Knowledge for Development

Relevant publications

Nutrition and the naming of plants

At the International Scientific Symposium on Biodiversity and Sustainable Diets organized by the FAO in Rome on 2-5 November 2010, Dr. Mark Nesbitt, ethnobotanist and curator at the Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew, UK) and his colleagues showed results from their analysis of the quality of botanical information in published papers. They found that in many cases, when the botanical names as given in the papers are used, it becomes very difficult to identify the species concerned accurately enough to use automated searches of databases. This could pose problem as researchers seek to build a case for the value of lesser-known wild and cultivated species in building sustainable and nutritious diets. In light of his study, Dr. Nesbitt recommends that ‘best practices’ in naming plants be developed and implemented where needed in academic and research institutions.Nesbitt, M., McBurney, R., Broin, M., & Beentje, H. (2010). Linking biodiversity, food and nutrition: The importance of plant identification and nomenclature, Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 23 (6), 486-498


Geographical indications, in situ conservation and traditional knowledge

by Jorge Larson Guerra, Mexico National University for the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable DevelopmentICTSD policy Brief Number 3, November 2010Jorge Larson Guerra, biologist, Mexico National University, writes a policy brief for the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) Project on genetic resources. After detailing the rationale and the history of the development of the ‘geographical indication’ (GI) concept, the author describes the GI legal context, with a focus on developing countries and their efforts to implement and promote the GI concept in their jurisdiction. GI’s value chains, and the role played in biological conservation and traditional knowledge is also explained, in depth. This brief is rich on references and provides up-to-date knowledge on GI placing it on the agricultural science and trade policy-makers’ agenda. The author concludes “the current neglect for GIs within discussions on in situ conservation and the protection of traditional knowledge should end and there should be in-depth discussions on their possible drawbacks for developing countries, as well as on their positive contributions to the pressing issues of conservation and development in rural diverse areas worldwide.”


The Suwon Agrobiodiversity Framework 2011: Managing agrobiodiversity for sustainable agriculture in the Asia-Pacific region

The Suwon Agrobiodiversity Framework ( is the result of discussions held in Korea at the “Sustainable Agriculture Development and Use of Agrobiodiversity in the Asia-Pacific Region” International Symposium in October 2010. The symposium provided an opportunity to review, identify, and redefine the role and directions of agricultural R&D, especially in the context of conservation through use of valuable agrobiodiversity for sustainable agricultural development. It did also set a vision for the access and the benefit sharing of valuable genetic resources. To address the questions at hand, the organizations thought best to adopt an integrated systems approach while defining the framework: research and S&T developments are to focus on genetic resources, conservation techniques, traditional knowledge, ecosystem services, and rely on information and communication systems to enhance regional collaboration. (Produced by the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions-APAARI, Rural Development Agency of Korea, Bioversity International, GFAR, 2010.)


Training manual on spatial analysis of plant diversity and distribution

By: Scheldeman, Xavier and van Zonneveld, Maarten. Bioversity International. 2010.This training manual is intended for scientists and students who work with biodiversity data and are interested in developing skills to effectively carry out spatial analysis based on (free) GIS applications with a focus on diversity and ecological analyses. These analyses offer a better understanding of spatial patterns of plant diversity and distribution, helping to improve conservation efforts. The training manual focuses on plants of interest for improving livelihoods (e.g. crops, trees and crop wild relatives) and/or those which are endangered.Spatial analyses of interspecific and intraspecific diversity are explained using different types of data: species presence morphological characterization data molecular data. Although this training focuses on plant diversity, many of the types of analyses described can also be applied for other organisms such as animals and fungi.


Strengthening of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture: Conservation and utilization in the Pacific

By the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI); 2011. This publication describes the historical perspective, extent of genetic diversity of major crops, the institutions involved, genebank holdings, crop improvement, utilization of genetic resources, training and capacity building and public awareness. It also highlights the regional efforts for plant genetic resources (PGR) conservation and use, the current issues and the way forward for agricultural research for development. The roots and tuber crops are of particular importance for the Pacific region, from the point of view of food and nutrition security, income generation and cultural diversity. In order to save the valuable genetic diversity from possible extinction, all countries in the region are engaged in plant genetic resources activities to varying degrees and a number of externally funded projects are being implemented on various aspects of collecting, characterization, evaluation, documentation, conservation and utilization.


Ethnopharmacology, food production, nutrition and biodiversity conservation: Towards a sustainable future for indigenous peoples

V. H. Heywood; Centre for Plant Diversity & Systematics, School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, UK; 2011This paper aims to provide a perspective of ethnopharmacology that explicitly extends the range of disciplines it covers so as to embrace food and nutrition and biodiversity, both wild and domesticated, and places it in the context of the dramatic changes to our planet during a period of rapid global change and the impacts that these changes are having on human health and nutrition and on its resource base.Ethnopharmacology, biodiversity, agriculture, food and nutrition are inextricably linked but suffer from compartmentalization and a lack of communication which have to be overcome if progress is to be made. Fortunately, a convergence of interest between the agricultural biodiversity and the biodiversity conservation sectors has emerged in recent years and there is an increased appreciation of the need to adopt a wider approach to human nutrition than the conventional agricultural model allows; there is also a greater awareness of the important role played by diversity of crops, especially local species, and consumption of wild species in achieving balanced nutrition. Ethnopharmacologists need to take much more cognizance of the fate of the resource base – the plants, animals and microorganisms – and of the actions being undertaken under the auspices of treaties, such as the Conservation on Biological Diversity and its Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, to counter its degradation and loss.Although it has been suggested that the 'golden days' of ethnopharmacology may be over, it is proposed that by embracing the challenges of broadening the remit so as to include the health aspects of wild biodiversity employed in nutrition, a new 'golden age' beckons. The paper concludes with some suggestions for action.


Biodiversity – Science for humans and nature (Agropolis Dossier)

This 'Dossier' by Agropolis International illustrates biodiversity research that has been carried out by the scientific community of the Agropolis institutes with the aim of boosting international awareness on this unique research platform. This research is described in four chapters, along with a final chapter describing research involving joint participation of citizens and scientists: 1. Origin and evolution of biodiversity; 2. Functional biodiversity; 3. Societies and biodiversity; 4. Modelling—biodiversity scenarios; 5. Biodiversity — civic science. The previous thematic dossier from Agropolis focused on ‘Agronomy, crops and cropping systems’.


Climate change, food security, and agrobiodiversity: Toward a just, resilient, and sustainable food system

C. G. Gonzalez; Fordham Environmental Law Review, Vol. 22, p. 493, Seattle University School of Law Research Paper No. 11-19; February 2011This article examines the underlying causes of the crises in the global food system, and recommends specific measures that might be adopted to address the distinct but related problems of food insecurity, loss of agrobiodiversity, and climate change. The article concludes that the root cause of the crises confronting the global food system is corporate domination of the food supply and the systemic destruction of local food systems that are healthy, ecologically sustainable, and socially just. The article argues that small-scale sustainable agriculture has the potential to address the interrelated climate, food, and agrobiodiversity crises, and suggests specific measures that the international community might take through law and regulation to promote the transition to a more just, resilient, and sustainable food system. (via PAR, 31/8/2011)


Ethnobiology - New textbook

E. N. Anderson (Editor), Deborah Pearsall (Editor), Eugene Hunn (Editor), Nancy Turner (Editor) ; ISBN: 978-0-470-54785-4 ; Paperback 420 pages ; August 2011 ; Wiley-Blackwell.__________From " The field of ethnobiology — the study of relationships between particular ethnic groups and their native plants and animals — has grown very rapidly in recent years, spawning numerous subfields. Ethnobiological research has produced a wide range of medicines, natural products, and new crops, as well as striking insights into human cognition, language, and environmental management behavior from prehistory to the present.This is the single authoritative source on ethnobiology, covering all aspects of the field as it is currently defined. Featuring contributions from experienced scholars and sanctioned by the Society of Ethnobiology, this concise, readable volume provides extensive coverage of ethical issues and practices as well as archaeological, ethnological, and linguistic approaches.Emphasizing basic principles and methodology, this unique textbook offers a balanced treatment of all the major subfields within ethnobiology, allowing students to begin guided research in any related area—from archaeoethnozoology to ethnomycology to agroecology. Each chapter includes a basic introduction to each topic, is written by a leading specialist in the specific area addressed, and comes with a full bibliography citing major works in the area. All chapters cover recent research, and many are new in approach; most chapters present unpublished or very recently published new research. Featured are clear, distinctive treatments of areas such as ethnozoology, linguistic ethnobiology, traditional education, ethnoecology, and indigenous perspectives. Methodology and ethical action are also covered up to current practice. "(Society of Ethnobiology via


Biodiversity and socioeconomic factors supporting farmers' choice of wild edible trees in the agroforestry systems of Benin

This study was conducted by researchers from the University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin, is an assessment of the diversity of wild food species and socio-economical factors that support farmers' choice for the species used in agro-forestry systems. A total of 43 wild edible trees were found in the traditional agro-forestry systems of Benin during the survey. The researchers found that the number, diversity and perceived importance of species used in these systems varied according to the socio-cultural zones of the country. They identified three main reasons that support peasants' ambition to conserve or to grow wild edible trees in their field: their contribution to food, their use in traditional medicine and ceremonies and the farmers' perception of their availability in natural vegetation. (ScienceDirect, 24/8/2011)


Assessing nutritional diversity of cropping systems in African villages

Remans, R., Flynn, D.F.B., DeClerck, F., Diru, W., Fanzo, J., et al. 2011. ‘Assessing Nutritional Diversity of Cropping Systems in African Villages’. PLoS ONE 6(6): e21235. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021235Researchers in this study, led by Roseline Remans from Columbia University, New York, USA, demonstrate how an ecological tool, functional diversity (FD), has potential to address the urgent need for metrics that monitor agricultural progress beyond calories produced per capita and provide new insights on nutritional diversity of cropping systems in rural Africa. Data on edible plant species diversity, food security and diet diversity were collected in three rural settings in Sub-Saharan Africa (Malawi, Kenya, Uganda). The analysis enabled identification of key species that add nutrient diversity to the system, it assessed the degree of redundancy for nutrient traits and demonstrated that depending on the original composition of species on farm or village, adding or removing individual species can have radically different outcomes for nutritional diversity. These novel metrics can help guide agricultural interventions towards adequate nutrient diversity in subsistence farming systems.


Fruit trees and useful plants in Amazonian lives

Shanley, P., et al. (eds). FAO, CIFOR, People and Plants. 2011. Since the early 1970s, FAO has been working to support the efforts of forest communities to improve their lives by involving them in the decisions which affect their very existence. Today, an estimated 1.6 billion people around the world use forest resources to meet some of their needs for food, shelter, medicine and cash income. This book features the uncommon quality of bringing together original scientific knowledge on fruits and useful plants of the Amazon forest and the sensibility to detect the deep interaction between traditional knowledge of our forests and folk culture. In an accessible, pleasant and practical way, the book has become a vehicle to disseminate information that is fundamental to the future of the Amazon development models that are economically and socially fair, and that respects the environment.


Bridging the Gap on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources

D. Vivas-Eugui. International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, Issue Paper 34. 2012.Biodiversity-rich countries and traditional knowledge (TK) holders have become concerned about the presumed lack of respect for national access and benefit-sharing (ABS) legislation and the misappropriation of their genetic patrimony and TK by some intellectual property (IP) applicants. More than a decade after its creation, the world Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)’s Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) has an opportunity to contribute towards providing meaningful responses to concerns relating to biodiversity and IP. A binding instrument is the surest way to see biodiversity-related measures in the IP system implemented by user countries taking into consideration that the solutions it provides will have an effect in practice. This paper makes recommendations regarding processes, substance and existing research gaps that could contribute towards advancing the IGC’s deliberations. (ICTSD, 01/2012)


Teaching agrobiodiversity: a curriculum guide for higher education

Rudebjer, P. et al. Bioversity International. 2011.This book discusses key issues in agrobiodiversity education and presents a curriculum framework of 14 topics central to agrobiodiversity processes, conservation and management. Each topic is briefly introduced along with key learning points, suggested contents, a bibliography and a list of internet resources. The guide is flexible to fit a range of institutional settings. It suggests suitable ‘entry points’ for quickly integrating aspects of agrobiodiversity into existing courses. It could be used in formal curriculum reviews and in designing short training courses. The authors believe it is urgent to inform higher agricultural education systems on the need to integrate agricultrural biodiversity knowledge into curricula. At present, agrobiodiversity courses or programmes are rare or non-existent, according to regional consultations with universities in 2009 and 2010. (Bioversity, 2011)


Darwinian Agriculture: How Understanding Evolution Can Improve Agriculture

As human populations grow and resources are depleted, agriculture will need to use land, water, and other resources more efficiently and without sacrificing long-term sustainability. ‘Darwinian Agriculture’ presents an entirely new approach to these challenges, one that draws on the principles of evolution and natural selection.R. Ford Denison, professor of ecology at the University of Minnesota, shows how both biotechnology and traditional plant breeding can use Darwinian insights to identify promising routes for crop genetic improvement and avoid costly dead ends. Denison explains why plant traits that have been genetically optimized by individual selection are bad candidates for genetic improvement. Traits like plant height and leaf angle, which determine the collective performance of plant communities, offer more room for improvement. Agriculturalists can also benefit from more sophisticated comparisons among natural communities and from the study of wild species in the landscapes where they evolved.Darwinian Agriculture reveals why it is sometimes better to slow or even reverse evolutionary trends when they are inconsistent with our present goals, and how we can glean new ideas from natural selection's marvellous innovations in wild species.(, 19/04/2012)


Crop Wild Relative newsletter, Issue 8

The newsletter Crop wild relative was initiated by the EC-funded PGR Forum project and later adopted as the newsletter of the Crop Wild Relative Specialist Group (CWRSG) of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC). Issue 8 is the first of three issues to be published in the context of the PGR Secure project (full title: Novel characterization of crop wild relative and landrace resources as a basis for improved crop breeding). The project focuses on ensuring that the genetic diversity inherent in crop wild relative (CWR) and landrace (LR) populations and which is important for crop improvement – particularly to adapt crops to grow in our changing climate – is conserved and available for use by plant breeders. The April 2012


The potential of nutrient-rich small fish species in aquaculture to improve human nutrition and health

This paper from the WorldFish Centre examines the potential of small fish in fighting hidden hunger. Small fish are a common food and an integral part of the everyday diets of many population groups in poor countries. These populations also suffer from undernutrition, including micronutrient deficiencies (the hidden hunger). Studies in rural Bangladesh and Cambodia showed that small fish made up 50–80% of total fish intake in the peak fish production season. Small fish are a preferred food, supplying multiple essential nutrients and with positive perceptions for nutrition, health and well-being. As many small fish species are eaten whole, they are particularly rich in calcium, and some are also rich in vitamin A, iron and zinc. In areas with fisheries resources and habitual fish intake, there is good scope to include micronutrient-rich small fish in agricultural policy and programmes, thereby increasing intakes which can lead to improved nutrition and health. (WorldFish Centre, 05/2012)