Neglected and Underutilised Species (NUS) have been overlooked by research and policy makers over crops that have greater demand. Negligence in provision of resources for their promotion and development results in farmers planting them less often and also leads to loss of traditional knowledge.
Producer who promotes NUS products (Campgna Amica Farmers’ Market)
The potential of NUS should be recognised. They can help to increase the diversification of food production which in turn diversifies nutritional intake. In addition to this, they offer environmental and economic benefits too.
‘Farmers can grow them on their own, as part of crop rotation systems or inter-plant them with other crops, protecting and enhancing agro-biodiversity at the field level. Having a bigger number of species to choose in a crop rotation system allows farmers to have a more sustainable production system.’ (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations)
Fellows Yani, Merrysha and Chenxiang with resource person Gennifer Meldrum
Through the sessions that took place on 28th June at Bioversity International, the Fellows were informed about these benefits through market surveys and case studies of success stories in Mexico and Peru. They were also introduced to the barrier analysis methodology and holistic value chain approach, especially while promoting neglected and underutilised species. Also, the Fellows were trained such that when they go back to their communities, they would encourage the use of tools like biodiversity block and community seed banks among farmers to increase the availability of seeds to ensure conservation of NUS.
Session 1: Market surveys and holistic value chain approach for NUS
Gennifer Meldrum gave her presentation on NUS
Gennifer Meldrum, Research Officer, Bioversity International, in her presentation highlighted some of the key learnings while promoting neglected and underutilised species in three different project sites, namely: India, Mali, and Guatemala. Some of the species that the project tries to promote through holistic value chain approach include: minor millet, chaya, tepary beans, Bombara groundnut and fonio.
Seeds and soils play an important part to raise production, particularly in fields full of diversity. There is a need to look at improved methods of production even within indigenous food production systems.
Majority of the species are maintained by indigenous peoples and the cultural identity of a crop or crops is a very important point to remember.
Trust forms a crucial part of any attempt to work with indigenous farmers and must be strongly developed, and results need to be documented to build this trust of our well intentioned initiatives with community members.
There are some crops that may play a more important role in climate change resilience or nutrition improvement, etc. There is a need to prioritise some crops, although the diversity aspect must be remembered.
While promoting such species, we should also focus on the behaviour of people. The results can be used to create an effective way to promote such species. The barrier analysis methodology of USAID is a useful piece of work that Fellows could make good use of.
Involve and discuss with different stakeholders before promoting the species.
Climate change is a factor that we need to take into account while selecting the species
In Mali, promoting Bombara groundnut became a big challenge with the introduction of modified seeds.
Success stories: In Guatemala, promotion of chaya has been quite successful, so much so that many people today are obtaining higher income owing to this product.
At the end of her presentation, Gennifer Meldrum shared the barrier analysis methodology that could be useful for the Fellows while working with their own respective communities.
Session 2: Driver of loss of local varieties and strategies for promotion and use:
During this session; Fellows, with the help of Claudia Hendorf, Phd student, Germany, tried to identify the main drivers that lead to the loss of crop varieties through a brainstorming session.
Claudia Hendorf guides the Fellows Merrysha, Yani and Edgar during an exercise on identifying the key drivers of the loss of local species while Gennifer Meldrum observes
Following are the main drivers that came out during the discussion:
Introduction of hybrid seeds
Lack of labour
Economy focused in modern agriculture
Invasion of super markets that slowly lead to the erosion of traditional markets
Lack of technology for food processing
Decreased soil health
Increase of touristic activities
Even when climate change has been affecting the fertility of the soil and other problems with the land, the main threat for the diversity is that young people are migrating, which means that nobody will be taking care of the land in the future. The solution is to look for better conservation and use of the diversity around indigenous food systems and thereby create livelihood based activities through the marketing of local species in a sustainable way. A broad framework like a holistic value chain approach would be a good way to start with.
Ana Paula Bedoya shared her experience of the Potato Park at Peru
Session 3: Success of the Potato Park in Peru
Ana Paula Bedoya, World Food Programme, in her presentation highlighted the following key issues that led to the great success of the Potato park in Peru:
Potato is a crop that has a wide capacity to be resilient since it adapts to almost any type of climate.
The idea came out because someone realised that there were too many varieties of potatoes and it was easy to try to domesticate them.
The park teaches how to manage the cultivation of potatoes based on traditional knowledge.
This project provides employment to several neighbouring communities and also helps to conserve biodiversity.
In addition to the park, there are other businesses using the varieties of plants in the area to create shampoos, soaps and creams.
Comments from Fellows: “While conserving species, it is necessary to take varieties into consideration, otherwise we will fall into the trap of monoculture which we are trying to avoid.”- Edgar Monte. “Potato park is a unique model of holistic conservation of the traditional landscape and agrobiodiversity, as well as to enhance the interrelations between native crops and the physical, biotic and cultural environment. Using such interrelations creates multiple livelihood options for local projects.” – Merrysha Nongrum