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Day 5 in Rome: The Fellows learnt about the promotion of neglected & underutilised species

A sharing session on Neglected and Underutlised Species (NUS) and Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition (BFN) was held on 25th June at Bioversity International, Rome, to learn how to identify and promote neglected and underutilised species with focus on nutrition.


Members present:

Phrang Roy, TIP Coordinator,India Andrea Selva, TIP Assistant, Italy Yani Nofri, TIP fellow, Indonesia Chenxiang Marak, TIP Fellow, India Edgar Monte, TIP Fellow, Mexico Merrysha Nongrum, TIP Fellow, India Pius Ranee, Ex-TIP Fellow and TIP Consultant Martina, Intern, Bioversity International Arturo Turillazzi, Intern, Bioversity International Claudia Heindorf, Phd student, Germany Violet Black, from Malawi, MSc in Human Development and Food Security

Venue: Bioversity International, Rome, Italy

Timing: 9:00 AM-4:30PM

Date: 25th June, 2019

Resource persons:

Eliot Gee, Research Fellow,  Bioversity International

Gaia Lochetti, Research Fellow, Bioversity International


Gaia Lochetti and Eliot Gee during the session

Session 1: Sharing experiences: Neglected and Underutilized Species and Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition

Based on the experiences of the two projects namely;  Neglected and Underutilised Species (NUS) and Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition (BFN), Gaia Lochetti and Eliot Gee, who both are Research Fellows at Bioversity International, shared with the Fellows on how these two projects played an important role towards the promotion of neglected and underutilised species.

Gaia Lochetti is a Research Fellow under Neglected and Underutilised Species (NUS) project whereas Eliot Gee is a Research Fellow at Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition (BFN) project.

According to Bioversity International, neglected and underutilised species mean wild or cultivated, locally available species not typically traded as commodities.

Gaia explained about the NUS project

In short, Neglected and Underutilised Species (NUS) project focuses on research, use and enhancement of neglected and underutilised crops and trees to address:

  1. Strengthen food security

  2. Build resilience and climate-smart agriculture

  3. Empower through income generation

  4. Revitalise local food culture

Eliot Gee during his presentation on the BFN project

Whereas Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition (BFN) project  focuses on how to promote production, consumption and conservation of nutrient-rich NUS through:

  1. Providing evidence

  2. Influencing policy

  3. Raising awareness

During the implementation of the projects, some of the key lessons include:

  1. Importance of context and partners

  2. Sharing tools (NUS seasonal calendar, BFN toolkit and E-learning)

  3. Strategic species selection and prioritisation

Session 2: Identifying NUS: Crop selection for diet quality and resilience

During this session; Gaia Lochetti & Eliot Gee highlighted on the steps on how to identify a potential crop. See table 1.

While selecting the crops, following are the criteria for prioritisation:

  1. Nutrition

  2. Climate change resilience

  3. Cultural significance

  4. Women and youth empowerment

  5. Market potential

  6. Conservation and sustainability

Table 1:  Showing the steps and tools StepsTools1.      ABD assessmentRapid assessment

–          Desk Review

–          Focus Group Discussions

–          FCA

–          Seasonal availability

–          Participatory Landscape Mapping

–          Exploring food ways

Complementary methods

–          Key Informants Interviews

–          Structured surveys

–          Direct observation

–          Participatory methods2.      Nutrition assessmentRapid assessment

–          Desk Review

–          Focus Group Discussions

Complementary methods

–          Key Informants Interviews

–          Structured surveys

–          Measurements3.      Resilience assessmentRapid assessment

–          Desk Review

–          Participatory assessment of opportunities for diversifying agroecosystems

Complementary methods

–          Key Informants Interviews

–          Structured surveys

–          Participatory methods

–          Measurements4.      Multi-stakeholder consultations and species prioritisationRapid assessment

–          Desk Review

–          Participatory assessment of opportunities for diversifying agroecosystems

Rapid assessment

–          Desk Review

–          Participatory assessment of opportunities for diversifying agroecosystems

Successful stories:

  1. In Kenya, BFN project was able to initiate a Farmer Business School that has developed a direct procurement to the school meal.

  2. In Guatemala, NUS project has been able to promote on-farm conservation and use of Chaya to address the issue of seasonal food availability and micronutrient deficiency. Chaya is a good source of protein, vitamins, calcium, and iron; and is also a rich source of antioxidants.

Quince-A NUS product displayed by Martina

As part of the session, Martina served a cake during coffee break which is prepared from a NUS product called Quince which is a deciduous tree that bears a pome fruit, similar in appearance to a pear, and bright golden-yellow when mature.

Discussion: To initiate the discussion, we had an exercise on how to identify one NUS product that we would like to promote. Through this exercise, following are the key learnings:

  1. While promoting any NUS product, we should do an impact assessment with the community to avoid over exploitation of the natural eco-system.

  2. For the promotion of the NUS product, it depends on the availability of financial resources.

  3. While selecting the NUS product, one has to understand the constraints behind the product, like packaging, shelf life, processing, etc.

Ideas to take away:

  1. To design a project on a NUS product with special focus on indigenous products

  2. Within their own respective organisations, Fellows to discuss and share the resource materials that were produced by the two projects.

Fellow Edgar Monte explained his selected NUS product

Comments from Fellows: “Evidence based research and results can have a positive impact on the community and also influence policy makers. To measure diet from a large population, Four Cell Analysis and seasonal calendar can be part of the nutrition assessment of the community. Neglected species can be prioritised by raising awareness on nutritional importance along with the evidence of composition.” Edgar Osvaldo Monte Borges “For improving and promoting the Neglected and underutilised species, it is necessary to make an assessment based on a list of most vulnerable crops and choose one according to specific criteria” Chenxiang Marak “Very often, I came across the term ‘neglected & underutilised species’ and I personally assumed and defined neglected & underutilised species to be endangered and extinct plants. But, when we had a session, I learnt and got a better understanding about the concept through a broad perspective.  The neglected and underutilised species are those to which little attention is paid or which are entirely ignored by agricultural researchers, plant breeders and policymakers. Through this session, I also learnt the different tools (like Focus Group Discussion, key informant interview, Four Cell Analysis and seasonal calendar)  to capture and assess agrobiodiversity.” Merrysha Nongrum “Research about NUS will help to find alternative sources for food diversification based on local resources.” Nofri Yani



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