One hundred local food plants for improving nutrition is the title of the new book published by Oxfam, written by Gisella Cruz-Garcia, Konstantina Maria Togka, Hilton Mbozi and Bert Visser. This book will become the best friend for those who are keen to improve their nutrition, and help others to do that, with the consumption of local food plant biodiversity.
The objective of this book is to describe the botany, local knowledge and nutritional qualities of one hundred local food plants, which can help reduce the length of the food scarcity period and micronutrient deficiencies of Indigenous peoples and smallholder farmers across Africa, Asia and Latin America. The book also explains the species’ tolerance to conditions of environmental stress, which suggests the potential role they might play for nutrition in the context of climate change.
Malnutrition is the leading cause of death and ill health worldwide, and in particular in developing countries. At the same time, multiple experiences from around the world have documented how Indigenous peoples and smallholder farmers ensure their food and nutrition security by using edible plants growing in their surroundings. Several local food plants, in particular neglected and underutilized species, are very rich in particular nutrients that might be absent from the staple crops in the diet, most notably cereals and legumes. Plant biodiversity certainly holds the key to address malnutrition, while helping to reduce food scarcity. However, it is often poorly recognized that a portfolio of local food plants is (potentially) available for the diet to diversify the food and nutrient sources of the family.
Among the hundred plants presented in this book, we highlighted some champion species. We name champions those food plants that can play an essential role in addressing micronutrient deficiencies, given their high contents of particular nutrients. Moreover, we named champions those food plants that are available during food scarcity periods, as well as some highly nutritious species that are available throughout the year.
The list of hundred local food plants was built based on the information provided by Indigenous peoples and smallholder farmers in the regions in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Zambia, Laos, Nepal, Peru and Guatemala where the work on Local Food Plants for Nutrition of the Sowing Diversity = Harvesting Security (SD=HS) program was implemented. Not only species that were very popular among farmers were included, but also less popular species which might play a key role during food scarcity periods. It was particularly important to rescue and highlight local knowledge that may be in the process of getting lost.
SD=HS is a global program (2019-2023) implemented by Oxfam Country Offices and partners including the National Agricultural and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI) and Agricultural Research Center (ARC) in Laos, Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (Li Bird) in Nepal, Asociación de Organizaciones de los Cuchumatanes (ASOCUCH) in Guatemala, Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) and Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF) in Uganda, Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT) in Zambia and Zimbabwe, and Fomento de la Vida (FOVIDA) in Peru. SD=HS is coordinated by Oxfam Novib, and funded by the Swedish Development Cooperation (Sida). Specifically, SD=HS´s work on Local Food Plants for Nutrition aimed at strengthening the strategies that households have to cope with food scarcity and malnutrition by increasing the intake of nutritious food based on local biodiversity. The work also aimed at improving the management of local food plants, particularly neglected and underutilized species (NUS).
We hope this book contributes to increased attention on the role of local food plants for healthy and affordable diets, and improved nutrition of indigenous peoples and smallholder farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America.