Diversifying Food and Diets : Using Agricultural Biodiversity to Improve Nutrition and Health book cover
1st Edition

Diversifying Food and Diets
Using Agricultural Biodiversity to Improve Nutrition and Health

ISBN 9781849714570
Published May 28, 2013 by Routledge
400 Pages 90 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Currently 868 million people are undernourished and 195 million children under five years of age are stunted. At the same time, over 1 billion people are overweight and obese in both the developed and developing world. Diseases previously associated with affluence, such as cancer, diabetes and cardio-vascular disease, are on the rise. Food system-based approaches to addressing these problems that could enhance food availability and diet quality through local production and agricultural biodiversity often fall outside the traditional scope of nutrition, and have been under-researched. As a consequence, there remains insufficient evidence to support well-defined, scalable agricultural biodiversity interventions that can be linked to improvements in nutrition outcomes.

Agricultural biodiversity is important for food and nutritional security, as a safeguard against hunger, a source of nutrients for improved dietary diversity and quality, and strengthening local food systems and environmental sustainability. This book explores the current state of knowledge on the role of agricultural biodiversity in improving diets, nutrition and food security. Using examples and case studies from around the globe, the book explores current strategies for improving nutrition and diets and identifies key research and implementation gaps that need to be addressed to successfully promote the better use of agricultural biodiversity for rural and urban populations and societies in transition.

Table of Contents


Braulio Dias (Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity) 


Olivier De Schutter (United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food) 


Emile Frison (Director General, Bioversity International) and Barbara Burlingame (Principal Officer, Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO) 

Introduction: Agricultural Biodiversity, Diverse Diets and Improving Nutrition 

Danny Hunter (Bioversity International) and Jessica Fanzo (World Food Programme - WFP) 

Part 1: The State of Agricultural Biodiversity and Nutrition – Overviews, Models and Themes

1. Harnessing Biodiversity: from Diets to Landscapes 

Fabrice DeClerck (Bioversity International) 

2. Overview of Agricultural Biodiversity and its Importance to Nutrition and Health 

Vernon H. Heywood (School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading) 

3. The Role of Livestock and Livestock Diversity in Sustainable Diets  

Irene Hoffmann and Roswitha Baumung (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – FAO) 

4. Valuing Aquatic Biodiversity in Agricultural Landscapes  

Matthias Halwart (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations –FAO) 

Part 2: Creating an Enabling Environment  

5. Lessons from Sub-Saharan Africa – Delivery Mechanisms for Mobilizing Agricultural Biodiversity for Improved Food and Nutrition Security 

Hervé B. D. Bisseleua and Amadou Ibra Niang (The MDG Centre - West and Central Africa) 

6. Sustained and Integrated Promotion of Local, Traditional Food Systems for Nutrition Security 

Ifeyironwa Francisca Smith (Lanrify Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Consulting Inc.) 

7. Linking Biodiversity and Nutrition: Research Methodologies 

Roseline Remans and Sean Smukler (The Earth Institute at Columbia University and the University of British Columbia) 

8. Successes and Pitfalls of Linking Nutritionally Promising Andean Crops to Markets

Michael Hermann (Crops for the Future) 

9. Biodiversity’s Contribution to Dietary Diversity: Magnitude, Meaning and Measurement 

Peter R. Berti (HealthBridge) and Andrew D. Jones (Cornell University) 

10. "Opening a can of Mopane Worms?" : Can Cross-Sectoral Partnerships Leverage Agricultural Biodiversity for Better Quality Diets? 

Margaret McEwan, Gordon Prain (International Potato Center – CIP) and Danny Hunter (Bioversity International) 

Part 3: Case Studies: Agricultural Biodiversity and Food Based Approaches to Improving Nutrition 

Case Study 1. Traditional Foods of the Pacific: Go Local, a Case Study in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia 

Lois Englberger and Eminher Johnson (Island Food Community of Pohnpei) 

Case Study 2. The Role of Integrated Homegardens and Local, Neglected and Underutilized Plant Species in Food Security in Nepal and Meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 

Roshan Pudasaini (LI-BIRD), Sajal Sthapit (LI-BIRD), Rojee Suwal (LI-BIRD) and Bhuwon Sthapit (Bioversity International) 

Case Study 3. Diversity of Indigenous Fruit Trees and their Contribution to Nutrition and Livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa: Examples from Kenya and Cameroon 

Katja Kehlenbeck, Ebenezar Asaah and Ramni Jamnadass (World Agroforestry Centre – ICRAF) 

Case Study 4. Fish Diversity and Fish Consumption in Bangladesh 

Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted (The WorldFish Center) 

Case Study 5. The Introduction of Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) in Mozambican Diets: A Marginal Change to Make a Major Difference 

Jan Low, Ricardo Labarta, Maria Andrade, and Mary Arimond (University of California Davis) 

Case Study 6. Diversifying Diets: Using Indigenous Vegetables to Improve Profitability, Nutrition and Health in Africa 

C. Ojiewo, A. Tenkouano, J. d’A. Hughes and J.D.H. Keatinge (AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center) 

Case Study 7. Diversifying Diets: Using Agricultural Biodiversity to Improve Nutrition and Health in Asia 

Jennifer Nielsen, Nancy Haselow, Akoto Osei and Zaman Talukder (Helen Keller International) 

Case Study 8. Minor Millets in India: A Neglected Crop goes Mainstream 

Nadia Bergamini, Stefano Padulosi (Bioversity International), S. Bala Ravi (MSSRF, India) and Nirmala Yenagi (University of Dharward, India) 

Case Study 9. Local Food and Dietary Diversity: Farmers Markets and Community Gardens in Melbourne, Australia 

Kelly Donati, Christopher Taylor and Craig Pearson (University of Melbourne) 

Case Study 10. "Please Pick Me" – How Incredible Edible Todmorden is Repurposing the Commons for Open Source Food and Agricultural Biodiversity 

John Paull (University of Oxford) 

Case Study 11. Cultivating Health with Leafy Vegetables in Coastal Tanzania 

Petra Bakewell-Stone (University of Kent) 

Case Study 12. The Food Acquisition Programme in Brazil: Contributions to Biodiversity, Food Security and Nutrition 

Catia Grisa and Claudia Job Schmitt (Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro – CPDA/UFRRJ)

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Jessica Fanzo was formerly a Senior Scientist with Bioversity International and is now an Associate Professor of Nutrition at Columbia University in New York. 

Danny Hunter is the Global Project Coordinator at Bioversity International for the UNEP/FAO/GEF project ‘Mainstreaming biodiversity conservation and sustainable use for improved human nutrition and wellbeing’ and Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Agriculture and Wine Sciences, Charles Sturt Univeristy, Australia. 

Teresa Borelli is a Programme Specialist at Bioversity International working for the UNEP/FAO/GEF project ‘Mainstreaming biodiversity conservation and sustainable use for improved human nutrition and wellbeing’. 

Federico Mattei was formerly a Programme Specialist in the Nutrition and Marketing division at Bioversity International in Rome.


"At a time where fortification is widely promoted as the most effective solution to address micro-nutrient deficiencies, this book serves as an important reminder that nature provides an almost infinite variety of food species which are disregarded and therefore pushed into oblivion and extinction by the prevailing food production system. It is urgent to remind policy makers that agriculture is primarily about using natural resources to feed people. Sustainable development will only happen if we manage such resources in a sustainable way, building on local cultures, protecting and strengthening livelihoods, and ensuring good nutrition and health." – Florence Egal, Food Security, Nutrition and Livelihoods, Nutrition Division, FAO 

"This book is important and deserves a wide readership. Only once governments are convinced of the importance of agricultural biodiversity, shall they implement the policies that are urgently required to move away from the direction of agricultural development that is dominant today – one that favors uniformity over diversity, top-down research and development on new crops rather than bottom-up and participatory approaches, and monocropping over integrated farming systems." – From the foreword by Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food 

"I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the authors and partner organizations on this milestone publication. Their work offers a comprehensive summary of contemporary information and good practices, identifies gaps in research and provides insight on potential opportunities for a variety of policy options. I look forward to more sustainable management of biodiversity in all ecosystems, but particularly in agricultural ecosystems, where we can truly achieve a healthy partnership between people and the planet." From the foreword by Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Convention on Biological Diversity

"This new book by researchers from Bioversity International explores the current state of knowledge on the role of biodiversity - including crops, livestock and fish - in improving diets, nutrition and food security. It also discusses the enabling environment needed to support research in the area, including measuring impact ... The authors give ample evidence for the multiple positive roles played by agricultural biodiversity, not only as a safeguard against hunger and as a support for healthier diets, but also as a means to strengthen local food systems and environmental sustainability." – SPORE