As family farming, nutrition and agrobiodiversity are increasingly put in the spotlight, Farming Matters focuses its attention on ‘underutilised’ crops. These are plant species that have been used for centuries or even millennia as food, fibre, fodder, oil or medicine, but are no longer very common. Many of these crops are of great value for nutrition, climate resilience and risk diversification. The globalisation of food systems, however, has led to a situation where currently a mere fifteen crops provide 90% of the world’s food, with three crops - rice, maize and wheat - making up two- thirds of this total (FAO).
Different factors have pushed the revaluation of under-utilised species. In rural and urban communities India, there is a revival of minor millets as nutritious and climate resilient food. Andean chef cooks ‘rediscovered’ a diverse range of potatoes, beans, tubers, and traditionally used vegetables and grains which resulted in a gastronomic boom that created new markets for small scale farmers. In Africa, the unique properties of crops such as dawa dawa, teff and leafy vegetables receive increased attention through food fairs and celebrations. This calls for renewed attention to underutilised crops by mainstream policy, research and extension, especially as many countries struggle to address malnutrition. Farming Matters seeks cases where underutilised crops have gained renewed popularity.
The year 2016 is the International Year of Pulses. Pulses, such as lentils, beans or chick peas are a critical component of a balanced and nutritious diet, and they are important sources of fodder and soil fertility. Therefore, in honour of the Year of Pulses here is an invitation for stories about the revival of pulses.
More information at Call for articles: Valuing underutilised crops