Bioversity International kicks off a three-year project to improve climate change resilience, food and nutrition security and income generation with special focus on indigenous people

„Soil deterioration, farmer debt, diminishing taste and quality of food, and the thinning of our biodiversity safety net, are just a few reasons why the Green Revolution model of high-input production of uniform modern varieties is no longer a viable solution for agricultural development. Demand is growing for a new model that embraces the nutritional and cultural values of food and preserves the agricultural biodiversity needed to help us adapt to an ever changing world.“ (via Bioversity International)

Ann Tutwiler opening the conference

Source: P. Madrid, Bioversity International

Bioversity International, a global research-for-development organization, kicked off a three-year project („Linking agrobiodiversity value chains, climate adaptation and nutrition: Empowering the poor to manage risk“) with focus on neglected and underutilized species to improve resilience and nutrition in Mali, India and Guatemala. The project, supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the European Union, and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), will pay special attention to indigenous people, who are among the most vulnerable to climate change and some of the most important custodians of agricultural biodiversity.

IFAD, EU and CGIAR to team up for a holistic approach

The launch meeting was held in Rome April 27-29, bringing together international experts from different fields and organizations. In a first stage, the methodological framework and general approach for the project have been discussed and are now being finalized in a consultative process, which will then be followed by country workshops.

The project will apply the holistic value chain approach, an approach developed during the last 15 years and successfully proven in the case of Andean grains in Latin America. The holistic approach not only takes into account the conservation of genetic diversity, but also the demand and production side as well as the importance of local agricultural biodiversity for nutrition. Some of the target crops to be included in the project have already been identified and will comprise species such as the kodo millet (Paspalum scrobiculatum) in India or the fonio in Mali. 

“This project is based on the genuine needs of the people and the times,” as Ashis Mondal from Action for Social Advancement (ASA) says. “The project has significant value in the context of India, as a large section of its population still depends on the production and productivity of millets and other so-called minor crops”.

Marketing neglected and underutilized species: a multi-stakeholder process

However, promoting neglected and underutilized species for agrobiodiversity, climate change resilience and income generation is not straightforward. During the past, observations could be made where the sudden rise in popularity of a certain crop also lead to negative impacts in the region of origin (e.g. Quinoa). Avoiding these pitfalls and maximizing sustainability benefits from promoting traditional crops were two of the main topics explored during the three-day conference in Rome. Thus, a multi-stakeholder consultative process that will also involve representatives from target communities will be conducted. In addition, integration of the private sector at an early stage of the process seems to be a viable option in order to stimulate demand and develop new business models.

I had the chance to contribute to this project kick-off by sharing some insights from successful case studies, where private sector engagement in the marketing and commercialization of underutilized species lead to the development of new products and to sustainable income generation for smallholders and cooperatives (such as the case of Moringa oleifera products from Eastern Africa).

This participatory and interdisciplinary approach is a major feature of this project. It will not only build the capacities of the parties involved, but also integrate climate change resilience, nutrition and income generation into one approach. Looking at the current and future development of the world’s climate and the effects this will have on livelihoods especially of rural and indigenous people, this approach seems to be the only way forward.



Climate change is happening and, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it is “extremely likely” that it is man-made. The changes in global climate will affect the whole planet; however, it is the economically disadvantaged who will be disproportionally effected. Most communities in the least developed countries (LDCs) still depend on agriculture as their main source of income. Future changes in climate conditions will massively affect agricultural systems, especially in LDCs. In order to reduce the vulnerability of those agricultural systems and the communities that rely on them, adaptation measures need to be taken. Climate change resilience and the adaptive capacity of the agricultural sector are determined by the diversity of genes, species, and ecosystems, among other factors. The successful implementation of adaptation strategies, including the fostering of agrobiodiversity, requires human, natural, technical and financial resources.

Related Links

More Information on the official project website: „Launching a new effort on neglected and underutilized species to improve resilience and nutrition in Mali, India and Guatemala“

The official project announcement on Bioversity International: „Underutilized crops to enhance resilience and nutrition in Mali, India and Guatemala“

Document: A holistic approach to enhance the use of neglected and underutilized species: the case of Andean grains in Bolivia and Peru. Padulosi et al. 2014.