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Case Study: Food Security & Nutrition, Market Access

Investing in Underutilised Crops to Achieve Food Security

Farming First Farming First

As part of GCARD 2010, Farming First hosted a session entitled ‘Better Benefiting the Poor through Public-Private Partnerships for Innovation and Action.’ Within the discussions, our panel of experts addressed several case studies that present different ways that partnerships have helped to empower smallholder farmers around the world. 

Michael Hermann – Crops for the Future

The need for agricultural research and development to concentrate resources on priorities is beyond dispute. However, the nearly exclusive focus on research and development efforts on staples has lead to an over-reliance on ever fewer food crops, with only 15 species providing 90% of the world’s food energy intake. The potential for the vast diversity of non-commodity crops to contribute to greater agricultural sustainability, more diversified and better nutrition as well as rural income remains largely unappreciated and unexplored.

Policies concerned with agriculture, conservation, seed systems and trade are generally unfavourable to the wider use of NUS (neglected and underutilized species). Yet some such species have seen in recent years increased demand from niche markets.  In several cases new product development, notably for convenience uses, has helped remove demand constraints previously limiting NUS-based market development, particularly in urban contexts. Much of this encouraging development has been driven by the private sector: small and big companies and notably entrepreneurial farmers. But support to NUS-based value chains from public sector actors has been sporadic and inconsistent.

Public-private-partnerships are at their best where governments and donors focus their attention on creating enabling regulatory frameworks, and research institutions provide the scientific underpinnings of good policy making. Regulatory frameworks that facilitate the functioning of NUS value chains and generate benefits for the poor relate inter alia to effective ex situ conservation, strengthened informal seed systems, authoritative food safety assessments, improved trade policies and the IPR protection of farmer products. More research is needed to substantiate product properties, as are efforts to enhance the public awareness of the benefits of greater use of neglected agricultural biodiversity and thus stimulate the demand for its products.

– Crops for the Future is an organisation dedicated to the promotion of neglected and underutilised plant species whose activities involve increasing the knowledge base for underutilised crops, identifying and advocating necessary policy changes to promote their use and fostering capacity building.

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