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Neglected and underutilized species for improved diets

This study highlights that neglected and underutilized species (NUS) play an important role in diversifying the diets of indigenous peoples and smallholder farmers, in particular as part of their coping strategies during the hunger season. However, many of the wild plants and minor crops cited by participants in the study have not yet been covered by mainstream agricultural research, and are frequently not recognized in the context of food and nutrition policies at the national level. Although the use and value of these plants – including their potential role in ensuring food and nutrition security – are clearly familiar to the communities concerned, more needs to be done to enhance knowledge. The current lack of attention might be influenced by the fact that most of the knowledge on NUS is held by women: although responsible for the diet and nutrition of their households, they are often neglected by
agricultural agencies.

The study suggests ways to build on people’s traditional knowledge on NUS to strengthen their food and nutrition security and resilience in the face of climate change. It recommends providing better education on nutrition to indigenous peoples and smallholder farmers, taking into account their local resources and being respectful of their cultural identity. Finally, the findings emphasize the need to empower women as catalysts for more biodiversity-based diets to ensure adequate household nutrition.

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