoods and causes individuals to
indigenous groups are actively finding
                                                     leave their home villages and regions
ways to combat the loss of their food
                                                     in search of work. When transferred to
heritage and their sense of ‘connection to
                                                     urban areas, having access to traditional
the land’. These efforts include stemming
                                                     foods and methods of preparation is
the loss of the agricultural biodiversity
                                                     important in maintaining a connection
on which food systems are based and
                                                     with the migrants’ cultural roots and
conserving the local ecosystems on
                                                     in fostering cohesion among fellow
which generations of people have based
their patterns of living and their traditional
cultures. Also of critical importance
are the many ongoing attempts to
document, before it is lost, the indigenous
knowledge of local plant foods, including
their growth requirements, storage and
other post-harvest needs and methods of
food preparation.

                                        Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species   19
The Museve women’s group:
     a partner in Bioversity’s
     African Leafy Vegetable
     Project, Kenya.

Status of NUS around the world
                      Bioversity International recently examined the status of NUS
                      around the world and the trends in use and conservation based
                      on the Second Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic
                      Resources for Food and Agriculture (FAO 2010) and official
                      country reports.
                      While the importance of NUS is not                Bangladesh and China. Countries that
                      clear in some countries, including many           report good use of NUS include India,
                      European ones, the analysis concluded             Malaysia, Nepal and the Philippines. NUS
                      that they are increasingly considered             are moderately used in Indonesia, Papua
                      of high to medium importance in most              New Guinea and Sri Lanka. To illustrate
                      countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin            the wide range of NUS uses around
                      America and South and East Asia. Less             the world, several boxes in this section
                      than 15% of all countries surveyed                (Boxes 1-5) summarize their economic,
                      accorded them low importance. The                 nutritional and social uses in sub-Saharan
                      status of the conservation of these               Africa, Latin America, Europe and western
                      species is unclear or poor in many                Asia.
                      countries. Only a quarter of the countries
                      surveyed worldwide reported a good
                      conservation status of NUS.
                                                                        Sub-Saharan Africa
                                                                        In the Côte d’Ivoire a considerable variety
                      The use of NUS as sources of food,                of minor leafy vegetables, legumes
                      medicine, construction materials and              and vegetable crops are used for their
                      export income is well developed in many           appreciated rich nutritional content. In
                      countries worldwide. In Asia and the              Ghana several minor forest and timber
                      Pacific, for example, 10 countries out of         species are gathered from the wild for

                      19 report intensive use of NUS, although          economic development programmes
                      use appears to be decreasing in both              focusing on housing construction,

                                                           Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species   21
sword beans (Canavalia ensiformis) are
          Box 1:                                                             common food crops. In East Africa, the

          Status of NUS in the                                               value of nutritious leafy green vegetables
                                                                             is increasingly recognized. In Uganda,
          Philippines                                                        despite neglect by agricultural research
                                                                             and development programmes, poor
          In the Philippines, important policies                             communities continue to grow and
          and projects relating to NUS have been                             market minor species such as
          implemented over the last ten years.
          Agricultural statistics released by
          the Philippine Bureau of Agricultural
          Statistics have listed and classified
          the following vegetables and legumes                                     Box 2:
          as minor: asparagus, broccoli, carrots,
          cauliflower, ginger, gourd, common (field)                               Status of NUS in
          bean, lettuce, okra, Chinese cabbage                                     Uganda
          and pak choi. In 2004, 36,354 ha were
          devoted to these crops and production
          was 351,304 tonne. A base collection                                     Most NUS used at the local level in
          was established for seed crops. The                                      Uganda lack documentation that
          base collection for coconut species,                                     identifies varieties, but the process of
          including minor ones, is maintained by                                   retrieving this information from farmers
          the Philippine Coconut Authority, sweet                                  and recording it is now underway. The
          potato by the Philippine Root Crop                                       ethno-botanic surveys so far undertaken
          Research and Training Center and Manila                                  show that NUS plant diversity, both
          hemp by the National Abaca Research                                      wild and cultivated, has contributed
          Center.                                                                  different nutritional components to
                                                                                   people’s diets at low cost. Many local
                                                                                   groups have prepared public awareness
                                                                                   materials which have been extremely
                                                                                   well-received, especially at annual
     furniture and export. NUS also provide                                        agricultural shows. Television viewers
     food and are exploited for ornamental                                         have been exposed to the issues that
     and medicinal use, generating significant                                     underline the value of NUS and how
                                                                                   these relate to the management of
     income for some populations in West
                                                                                   natural vegetation and environmental
     Africa. The use of some NUS is also
                                                                                   degradation. CONVOL, an American NGO,
     significant in Malawi, particularly with                                      has promoted the commercialization of
     regard to Bambara groundnut (Vigna                                            Shea butter (Vitellaria paradoxa subsp.
     subterranea), sorghum, finger millets and                                     nilotica) in the northern, northeast and
     pearl millets. In Nigeria, NUS such as                                        northwest districts (Lira, Gulu, Katakwi,
                                                                                   Arua, etc.), in particular by empowering
     fonio (Digitaria exilis, D. iburua), Ethiopian
                                                                                   women processors and fruit gatherers.
     tef (Eragrotis tef), lima beans (Phaseolus
     lunatus), pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan) and

22   Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species
Vigna subterranea, Crotalaria spp. and
Solanum nigrum. Zimbabwe reports
significant use of NUS, especially finger
and pearl millets.

Latin America
The uses of NUS in Bolivia are diverse
and rely on indigenous knowledge. They
are used for food, drinks, spices and
condiments, stimulants (Erythroxylum
coca), textiles, construction and
medicines. NUS are also heavily used
in Brazil as food and spices, as forage
and timber, as well as for medicines.
NUS generate income for Brazilian
communities through the sale of
products from palm trees. In Chile,

NUS are important sources of food
and medicines, and are also used for
industrial purposes. In Cuba they are                   Farmer Enoc Inocente introduces
                                                        food entrepreneur Fernando Dávila,
essential for animal forage, human
                                                        of the “Pepperes” company, to
food, drinks, condiments, medicinal and                 chilli varieties on his farm in Peru.
ornamental purposes, timber, insecticides
and in religious and cultural ceremonies
as ‘magic’ plants. In Guatemala, NUS are
valued in human nutrition and for their
medicinal properties. They also provide                     While NUS are increasingly
timber that generates income from                          recognized as an important
international trade. Jamaica NUS supply
                                                               component of diets and
the domestic market with food, timber
and aromatic, medicinal and ornamental
                                                      livelihoods in many countries in
plants. Jamaica also has established                    every region of the world, they
international markets for aromatic plants,          continue to languish as untapped
root tonics and cosmetic products based
                                                          resources in many countries
on NUS. Over the last ten years, Peru
has placed great emphasis on using the
                                                        most in need of their benefits.
significant diversity and variability of
NUS, particularly of the many Solanum

                                      Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species   23
varieties. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
          Box 3:                                                             use NUS as food and medicinal plants,

          Status of NUS                                                      and export herbal remedies derived from
                                                                             NUS. In Trinidad and Tobago, NUS are
          in Brazil                                                          used mainly for nutritional purposes and,
                                                                             therefore, contribute to food security. In
          Thanks, in large part, to the introduction                         Venezuela only a few NUS species, such
          of irrigation for NUS and major crops,                             as celery, yam and Chinese taro, are
          Brazil is currently undergoing strong
                                                                             widely used.
          economic growth. Brazil has also been
          taking important measures to expand
          knowledge of its genetic resources,
          including NUS. Local communities                                   Europe
          have taken some steps in on-farm
                                                                             In Georgia, there is significant (although
          management of genetic resources
          through joint initiatives with the                                 decreasing) use of NUS for domestic
          Ministry of Agricultural Development.                              consumption and also for sale (income
          Innovative work has been carried out                               generation). While NUS are used primarily
          by the Brazilian agricultural research                             for food in Germany, in Poland they are
          organization (EMBRAPA – Empresa                                    mainly used for medicinal and aromatic
          Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária)
                                                                             products. NUS have multiple uses
          and the Ministry of the Environment in
          mapping NUS for food, agriculture and                              in Romania, and in the Ukraine they
          biomedicine. Mapping the occurrence of                             are used for domestic consumption,
          native species and wild relatives is also                          commercial purposes and breeding
          planned. Significant progress has been                             programmes.
          made in the molecular characterization
          of NUS. The country has made great
          efforts to implement the Convention
          on Biological Diversity. Recent decisive
                                                                             Western Asia
          actions include expanding legal                                    Good use is made of NUS in Pakistan,
          protection for biodiversity conservation                           as food or for generating income, and
          areas, fostering the sustainable use of
                                                                             in Turkey, for food security, healthy
          genetic resources, which include NUS
                                                                             nutrition, generating income and,
          resources, and advances in the adoption
          of policies giving access to and sharing                           therefore, reducing poverty. Moderate
          benefits derived from the use of these                             and decreasing use is made of NUS
          resources.                                                         in Yemen but little use is reported in
                                                                             Uzbekistan. The use of NUS is not clear
                                                                             in the other countries in the region. In the
                                                                             face of challenges to the conservation
                                                                             and use of NUS, research institutions

24   Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species
and governments are beginning to
recognize opportunities for change, and                        Box 5:
to implement activities and policies to
protect and promote NUS. In countries as
                                                               Status of NUS in
varied as Kenya, Bolivia, Jamaica, Laos                        Pakistan
and Poland attention is being given to the
opportunities offered by minor medicinal                       In Pakistan, significant progress has
plants for generating income, alternative                      been made in collecting and conserving
healthcare and combating environmental                         germplasm. Since 1996 this has
                                                               included mapping, collecting and
                                                               conserving NUS. An important step in
                                                               the ex situ conservation of plant genetic
                                                               resources was the establishment
                                                               of the National Programme on the
   Box 4:                                                      Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources
                                                               at the National Agricultural Research
   Status of NUS in                                            Centre in Islamabad. This institution
   Azerbaijan                                                  has been able to conserve more than
                                                               23,000 accessions of various crops,
                                                               including minor and medicinal plants.
   In Azerbaijan, economic policy in the                       The programme is presently executing
   agrarian sector is reflected in a number                    two projects funded by Southampton
   of laws, including on the Food Security                     University and the Agriculture Linkage
   Programme, the State Programme                              Programme of the Pakistan Agricultural
   on Poverty Reduction and Economic                           Research Council. These projects are
   Development, and the State Programme                        concerned mainly with the collection and
   for Development of Small and Medium                         characterization of NUS germplasm.
   Entrepreneurship. More than 100
   laws, decrees, orders, decisions and
   other legal documents were adopted
                                                         While NUS are increasingly recognized
   1995-2006, although none specifically
   addressed NUS. Plans are in place                     as an important component of diets and
   to explore the current state of wild                  livelihoods in many countries in every
   plant diversity and the distribution of               region of the world, they continue to
   rare, endemic plants threatened with                  languish as untapped resources in many
   extinction nationwide using geographic                countries most in need of their benefits.
   information systems (GIS). The results
                                                         This means that governments, scientists
   will contribute to models and systems
   for the evaluation of the status of wild              and farmers all have roles to play in
   crop ancestors and relatives, and the                 conserving and developing these crops
   status of other wild plants used for food,            which are so valuable for the future of
   as well as to make recommendations for                humankind.
   the elimination of threats to biodiversity.

                                            Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species   25
Seller of leafy vegetables in
     a market in Cairo, Egypt.

Stories of impact
           Investing in NUS pays off. The number of programmes
           to upgrade value chains and conserve NUS, disseminate
           information about NUS, provide financial and political support
           for NUS research, and use diverse media to publicize the
           benefits of NUS is growing.
           This demonstrates a mounting                       as amaranth, pumpkin leaves and African
           conviction on the part of donor agencies,          nightshade contain valuable minerals and
           governments, scientists and farmers                vitamins6. Vegetables eaten in rural Africa
           that promoting and conserving NUS can              which are collected rather than grown,
           make a significant difference to people’s          such as Cleome gynandra, the African
           livelihoods, and help fight poverty, hunger        spider flower plant, are even richer in iron,
           and malnutrition.                                  zinc and β-carotene7. Considering the
                                                              hundreds of wild and cultivated species
           Improving food and nutrition security:             of leafy vegetables in Africa, the scope for
           NUS are proven to be strategic allies              improving nutritional security by making
           in fighting food and nutrition insecurity,         more use of these species is huge.
           including hidden hunger in Burkina Faso5,
           highly nutritious fruits, such as Diospyros        Building resilience: Furthermore, NUS
           mespiliformis (jackalberry), Balanites             play an important part in building resilient
           aegyptica (desert date or soap berry               production systems. For example, the
           tree) and Ziziphus mauritania (jujube),            Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea),
           are eaten regularly. The fruits play an            a highly nutritious legume originating
           important part in local diets, providing           from West Africa and grown throughout
           minerals, vitamins, sugar, and minor               sub-Saharan Africa, is also drought
           proteins and lipids. Leafy vegetables such         tolerant. Other drought-tolerant NUS

               Lamien et al. 2009                             6
                                                                  Ogle and Grivetti 1995; Lyimo et al. 2003
                                                                  Msuya et al. 2009

                                                 Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species   27
Box 6:
     The IFAD NUS Project

     A 10-year project funded by IFAD and                                   Andean grain processors by around Bolivia
     coordinated by Bioversity International                                Bolivano 8,700/per tonne (about USD 1,259/
     provides examples of how NUS have become                               per tonne) for cañahua and Bolivia Bolivano
     important in generating income for the poor.                           4,500/per tonne (approximately USD 650/
     In India, local entrepreneurs who added value                          per tonne) for amaranth. The higher returns
     to minor millets by producing quick-moving,                            make these crops more attractive to everyone
     nutritious millet products derived net incomes                         along the value chain, including small-scale
     ranging from Indian Rupees 15,000 to 45,250                            farmers.
     (about USD 300 to 950) per tonne. Apart from
     enhancing entrepreneurs’ incomes, this also                            Partnering with the private sector also pays
     created work, particularly for women, at the                           off. A joint venture, between the project in
     rate of 140 to 300 person-days per tonne of                            Bolivia and the coffee-shop chain Alexander
     grain.                                                                 Coffee, helped popularize new snacks and
                                                                            recipes made from cañahua and amaranth
     In India and Nepal, NUS have played a                                  flour among urban dwellers. The popularity
     prominent role in empowering women, and                                of the new products established sustainable,
     boosting their self-esteem and self-confidence.                        long-term horizontal and vertical links along
     Other countries involved in the project – Yemen                        the value chain and had positive impacts on
     and Latin American countries – have seen                               the poor rural farming communities around
     similar results.                                                       Lake Titicaca which grow these NUS.

     In Bolivia, technology introduced through the                          (Padulosi et al. 2013). See also the IFAD video
     project contributed to raising incomes among                 

     are the minor millets, a group of coarse                                Generating income: NUS show potential
     cereals used particularly in South Asia                                 in both domestic and international
     that are also nutritionally important.                                  markets. Several studies and projects,
     Cañahua (Chenopodium pallidicaule), an                                  including the IFAD NUS Project (Box 6),
     underutilized Andean grain, is remarkably                               have demonstrated this. Another project
     frost tolerant compared with quinoa                                     supported by IFAD, the Oxfam-Italia
     (Chenopodium quinoa), a widely grown                                    Project, promoted and commercialized
     Andean grain.                                                           NUS. The project had positive effects

28   Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition with Neglected and Underutilized Species
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