The pervasive homogenization of global food production based on a few staple crops has had severe repercussions on people's lives. Production systems are increasingly more vulnerable to climate change and other shocks, while consumers are left with fewer choices for nutritious and healthy diets.
Nevertheless, many countries are still endowed with hundreds of nutritious and resilient food crops, locally developed and cultivated, but neglected or forgotten by formal research systems. "Forgotten Foods" are derived from a diversified set of Neglected and Underutilized Species (NUS) produced within traditional production systems particularly adapted to marginal environments constrained by water scarcity, poor soils and increasing temperatures. Focusing on Forgotten Foods and crops hence means strengthening the local knowledge that supports them, as well as the coping strategies, resilience and livelihoods of the population living in those areas. Beyond this, these actions can contribute to more adapted and adoptable support services, and to mitigating and adapting to climate impacts.
The "Manifesto for a new vision of research and innovation systems to support Forgotten Foods", which is the first deliverable of this Collective Action, aims at bringing together the vision and intentions of a vast group of diverse actors on the role and potential of Forgotten Foods. These actors are joining forces to reach a consensus on the transformations at local, national, regional and global levels needed for a paradigm shift to enhance bio-cultural diversity and leverage investment in these life-saving crops.
There is a double potential in the development of Forgotten Foods: material and non-material. We can improve the livelihoods of poor farmers relying on these crops, especially women, by enhancing their value on the market, or intervening at the level of other bottlenecks along the production to consumption chain. We can also, by unveiling the rich local knowledge behind Forgotten Foods, raise farmers' awareness of what they are and what they do. This can in turn lead to the discovery of the potential of their own communities, and unlock their creativity as agents of change.
How is GFAR facilitating this Collective Action?
To address the problematique of Forgotten Foods, and the related neglected crops, knowledge and people, GFAR has helped mobilize among its partners a vast coalition of concerned research and innovation stakeholders in Asia Pacific, Sub-Saharan Africa and Near East and North Africa by engaging Regional Research Networks. The dialogues have sought to involve farmers’ organizations from the beginning, as well as NGOs and civil society organizations, ensuring their views balance the perspectives of other key research and innovation actors.
Taking stock of the game-changing actions required to provide effective services to the custodians of these varieties, left behind by technological revolution and mainstream research, will be a collective effort of diverse constituencies carried out with the custodians themselves. With the Manifesto, different Regional declarations will be brought together to outline a new model of bottom-up research governance, translated into a Plan of Action to be proposed to donors.