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Sustainable Management of Biodiversity for Food Security and Nutrition, Jessica Fanzo
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Sustainable Management of Biodiversity for Food Security and Nutrition, Jessica Fanzo



Jessica Fanzo speaks at the Gorta side event - improving nutrition security through agriculture: ensuring access, quality and resilience. October 21 2011 FAO, Rome as part of celebrations for World ...

Jessica Fanzo speaks at the Gorta side event - improving nutrition security through agriculture: ensuring access, quality and resilience. October 21 2011 FAO, Rome as part of celebrations for World Food Day. Read more about Bioversity International’s work on diet diversity for nutrition and health



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  • Agriculture research, programs and policy have not focused on maximizing nutrition output from farming systems
  • One of the world’s greatest challenges is to secure adequate food that is healthy, safe and of high quality for all, and to do so in an environmentally sustainable manner. In many countries within Africa, agriculture remains the backbone of the rural economy. Small farms provide over 90% of Africa’s agriculture production and rural production of food is a major economic driver for Africa with 63% of its population living in rural areas.
  • Agriculture is the bedrock of the food system and biodiversity is important to food and agricultural systems because it provides the variety of life. Many people’s food and livelihood security depend on the sustained management of various biological resources that are important for food, nutrition, ecosystems and agriculture One key component of biodiversity is agrobiodiversity-that is, the cultivated plants and animals that form the raw material of agriculture, the wild foods and other products, and organisms such as pollinators and soil biota Harvested crop varieties, livestock breeds, fish species and non domesticated (wild) resources within field, forest, rangeland including tree products, wild animals hunted for food and in aquatic ecosystems (e.g. wild fish); Non-harvested species in production ecosystems that support food provision, including soil micro-biota, pollinators and other insects such as bees, butterflies, earthworms, greenflies; and Non-harvested species in the wider environment that support food production ecosystems (agricultural, pastoral, forest and aquatic ecosystems).
  • Since the 1900s, 75% of plant genetic diversity has been lost 30% of livestock breeds are at risk of extinction Of the 250,000 to 300,000 known edible plant species, only 150 to 200 are used by humans And of those, 75% of the world’s food is generated from only 12 plants and five animal species Rice, maize and wheat contribute nearly 60% of energy obtained by humans from plants
  • Probably one of the best known examples of such ecological complementarity that also results in net nutritional benefit comes from the Mesoamerican “three sisters”. The combination of corn (a grass), beans (a nitrogen-fixing legume) and squash (a low-lying creeper) maximizes trait differences for growth and resource use efficiency between species (Risch and Hansen, 1982), resulting in higher yields compared to those obtained through three monocultures of these crops. The corn is a grass species particularly efficient in maximizing photosynthesis in higher altitudes with low nighttime temperatures. In structure, the corn grows straight and tall adding a vertical dimension to the system. The vine-like bean takes advantage of the growth form of the corn for structural support that also enables it to reach more sunlight. The beans are also unique in their capacity to bring atmospheric nitrogen in the system by symbiotic nitrogen fixation, this nitrogen becomes available to the corn in subsequent cropping seasons. The interaction between the corn and beans is an example of complementarity where the over-yielding is due to a positive interaction between the species. The third member of this assemblage, squash, does not perform as well as corn in direct sunlight, and thus occupies the remaining space near the ground where light is somewhat reduced, and humidity is increased reducing photorespiration (Gliessman, 2006). The addition of squash can decrease the amount of soil lost to erosion by its low lying nature and broad leaves ensuring greater soil coverage. The added productivity from squash does not so much come from positive interactions with the beans and maize, but rather comes from the capacity of the squash to use resources (namely light) that are not captured by the corn and beans, an example of resource partitioning.   It is not only that these crops are ecologically complementary that is notable, but also that they are nutritionally complementary. The corn is an important source of carbohydrates and some amino acids. By adding the beans, the set of essential amino acids for a human diet becomes complete and important contributions in carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamin B 2 and B 6 , zinc, iron, manganese, iodine, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus are made. Squash in contrast can be and important source of vitamin A depending on the variety. It is important to note that each of these crops can make an important contribution to human diet, however none of these crops in isolation provides total nutrition.
  • Now more than ever is it crucial to better understand our agricultural system, and it is imperative for research and development to start thinking about new and sustainable approaches to improving the quality, safety and variety of food produced and consumed around the world.
  • First 6 months: breastfeeding 6 to 14 months: complementary feeding with breastmilk --- the time of faltering for children Through agrobiodiverse homestead food production and gardens , and mother’s education, develop and promote local, nutritious complementary foods to help children grow.
  • Severe acute malnutrition affects 20 million children under five years of age each year An innovative community-led public health model to address acute malnutrition called Community-Based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) Engages the community to detect signs of SAM early by sensitizing communities and subsequent active case finding, and provides treatment for those without medical complications with ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF) or other nutrient-dense foods at home RUTF is controversial… Promote the local production and the use of nutritiously rich food products Develop nutritious and cost-effective products for CMAM programs adaptable to the local socio-economic context prepared specially for children’s nutritional needs Partnership among government departments, NGOs, private sector companies, local farmers and communities
  • Does not address the 1000 day window but important to break the malnutrition cycle for adolescent girls Can include school garden programs and health checkups

Sustainable Management of Biodiversity for Food Security and Nutrition, Jessica Fanzo Sustainable Management of Biodiversity for Food Security and Nutrition, Jessica Fanzo Presentation Transcript

  • Sustainable Management of Biodiversity for Food Security and Nutrition Jessica Fanzo PhD Senior Scientist, Nutrition Bioversity International Gorta’s side event to the CFS
  • Up to now, agriculture, for the most part, has forgotten about nutrition Source: IFPRI
  • But we know that agriculture’s roles have benefits beyond just food production Source: Bread for the World 2010
  • Agricultural biodiversity’s is one avenue towards nutrition security BIODIVERSITY AGROBIODIVERSITY Mixed agro-ecoystems Crop species and varieties Livestock and fish species Plant and animal germplasm Soil organisms Biocontrol agents for pests Wild species Cultural and local knowledge Often signifies local, traditional, underutilized Source: FAO
  • The shame is, losses of agrobiodiversity are profound
  • Agriculture’s role in improving nutrition Improvements in household nutrition QUANTITY QUALITY DIETARY DIVERSITY AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS Correlates with child growth Varieties of and within species contain different levels of nutrients Markets -- ACCESS Markets -- ACCESS Markets -- ACCESS
  • Econutrition
    • Question:
    • How can agro-ecosystems ensure better nutrients from farming systems?
    • One solution:
    • Mesoamerican “three sisters”: Corn, beans and squash.
  • Grand Challenges of Food-based Solutions There are lots of ways to peel a mango
    • Agriculture must have nutrition goals in mind, and food-based approaches will need to be part of the equation for sustainable nutrition security
  • Feeding babies well
    • The first 1000 days of a child’s life are the most critical
    • When children begin complementary feeding at 6 months of age, they falter
    Develop and promote local, nutritious complementary foods to help children grow
  • Treating children who suffer from starvation
    • Severe acute malnutrition affects 20 million children under five years of age each year
    RUTF is a lifesaver Develop and promote the local production using locally sourced foods and the cost effective use of nutritiously-rich therapeutic products
  • Homegrown School Meals
    • Keeps children, especially girls in school
    • Provides nutrition and calories to break the hunger cycle
    Purchasing local foods from farmers for school meals; educating through school gardens
  • Value Chains: Neglected to Mainstream
    • Sub-Saharan African contains 800-1000 leafy green species
    • In Kenya, of 210, only 10 find their way to markets
    • Worked with women peri-urban farmers
    • The largest supermarket chain in Kenya, sold the vegetables and demand increased from 31 tons to 400 tons/month
    • There was a 5 to 20-fold increase in incomes of the farmers
  • Fitting agrobiodiversity into the SUN movement
    • EVIDENCE: Demonstrating evidence and scale of nutrition sensitive solutions is time-sensitive, geographically specific
    • SHARING PRACTICES: Sharing the “delivery science” on the ground
    • PARTNERSHIPS: Working together across sectors is crucial and with unique partners like private sector
    • MAINSTREAM: Integrating agro biodiversity into health, nutrition and agricultural programmes and policies is a must
    • CAPACITY: Building new cadres of community workers, training on food systems approaches in academia