Research gaps to enhance the contribution of forest foods to sustainable diets

Research gaps to enhance the contribution of forest foods to sustainable diets

The Contribution of Forests and Trees to Sustainable Diets
Bioversity International, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Charles Sturt University Australia

Published: 11 November 2013

This paper examines the contribution of forests and trees to sustainable diets, covering among others, nutritional, cultural, environmental and provisioning aspects. The literature reviewed highlight major opportunities to strengthen the contribution of forest and tree foods to sustainable diets. However, several constraints need to be removed.

They relate to: cultural aspects, sustainable use of non-wood forest products, organization of forest food provisioning, limited knowledge of forest food composition, challenges in adapting management of forests and trees to account for forest foods, and in integrating forest biodiversity into complex landscapes managed for multiple benefits. 
Finally, the paper identifies research gaps and makes recommendations to enhance the contribution of forest foods to sustainable diets through increased awareness and better integration of information and knowledge on nutritious forest foods into national nutrition strategies and programs.
The following priority actions emerge from the review presented:
  1. Prioritize research that examines the relative contribution of forest foods to local diets and nutrition, including analysis and documentation of their nutritional composition, digestibility and bioavailability, the effect of storage and processing on the nutritional value of specific forest foods, and the potential for domestication and integration of important tree species into value chains.
  2. Describe and measure the sustainability of diets reliant on forest foods in relation to indigenous peoples‘ food systems, and compare these systems in terms of resilience, health, cost-effectiveness and sustainability with other diets and food systems across countries and regions.
  3. Support research on governance and access issues and on the development of nutrition-sensitive value chains involving forest foods, with a particular focus on improving understanding of the risks associated with potential overharvesting and changes to access, as targeted NWFPs become more valuable.
  4. Ensure extension services, NGOs, schools, hospitals and health centers are aware of the benefits and promote the consumption of nutritious forest foods within their programs and interventions, including efforts to counter negative perceptions and attitudes to local, traditional foods.
  5. Promote a better integration of information and knowledge on nutritious forest foods and their conservation into national nutrition strategies and programs by establishing cross-sectoral policy platforms that bring together environment, health, development, agriculture and other sectors. These platforms would enable to better mainstream the use of tree biodiversity with high nutritional value into strategies addressing food security, nutrition, conservation, and land use planning and policy.

Background paper for the International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition, FAO, Rome, 13-15 May 2013. 

World Congress on Agroforestry 2014, Delhi, India, 10 – 14 February 2014. The Congress attracted some 1200  participants, including pre-eminent researchers, senior politicians and donors, and major businesses with concerns for sustainable development, NGOs, farmer and youth groups.

The Third World Congress on Agro-Forestry shaped the next steps to be undertaken in the field of integrative science. These are:

  • Transformative change in landscapes
  • Tree improvement
  • Innovative tree-based value chains
  • Debates on global and local sustainability
  • Reform of land and tree tenure and holistic education

The first two congresses were held in Orlando (USA, 2004) and Nairobi (Kenya, 2009).

Extracts of the program related to Africa:

The viability of trees as crops

  • Roger Leakey The business of agroforestry: applying science 
  • Mohammed Haque Small farm diversification strategies by coffee farmers around Mount Kenya in Kenya 

 Improving nutrition through agroforestry: the business case Ake Mamo

  • Katja Kehlenbeck Potential of fruit trees in the drylands of Sub-Saharan Africa for food and nutrition security and income generation 
  • Anja Oussoren Indigenous trees incubators in agroecological zones in Kenya for the commercialization of nutritional foods
  • A W Ebert Moringa – a vegetable tree for improved nutrition, health and income of smallholder farmers 

Building livelihoods on tree products

  • Martha Swamila Socioeconomic factors influencing position of women in fruits and vegetables value chains in the Coast region, Tanzania 

Public-private partnerships: adding value to develop markets for producers

  • Sarah Langrand How agroindustries influence cocoa growers’ cropping practices in Cameroon?

Valuing the environmental services of trees in the landscape

  • Brent Swallow Forest conservation policy and motivational crowding: experimental evidence from Tanzania 

Meeting development challenges with integrated approaches

  • Lulseged Tamene Assessing aboveground biomass carbon stock of miombo woodlands and (its) controlling factors in southern Africa 
  • Renee Bullock Spice market value chains and implications for development in the east Usambaras, Tanzania 

The gender dimensions of applying agroforestry innovation

  • Jean Bonneville Gender, sheep and trees in Zan Coulibaly, Mali: methodological approaches 

Bridging science and development

  • Christian Borgemeister ZEF experience and track bridging science and development: agroforestry examples
  • Joerg Lohmann Scaling-up the science to create an EverGreen Agriculture in African countries
  • Greg Toth Fodder tree technology: extension and adoption challenges in northern Malawi

Increasing food production through trees on farms

  • Abayneh Derero Farmer motivations and participatory trial design for enhancing food security through developing farm tree resources in Ethiopia 
  • Peter Cunningham Edible, multi-purpose Australian acacias for agroforestry farming systems in Africa’s drylands 
  • Viola Glenn Revitalizing African agriculture from the ground up: a case study of soil fertility, fertilizer subsidy and agroforestry 
Building development abilities through education and capacity development
  • Kiringai Kamau Integrating knowledge management and ICT4D in capacity building for agroforestry and natural resource management
  • Damase Khasa Two decades of agroforestry training, education and research at Université Laval, Québec, Canada
  • Sebastian Chakeredza and A Yaye Reforming curricula for agribusiness education and training in Africa: the ANAFE focus for the incoming years
  • Marie Louise Tientcheu Avana Experiential learning practices in Nigerian’s tertiary agricultural education institutions 
Biodiversity and agroforested habitats
  • Mattias Jonsson The effects of shade, altitude and landscape composition on coffee pests in East Africa 
  • Jan De Leeuw Trees and resilience in dryland agroforestry systems in eastern African 
The science of scaling up and the trajectory beyond subsistence
  • Ann Degrande Farmer-to-farmer extension: a viable option to enhance agricultural dissemination? Evidence from Cameroon 
  • Evelyne Kiptot Why volunteer? Insights from farmer to farmer extension in Kenya and Uganda 
  • Steve Franzel Effective rural advisory service approaches for natural resource management practices: The case of the uptake of fodder shrubs in East Africa 
  • Gillian Kabwe What is the influence of extension methods and approaches on adoption of agroforestry practices in Zambia? 
  • Philip Dobie Agricultural research for development: implications for policy, practice and investment 

“Many of the implications of understanding how to operate in complex adaptive systems are behavioural, and will require scientists to work with broader ranges of partners and through different working relationships than previously. Other necessary changes are institutional, and include how scientific institutions partner with others, what incentives are provided to scientists to work within complex adaptive systems and how the funders of science allocate funds to allow the merging of science and development. Major changes are needed in monitoring methodologies to allow more rapid learning from experience and the shortening of feedback loops. Better systems for tracking investment in Ar4D are needed.”

Successful and scalable business models for agroforestry
  • Kuh Emmanuel Loah From a demonstration plot to an integrated resource and agricultural tourism centre. The case of MIFACIG, Belo, Cameroon 

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