Nutri-scapes - TPP
A tree-based landscape and livelihoods approach to addressing nutrition challenges

      • What is Nutri-scapes

      CIFOR-ICRAF have generated important evidence over the last several years highlighting the important roles that forests and agroforestry play for food and nutrition as well as income and the environment. This Transformative Partnership Platform  (TPP) -- Nutri-scapes -- is a platform for merging and consolidating these advances, continuously bringing in other partners, and raising the profile of the importance of forests and agroforests for food and nutrition. It will build on existing data and evidence to deliver sustainable solutions to the food and nutrition challenges faced in many tropical countries, across multiple scales. Past research has highlighted the contributions and critical roles of forests and trees within the wider food system for supporting availability and access to a greater diversity of nutritious foods. Additionally, income has been identified as a key factor, amongst others, that affects nutritional status (positive as well as negative). Nutri-scapes integrates insights from the fields of ecology (and genetics), agronomy, nutrition and economics to develop transformative solutions for food and nutrition security challenges from a broad perspective and with a distinct landscape lens - ensuring sustainability at the household level and beyond. Nutri-scapes is designed to support and leverage ongoing initiatives and create a holistic framework across CIFOR-ICRAF as well as those of key partners.

    • Dec 03, 2020
      • Determining appropriate interventions to mainstream nutritious orphan crops into African food systems



      Nutritious ‘orphan’ crops could (re)diversify African food systems, but appropriate means to bring this about are required. A review of the literature on crop intervention options suggested success and failure factors in promotion, but indicated little about the relative importance of production-versus consumption-based measures and how these interact. An analysis of secondary crop production data indicated that addressing food policies could be valuable for orphan crop mainstreaming, but, as with literature review, did not provide clear guidance on the importance of different interventions. A survey of experts suggested that cross-disciplinary teams are important for developing mainstreaming strategies, but revealed no clear consensus on the importance of particular measures for specific orphan crops. We discuss the implications of these findings.

      Stepha McMullina, Barbara Stadlmayr, Kai Mausch, Cesar Revoredo-Giha, Fiona Burnett, Luigi Guarino, Inge D.Brouwer, Ramni Jamnadass, Lars Graudal, Wayne Powell, Ian K. Dawson
    • Nov 26, 2020
      • Trade-offs along food value-chains: anticipate the unintended for better food and nutrition security

      How to achieve Sustainable Development Goal no. 2, Zero Hunger, by 2030

      Ambitious food value-chain initiatives pursue multiple development objectives of reducing poverty, malnutrition and environmental footprint by increasing smallholders’ productivity and incomes with the help of new technologies and market links.

      Scientists from World Agroforestry (ICRAF), Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) are questioning the ability of business-led value chain approaches to solve complex social issues, such as malnutrition.

      They advise adopting a ‘systems perspective’ when designing value-chain interventions to consider all trade-offs and synergies between farmers, the corporate food industry, public institutions and consumers in order to build more sustainable food systems.

      continue reading using the link below

    • Nov 04, 2020
      • Food for thought: The underutilized potential of tropical tree‐sourced foods for 21st century sustainable food systems





      1. The global food system is causing large‐scale environmental degradation and is a major contributor to climate change. Its low diversity and failure to produce enough fruits and vegetables is contributing to a global health crisis.
      2. The extraordinary diversity of tropical tree species is increasingly recognized to be vital to planetary health and especially important for supporting climate change mitigation. However, they are poorly integrated into food systems. Tropical tree diversity offers the potential for sustainable production of many foods, providing livelihood benefits and multiple ecosystem services including improved human nutrition.
      3. First, we present an overview of these environmental, nutritional and livelihood benefits and show that tree‐sourced foods provide important contributions to critical fruit and micronutrient (vitamin A and C) intake in rural populations based on data from sites in seven countries.
      4. Then, we discuss several risks and limitations that must be taken into account when scaling‐up tropical tree‐based food production, including the importance of production system diversity and risks associated with supply to the global markets.
      5. We conclude by discussing several interventions addressing technical, financial, political and consumer behaviour barriers, with potential to increase the consumption and production of tropical tree‐sourced foods, to catalyse a transition towards more sustainable global food systems.
      Merel Jansen, Manuel R. Guariguata, Jessica E. Raneri, Amy Ickowitz, Fidel Chiriboga‐Arroyo, Julia Quaedvlieg and Chris J. Kettle
    • Sep 08, 2020
      • Colliding paradigms and trade-offs: Agri-food systems and value chain interventions



      Managing trade-offs for ‘do no harm’ outcomes is central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and requires an understanding of impact processes within agri-food systems. However, agricultural programming continues to rely on single point interventions framed by earlier development paradigms at odds with the systemic change goals of the SDGs. The implications of these colliding paradigms are explored using an agri-food systems lens to highlight trade-offs in interventions for pro-poor value chains, nutrition-sensitive value chains and greening of value chains. Analysis reveals problematic assumptions and limited supporting evidence and points to conflicting logics and targets that require societal negotiations about goals and priorities. Steps are outlined to embed a ‘do no harm’ principle in intervention design and evaluation.

      Kai Mausch, Andrew Hall, Caroline Hambloch
    • Sep 04, 2020
      • Nutri-scapes - a recipe for better nutrition

      Scientists embrace benefits of trees in landscapes for livelihoods and nutrition

      Global food systems focus on an ever-narrower range of calorie-rich but nutritionally limited crops, degrade ecosystems and endanger human health.

      Between  2000 and 2010, commercial and subsistence agriculture combined made up 73 percent of tropical forest loss, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Such statistics seem to suggest that the global objectives of food security, tree and forest conservation are incompatible.

      The need for a profound shift of the global food and agriculture system away from a focus on quantity of food toward providing healthy diets is increasingly recognized.

    • Sep 04, 2020
      • Wild Food Plants and Trends in Their Use: From Knowledge and Perceptions to Drivers of Change in West Sumatra, Indonesia



      Wild food plants (WFPs) are often highly nutritious but under-consumed at the same time. This study aimed to document the diversity of WFPs, and assess perceptions, attitudes, and drivers of change in their consumption among Minangkabau and Mandailing women farmers in West Sumatra. We applied a mixed-method approach consisting of interviews with 200 women and focus group discussions with 68 participants. The study documented 106 WFPs (85 species), and Minangkabau were found to steward richer traditional knowledge than Mandailing. Although both communities perceived WFPs positively, consumption has declined over the last generation. The main reasons perceived by respondents were due to the decreased availability of WFPs and changes in lifestyle. The contemporary barriers to consuming WFPs were low availability, time constraints, and a limited knowledge of their nutritional value. The key motivations for their use were that they are free and “unpolluted” natural foods. The main drivers of change were socio-economic factors and changes in agriculture and markets. However, the persistence of a strong culture appears to slow dietary changes. The communities, government and NGOs should work together to optimize the use of this food biodiversity in a sustainable way. This integrated approach could improve nutrition while conserving biological and cultural diversity.

      Lukas Pawera, Ali Khomsan, Ervizal A.M. Zuhud, Danny Hunter, Amy Ickowitz and Zbynek Polesny
    • Jun 22, 2020
      • Introducing Alice


    • Jun 10, 2020
      • COVID-19 recovery is a chance to improve the African food system

      The World Food Programme has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic could cause one of the worst food crises since World War II. It predicts a doubling of the number of people going hungry – more than half of them in sub-Saharan Africa. While wealthier people stay inside and practise physical distancing, the economically marginalised populations risk going out in search of food. They take decisions between livelihoods and life in the most extreme cases. Such food inequities show the need for system-level action.

      So far, the global food system has proven to be resilient to the COVID-19 pandemic. Food is still being produced, processed and distributed. Unfortunately, the system’s underlying injustices and inequities continue too. Around 1.58 billion people globally can’t afford healthy diets.

      Continue Reading 

    • Jun 03, 2020
      • Podcast - Our food system, is it sustainable?

      Conservation of biodiversity is not a trade-off, but a major contributor to food security

      The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed flaws in our global food system, demonstrating how vulnerable it is to unexpected shocks. While there is an emphasis on the production of food staples, including wheat, maize and rice, to meet basic food security needs, in many regions there is a lack of nutrient-rich foods, leading to malnutrition.

      Amy Ickowitz, team leader of the Sustainable Landscapes and Livelihoods program at CIFOR and Anja Gassner, senior livelihoods specialist and head of research methods group at the World Agroforestry (ICRAF), discuss the biodiversity of food in this timely episode of ‘Let’s Talk Trees’ podcast. Forests and other natural landscapes are the source of countless species of wild fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, insects, wild meat and even fish across the globe. Therefore, deforestation will put at risk not only biodiversity but also food security for many around the world.

      In addition, since forests also provide ecosystem services to agriculture like providing homes to bees that pollinate crops, providing nutrients to soils, and retaining water, destroying forests can also negatively affect agriculture.

      To address the challenges surrounding our food system, we need a transformative shift from policies that favor mostly simplified, monoculture-based, conventional agriculture to policies that promote biodiversity-friendly mixed farming at a landscape scale.

    • May 14, 2020
      • Meeting the food security challenge for nine billion people in 2050: What impact on forests?



      • Majority forecasts for feeding the future global population predict an increase in a croplands at the expense of forests and pastures.

      • A third of the forecasts shows that it is feasible to halt further agricultural expansion and mitigate climate change.

      • Policy that provides economic incentives for carbon stock conservation and enhancement is the only effective option to reverse the trend of forest loss.


      Our review shows that 59% of the forecasts for feeding the future global population predict an increase in area of croplands at the expense of forests and pastures, thus reinforces the production-at-all-cost narrative. Even when the necessary mitigation and compensatory measures would have been taken, this pathway perpetuates our currently dysfunctional global food system (Smith, 2014; Holt-Giménez et al., 2012). Alternatively, a significant number (32% of the forecasts) show that it is possible to feed the global population without destroying forests. A combination of carbon pricing/tax, reforestation/plantation, no deforestation policy, crop yield improvement, waste reduction and changes towards a less energy-intensive diet are feasible approaches to halt further agricultural expansion and mitigate climate change. In particular, our study identifies policy that provides economic incentives for carbon stock (i.e. forest) conservation and enhancement as the only effective option to reverse the trend of forest loss. Such scenarios paint realistic visions of what might be achieved in mid and end of century and highlight potential synergies between food and forestry sectors, with an important caveat that the proposed alternative scenarios need to be further substantiated with action on the ground. None of these policies is easy to adopt and their simultaneous adoption would require the support of policy makers across sectors. 

      Our study sets to assess the extent of prevailing narratives in the agricultural and forestry sectors. By doing so, we have also identified several underrepresented areas that require better quantification and integration into current models and narratives, including; 1) alternatives to mainstream food/forest production systems (e.g. less-intensive small-holders, family farms and agroforestry/ mix-species/ agroecological systems), 2) quantification of fruit and vegetable intake, 3) role of forests in food production and provisioning, 4) key ecosystem services provided by forests and pastures beyond carbon (biodiversity habitat, water regulation, pollination), and finally 5) prioritization and feasibility assessment of multiple mitigation actions. More work and research would need to be directed to these areas, which currently are understudied due to inherent complexity to measure and contested definitions.

      Read the full study 


      Bahar H.A. Nur, Michaela Lo, Made Sanjaya, Josh Van Vianen, Peter Alexander, Amy Ickowitz, Terry Sunderland
    • May 13, 2020
      • The Influence of Forests on Freshwater Fish in the Tropics: A Systematic Review



      Tropical forests influence freshwater fish through multiple pathways, only some of which are well documented. We systematically reviewed the literature to assess the current state of knowledge on forests and freshwater fish in the tropics. The existing evidence is mostly concentrated in the neotropics. The majority of studies provided evidence that fish diversity was higher where there was more forest cover; this was related to the greater heterogeneity of resources in forested environments that could support a wider range of species. Studies quantifying fish abundance (or biomass) showed mixed relationships with forest cover, depending on species-specific habitat preferences. We identify the key challenges limiting our current understanding of the forest–fish nexus and provide recommendations for future research to address these knowledge gaps. A clear understanding of the functional pathways in forest–freshwater ecosystems can improve evidence-based policy development concerned with deforestation, biodiversity conservation, and food insecurity in the tropics.

      Michaela Lo, James Reed, Leandro Castello, E Ashley Steel, Emmanuel A Frimpong, Amy Ickowitz
    • Apr 21, 2020
      • Why we started the TPP

      Global food systems that focus on an ever-narrower range of calorie-rich but nutritionally limited crops, degrade ecosystems, and endanger human health. Dietary risk factors are the primary cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, most caused by low consumption of nutrient-dense foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and overconsumption of foods high in fat and simple sugars, including highly processed foods. The need for a profound change of the global food and agriculture system away from simply supplying food, towards providing healthy diets is increasingly recognized in recent global policy frameworks and commitments. Forests, agroforestry systems, and other poly-cultural landscapes, provide a diversity of nutritious foods that support healthy diets, while also providing livelihood opportunities. Tree based landscapes are ideally placed to serve these multiple purposes and support nutrition as well as livelihoods of the people that live in them. 

    • Apr 20, 2020
      • Why the TPP fits well into the new CIFOR-ICRAF strategy


    • Apr 05, 2020
      • Introducing Kai


    • Apr 02, 2020
      • Introducing Stepha


    • Apr 02, 2020
      • Introducing Amy


    • Dec 11, 2019
      • Nutrition composition Database

      A unique database that provides important information on the nutritional content of 132 food items form 99 species has been launched. The “Priority Food Tree and Food Crop Composition Database” is a one stop shop that provides data on important micronutrients that are critical in understanding the nutritional values of foods. The prioritised micronutrients vitamins A and C, and iron and folate are collated and provided in an easy to use format in a high - medium - low rating system to allow for quick use of the data even by non-experts. The diversity of exotic and indigenous species included in the database highlights the relevance of agricultural biodiversity, which can support more nutritious diets. The database presents the backbone of the portfolios but can also be used for dietary assessments, development of education and training materials, selection of nutritious species for agricultural domestication and breeding programs and much more. 

      The database is expanded regularly so keep checking in - access the database here 


    • Dec 09, 2019
      • SDG 2: Zero Hunger – Challenging the Hegemony of Monoculture Agriculture for Forests and People



      Pressure to increase food production grows with population growth. Agriculture dominates the global landscape, and more food is being produced than ever before. Yet, a large part of the population is undernourished. Concomitantly, much of the agricultural expansion related to achieving global food security is at the expense of forests ecosystems, critical for biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services. SDG 2: Zero Hunger seeks to ‘End hunger, achieve food security and nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture’. This chapter explores the potential impacts of achieving SDG 2 on forests and forest-dependent people. It focuses on five of the SDG 2 targets that are closely entwined with forests and forest related livelihoods. It discusses how the current food system polarises food production and forest conservation, when in fact they should, and can, be harmonised. We conclude with observations on the potential trade-offs and synergies between SDG 2 and the other SDGs, emphasizing the need for integrated land use management.

      Terry C. H. Sunderland, Alida O’Connor, Giulia Muir, Lauren Nerfa, Giulia Rota Nodari, Camilla Widmark, Nur Bahar, Amy Ickowitz
    • Nov 29, 2019
      • Ten species of fruit trees are better than just a few

      The homogenization of agricultural landscapes means less diverse diets - a project in East African fights that trend. 

      A ‘diversity fair’ is not an everyday event, so this one to showcase agrobiodiversity in Uganda’s district of Nakasongola drew crowds. Held at the end of October, it featured stalls of dried beans in rainbow colours, bunches of African greens and heaps of root crops. Dozens of women and men gathered to display their tree products.

      One highly admired tree product was jackfruit. Though it is almost comically large and bumpy, the seeds of this naturalized Asian tree come wrapped in a creamy flesh that is intensely sweet.

      Central Uganda has an abundance of nutritious species for families to choose from, which gives the population a potentially high dietary diversity, one of the pillars of good nutrition. However, while the tastes and textures are savoured, the value of this bounty is not always appreciated or well understood.

      One of the purposes of the Diversity Fair was to underscore the cultural, nutritional and ecological importance of agrobiodiversity.

      “The aim is to bring communities together and for farmers to show their knowledge and best practices for promoting the diversity of foods available locally,” said Dr John Mulemba to the many listeners, and, of course, to the chief guest, Major General Salim Saleh, who heads Uganda’s drive for rural prosperity.

      Continue reading

    • Nov 29, 2019
      • Food vs income targets


      Agriculture in Africa is expected to meet the dual objectives of providing food and helping people to escape poverty but, in practice, this is rarely possible on the small farms that cover the vast majority of the continent’s agricultural landscapes. It’s time for policymakers, agricultural researchers and practitioners to recognize the need to separate food security and poverty eradication, argue a team from World Agroforestry (ICRAF), International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Bangor University and Oxford Martin School. 

      The research team argue that the expectation of the development sector is that if the gap between actual and potential yields can be closed, smallholders will grow sufficient crops to feed their families, with a surplus to sell, thereby meeting food security needs and bringing in an income to move them out of poverty. ‘However, we question investments into small-scale agriculture that either explicitly or implicitly create expectations that improvements to current farming practices alone will lift people out of poverty’,’ said Anja Gassner of ICRAF, lead author of the article published in the journal Outlook on Agriculture. 

      The conflation of the development challenges around food and poverty within any one intervention is highly problematic, argue the authors, resulting in unrealistic expectations that a large share of investments in agricultural development should contribute to helping smallholders to farm themselves out of poverty while at the same time providing sufficient food for all. 

      ‘What the team is essentially arguing,’ said Ravi Prabhu, deputy director-general for research with ICRAF, ‘is a paradigm and system change supported by policies that recognize heterogeneity and diversity as values to be built upon.’ To put it another way: the future of the planet’s agricultural systems needs to be that one size does not fit all.

      Full Press release 

      Read the full article: Gassner A, Harris D, Mausch K, Terheggen A, Lopes C, Finlayson RF, Dobie P. 2019. Poverty eradication and food security through agriculture in Africa: Rethinking objectives and entry points. Outlook on Agriculture, Vol. 48(4) 309–315 


      Gassner A, Harris D, Mausch K, Terheggen A, Lopes C, Finlayson RF, Dobie P.
    • Nov 22, 2019
      • Agroforestry and planetary health


      Human activities change the structure and function of the environment with cascading impacts on human health, a concept known as ‘Planetary Health’. Tree planting and management is involved in many of these chain reactions, according to the authors of a new study published in the journal, One Earth. 

      The research team set out to understand does agroforestry — the integrated management of trees, crops and livestock — alter microclimates, hydrology, biogeochemistry and biodiversity for the betterment or detriment of human health in Sub-Saharan Africa? 

      Apart from the nutritional benefits of increased fruit consumption from trees in orchards, homegardens and mixed species’ farm-plots, the ways agroforestry affects human health are little discussed. 

      ‘The diversity of ways that agroforestry influences human health by changing the environment was perhaps the most surprising result,’ said Todd Rosenstock, leader of the research team. ‘I imagined there would be evidence suggesting that consuming fruit helps with hypertension and other non-communicable diseases. But we also found work highlighting the benefits of trees for reducing dust and increasing shade; but also increasing the abundance of mosquitoes.’

      Despite some increased risks of infectious disease, overall, they found that increased use of agroforestry could improve a diverse range of pressing health concerns. The authors argue that outcomes are very much linked to specific contexts, with the effects on human health determined by ecology, tree species and tree management. 

      When asked how agroforestry can be further expanded in scale despite the many obstacles, co-author Kai Mausch replied, ‘It is already happening. Countries across Sub-Saharan Africa are making plans and implementing programs to use trees to mitigate and adapt to climate change, reverse land degradation and meet energy needs. We made great progress in the understanding of the scaling process of relatively simple agricultural technologies like seed but also of complex systems like Agroforestry. However, they remain more difficult to scale and the evidence is not fully consistent.’

      That outlook suggests trees indeed should become more widespread, which would affect Sub-Saharan African lives and landscapes. While this is a promising future, the authors caution that using agroforestry to improve planetary health will require a transdisciplinary and multisectoral effort to turn knowledge into practical and policy action. 

      Full press release 

      Read the article: Rosenstock TS, Dawson IK, Aynekulu E, Chomba S, Degrande A, Fornace K, Jamnadass R, Kimaro A, Kindt R, Lamanna C, Malesu M, Mausch K, McMullin S, Murage P, Namoi N, Njenga M, Nyoka I, Paez Valencia AM, Sola P, Shepherd K, Steward P. 2019. A planetary health perspective on agroforestry in Sub-Saharan Africa. One Earth 1, November 22, 2019


      Rosenstock TS, Dawson IK, Aynekulu E, Chomba S, Degrande A, Fornace K, Jamnadass R, Kimaro A, Kindt R, Lamanna C, Malesu M, Mausch K, McMullin S, Murage P, Namoi N, Njenga M, Nyoka I, Paez Valencia AM, Sola P, Shepherd K, Steward P.
    • Jul 02, 2019
      • Talking nutrition in Rome

      Diets, nutrition and food systems are important topics for the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). Forests, agroforestry systems, and trees in other landscapes, provide a diversity of nutritious foods that support healthy diets. They also support food security and nutrition indirectly through the ecosystem services that they provide to food production, the fuel they provide to cook food with, and by supporting livelihoods.

    • Jun 01, 2019
      • Portfolios for Somaliland

      Developing fruit tree portfolios for filling household food and nutrition gaps for households in Biji Water Catchment, Somaliland. Supporting the objectives of the GIZ Sustainable Land Management (SLM) project in Somaliland, World Agroforestry (ICRAF) undetrook tasks to address nutritional deficiencies for the local food systems in Biji water catchment, by assessing, adapting and upscaling innovative decision-making tools to deliver year-round availability of nutritious foods, particularly fruits, for healthier diets. An interest of the SLM Project was to make available a greater diversity of fruit tree species to smallholder farmers, and national extension actors., while also ensuring adequate infrastructure such as a mother block of improved fruit tree species and varieties, a government nursery to propagate material, and a demonstration plot to support the delivery of technical training to enhance tree cultivation and management. Through this collaboration, 26 varieties of 12 fruit tree species were transferred from Kenya to Somaliland for establishment and evaluation. This material will enable community access to a greater diversity of improved fruit tree planting material to meet future needs of seasonal fruit availability.

    • Jan 29, 2019
      • School portfolios

      This month, the EAT-Lancet report made global headlines, calling for a drastic transformation of diets and food production. The report’s authors recommend “the planetary health diet” which, among other things, urges us to double consumption of fruits, vegetables, pulses and nuts.  

      This is old news for the 4K club (‘Kuungana, Kufanya, Kusaidia Kenya’ in Swahili, meaning ‘Coming together, to Act, to Help Kenya) in rural Machakos, about 100 kilometres southeast of Nairobi.

      Here, 50 students have been working hard to grow a diverse food system in their school garden. With the help of agroforestry researchers, a green-fingered teacher committee and a local NGO, the barren plot behind their school was carefully divided up to plant climate-adapted, nutritious fruit, vegetable and pulses.

      Vitamin A and C-rich mango and potassium-rich indigenous chocolate berry and desert date trees grow alongside vegetables high in iron and vitamin A, like spinach and black nightshade.


      Ndunge Muli, who leads a student club on agriculture and agroforestry, is ambitious and keen to add more to the school garden. “When we use the spinach and cowpeas in our school lunch, we are proud to say we grew it. We know these keep us healthy,” she said. For Muli, the big challenge is being patient for new trees to fruit. “Waiting is hard, so now we can already see the mangoes and papayas in our garden, it motivates us to keep going.” 

      Read more: Kenyan students blaze a trail for 'planetary health' diet 


    • Dec 17, 2018
      • Meeting the trail blazers
    • Dec 11, 2018
      • Trees and resilient food systems

      An open-source book containing previously undocumented scientific evidence that could help practitioners bring CSA to scale. In their chapter, Dawson et al. (2019) show why and how perennial ‘new and orphan crops’ should reshape the agenda of researchers and investors who are seeking to promote more resilient food systems.

      Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has areas of high ‘hidden hunger’ so improving food quality is crucial.  One method that is supported by governments in the region  is the diversification of food systems. In the context of climate-change-related challenges, this approach may have significant benefits compared to alternative methods such as biofortification, as diversity can promote resilience to more variable environmental conditions that negatively affect individual crops. Diversity-based resilience is, for example, possible through mechanisms including risk spreading and positive stabilising interactions in production. One crop diversification approach recommended for the region is promoting ‘new and orphan crops’ that include many perennial foods. These are novel or traditional crops that although important to consumers and farmers, have largely been neglected by researchers and businesses. They are, however, often nutrient-rich and frequently have properties that support their integration into existing food systems, potentially countering increasing reliance on a narrow range of calorie-rich but nutritionally limited foods.

      Read more 


    • Nov 01, 2016
      • Agro-Biodiversity and landscape restoration for food security and nutrition in Eastern Africa

      The IFAD funded project was implemented through a partnership between ICRAF and Bioversity International in collaboration with national partners from Uganda and Ethiopia. The project built on previous assessments and promotion of local fruit/nut tree species and crop varietal diversity. The project’s objective was to identify ecologically suitable and socio-economically and culturally acceptable combinations of a diversity of food trees and crop species/varieties and ensuring available planting material. To ensure long-term success national partners’ capacity was strengthened through technical training and a focus on how to ensure smallholder farmers’ engagement in integrating these portfolios into existing farming systems. Ultimately, restoring landscapes for increased food security and improved nutrition was the key challenge addressed. 

    • Jul 01, 2016
      • Food trees Project

      The ‘Food Trees for diversified diets, improved nutrition, and better livelihoods for smallholders in East Africa’ project, funded by EC/IFAD and implemented by ICRAF with partners has adapted the portfolio approach to include annual crops, vegetables and food trees. The objective was to deliver diversified diet portfolios for year round consumption of nutritious foods. Within this project, the original Fruit Tree Portfolio concept was expanded to cover other food crops and scaled to four counties in Kenya, Liakipia, Thraka Nithi, Kitui and Kwale. Eight location-specific food tree and crop portfolios were developed to cover socio-ecological dynamics of food production including seasonal availability, months of food security and insecurity. Women and  children’s individual level food consumption was specifically focused on, as the most nutritionally vulnerable in their communities and households. The quantitative parameters were further supported with qualitative information by engaging community members in participatory discussions and priority setting for the selection of food tree and crop species, and their importance for consumption at the household level and for income generation. Based on farmers priorities, and the timing and nutritional compositions of the crops that could be mainstreamed in local food systems, context-tailored recommendations for nutrient-rich crop promotion were then devised. Outreach activities with farming communities included on-farm demonstration plots, access to improved planting material, and targeted training on tree cultivation, and management, and nutrition education and awareness. Together with national partners we established, on-station demonstration plots for the longer-term evaluation of portfolio species and for the propagation of improved planting material, to be made available more widely.

    • Aug 04, 2015
      • The food tree portfolio idea is born


      As a result of predominantly staple based food production by smallholder farmers in sub Saharan Africa, consumption of a diverse range of nutritious foods is a challenge, with a lack of seasonal availability among the reasons for low intake. Using participatory research, World Agroforestry (ICRAF) developed the food tree and crop portfolio approach to enhance seasonal availability of nutritious foods in local food systems. These nutritious food portfolios are customised, location-specific recommendations for cultivating a greater diversity of indigenous and exotic food tree species with complementary vegetables, pulses and staple crops that could address month-on-month harvest and micronutrient gaps in local households’ diets. In addition to filling harvest ‘gaps’, certain nutrient ‘gaps’ are addressed by mapping the nutritional value of selected species using food composition data, following international standards and guidelines. For the portfolios, the micronutrients vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and folate were chosen due to their public health concerns, their supportive functions, and their natural high quantity in tree foods. To simplify nutrient content information, a rating has been applied as to whether the species are a high source, source, or low source of the selected micronutrients. This informs decision-making in the selection of species. As information on the nutrient composition was lacking for several indigenous species that were included in the portfolios, we have collated food composition data for these species where possible. This data is available through the ICRAF Priority Food Tree and Crop Food Composition Database, a database that is regularly updated as new portfolios are develop. 

      Read about the origins, the scientific publication or download some exemplar portfolios 

      • Report

    • Sep 20, 2011
      • Healthy and Prosperous Africa through Nutritious Local African Crops and Trees

      Nutrition is at the core of the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC). The consortium is working to address malnutrition, especially hidden hunger, in Africa through nutritious local food crops. These crops, little researched to date, are known as ‘orphan crops’ (‘minor crops’, ‘underutilized plant species’ or ‘neglected crops’). Many of them are rich in vitamins, essential minerals and other micronutrients. AOCC aims to make these nutritious crops more productive and more profitable for African farmers to grow, and easier for African consumers to use, among other objectives. 

      With the endorsement of the African Union, the AOCC has the greater integration of orphan crops into African food systems at its heart. To support this, its goal is to sequence, assemble and annotate the genomes of 101 traditional African food crops, to facilitate their genetic improvement. Once genomes have been sequenced, AOCC explores genetic diversity in depth in a ‘germplasm’ panel of each crop.