Linking agrobiodiversity value chains, climate adaptation and nutrition: Empowering the poor to manage risk (2015-2017)

About the Project

The IFAD-EU Project aims to revitalize local food systems and promote sustainable agriculture and resilient livelihood practices by strengthening the capacities of farmers to manage risks associated with climate change, poor nutrition status and economic disempowerment through agrobiodiversity-based solutions.

Diversity in crops, trees and livestock allows farmers to respond to different situations and contexts. These options can improve food and nutrition security and build resilience within livelihood systems but this depends on communities having access to crops adapted to new weather patterns and on their capacity to use agricultural biodiversity effectively to generate income and nutritionally complete family diets.

Many neglected and underutilized species (e.g. Andean grains, fonio, bambara groundnut, minor millets and many fruits, vegetables and pulses) are good sources of important macro and micro nutrients and are tolerant to stressful growing conditions associated with climate change (e.g. drought, poor soil). Nevertheless, these crops often face constraints that hinder greater use, such as laborious processing, poor yields and lack of awareness among consumers. At least some of these constraints could be overcome with attention and support for their cultivation and value chain development in order to realize their potential to enhance food and nutrition security.

Promotion of neglected and underutilized species needs to be fostered in an integrated approach that includes gender-sensitive, pro-poor, sustainability and nutrition considerations. Otherwise, there is risk of developing value chains with crops that fail because they are not adapted to new climate patterns, creating products that are difficult to market, or devising “solutions” that do not improve or even exacerbate environmental problems, nutrition deficiencies or social inequities.

Poor and marginalized farmers, including indigenous peoples in particular, are the primary custodians of the world’s agricultural biodiversity represented in traditional crops and varieties. In addition to their diverse materials, these farmers hold rich local environmental knowledge for sustainably managing resources and responding to ever-evolving opportunities and threats. This local knowledge and agricultural biodiversity is threatened by environmental and social change, including migration and shifting preference for more commercial intensified production. Communities faced with rapid climate change could benefit from new ideas from researchers and other communities for how to adapt their production systems to emerging weather challenges and strengthen their livelihood resilience. Action should also be taken to safeguard the valuable knowledge and resources these farmers maintain to ensure their availability for future generations and to leverage their current values for food and nutrition security.

Focal Countries, Communities and Crops

The project is focused on three countries: India, Mali and Guatemala. The target groups are poor smallholder farming communities with high representation of indigenous or marginalized minority peoples. The project will be working in the dry corridor of Guatemala and in India will work in Mandla and Dindoori districts, where there is high representation of indigenous peoples. In Mali, the project is working with communities in Sikasso and Segou regions.

Target crops have high nutritional importance and hardiness to climate stress. Drought hardy staples will be a primary focus of efforts in all three countries. The role and potential to promote underutilized vegetables will be investigated in the first year through exploratory surveys.

Tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius)Kodo millet (Paspalum scrobiculatum)Fonio (Digitaria sp)
Chaya (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius)Little millet (Panicum sumatrense)Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea)
Underutilized vegetables to be exploredUnderutilized vegetables to be explored

Focus will be given to both men and women to understand their unique vulnerabilities, knowledge, and roles in production and management of target crops and the livelihoods of their households to ensure interventions are gender sensitive.


The activities for the project will address five aspects, leveraging complementarity between aspects wherever possible. The precise activities will be defined through a participatory process with the communities and consultation with national stakeholders. The project will include actions to support:

  • Value chain development to promote cultivation and use of target crops in local/ value chains and possibly also taking advantage of opportunities in larger markets
  • Conservation of target crops, including strengthening on-farm conservation and its linkage with ex situ conservation
  • Strengthening nutritional awareness and the role of local agricultural biodiversity for nutrition, also securing the nutrition benefits of value chain interventions
  • Raising the capacity of farmers to manage risk through enhanced abilities to assess opportunities and hazards, supported by greater availability of information and materials regarding climate patterns, local agricultural biodiversity and market opportunities.
  • Scaling up and out, including promoting a supportive policy environment and capacity development of national agricultural research organizations and other stakeholders for agrobiodiversity conservation, nutrition, and value chain upgrading for neglected and underutilized species


The Project is supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the European Union and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). It is coordinated at the global level by Bioversity International and in the target countries by Institut D’Economie Rurale (Mali), Universidad del Valle del Guatemala, and Action for Social Advancement (India). The indigenous partnership for agrobiodiversity and food sovereignty is also involved, which has a network of communities that can be leveraged for horizontal learning. CATIE and MSSRF will also be involved as implementing partners in Guatemala and India, respectively.