Artichoke to ziziphus - Using agrobiodiversity to improve the availability of fruits and vegetables


This presentation was delivered by Gina Kennedy, Theme leader on Diet Diversity for Nutrition and Health at Biodiversity International.

This presentation begins by defining and contextualizing agrobiodiversity. It highlights how fruits, vegetables and nuts are gaining increasing attention with the global shift in focus from food quantity to food quality as a requirement to end all forms of malnutrition. It points out that some 5,538 plant species are being used today for food according to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew (RBG, 2016). Out of this portfolio, 539 vegetables (232 genera) and 645 fruit indigenous species (214 genera) can be found in Africa alone (PROTA, 2010).

There is a remarkable, yet untapped potential to better utilize genetic diversity in both wild and cultivated species of fruits and vegetables. Specific advantages that could be conferred from greater use of fruit and vegetable biodiversity include smoothing seasonal availability, providing a wide range of choice to meet consumer taste and culture preferences and selecting for specific characteristics such as nutritional content or desired culinary use.

Much of the natural bounty in diversity is underutilized and poorly conserved yet there is great potential to use these untapped resources to increase fruit and vegetable availability. Case studies from around the world are used to illustrate the potential for agrobiodiversity to boost fruit and vegetable availability, including how governments can create an enabling environment for mainstreaming biodiversity of fruits and vegetables.

This presentation was part of at an event titled "Aligning the Food System to Meet Dietary Needs: Fruits and Vegetables," which took place on June 2-3, 2017, at the UC Davis Conference Center.