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 is working in the dry corridor of Guatemala and in Mandla and Dindori districts of Madhya Pradesh in India, where there is high representation of indigenous peoples. In Mali, the project is working with communities in Sikasso and Segou regions that face high risk from climate change.

Target crops have high nutritional importance and hardiness to climate stress. Drought hardy staples are the primary focus of efforts in all three countries. The role and potential to promote underutilized vegetables and fruits is being investigated 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 and fruits being exploredUnderutilized vegetables and fruits being exploredUnderutilized vegetables and fruits being explored

Focus in the project is being 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 precise activities in each context have been defined through a participatory process with the communities and consultation with national stakeholders. The activities in each site are thus context specific but in all cases are addressing five aspects:

  • 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

Read more about the activities in each country on the site-specific pages for Guatemala, India and Mali.


The Project is supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the European Union and the CGIAR Research Programmes on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). 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.