Diversifying Agriculture for Better Lives

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Crops for the Future has been established in 2009 through the merger of ICUC and GFU.

The International Centre for Underutilised Crops, ICUC, was founded in 1992 at the University of Southampton, UK as a research, development and training organisation. Its main achievement over the past 15 years has been to put underutilised crops onto the agenda of national research programmes, especially in South and South-East Asia. Since its inception, ICUC has been instrumental in the organisation of a series of national and regional planning and priority setting workshops, has supported national research institutions with germplasm collections and characterisation of priority crops, and has provided training opportunities in close collaboration with national and regional research and enterprise development organisations in 21 countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

ICUC’s flagship project “Fruits for the Future” produced and distributed globally, valuable factsheets, monographs and technical manuals for ten underutilised fruit tree species in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Its regional project on the processing and marketing of underutilised fruits has trained key personnel in five Asian countries, produced a processing manual and related processing posters for eight key species in English and seven local languages. Through training and business development support, targeted local people in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Vietnam have been enabled to double their household incomes from indigenous fruit processing and marketing. A recent project “Coalition to Diversify Income from Underused Crops” now upscales the knowledge further in India and Vietnam.

ICUC has also been instrumental in the founding of several professional networks, in particular UTFANET (Underutilised Tropical Fruits in Asia Network), UTVAPNET (Underutilised Tropical Vegetables for Asia and the Pacific Network), SEANUC (Southern and East Africa Network for Underutilised Crops) and ACUC (Asian Centre for Underutilised Crops).

ICUC moved to Sri Lanka under new leadership in late 2005 and has since developed into a global champion for underutilised crops. It was instrumental in the setting up of a special working group on underutilised species within the International Society for Horticultural Science, is a founding member of the Global Partnership on Non-timber Forest Products and has provided leadership in the development of a new global strategic framework for underutilised plants research and development. Several research reports and position papers on key issues have been published.

The Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species, GFU, of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) was established in 2002 and was housed within Bioversity International, Rome, Italy. As a multi-institutional initiative, GFU has promoted the wider use of underutilised plant species through supporting and facilitating the work of other stakeholders, lobbying the inclusion of these species into international and national research and development agendas, and better donor support, thus creating an enabling environment for stakeholders who are engaged in developing NUS.

Through its interactive web portal, news updates, accessible databases and awareness building activities, the GFU has built a broad alliance of researchers, policy makers, development specialists, agricultural producers and consumers.

Major achievements have been the identification and development of approaches and decision steps for the promotion of underutilised plant species, the formulation of the Chennai Platform for Action that advocates a greater focus on agricultural diversity and NUS in order to address the MDG on halving hunger and poverty by 2015, the inclusion of NUS in FAO’s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (GRFA) workplan. Together with ICUC, GFU led the development of the new strategic framework for research and development of underutilised plant species.

GFU analyzed national policies and international agreements to identify gaps and produce recommendations for policy amendment to increase use of NUS. A particular important result jointly achieved with partner organisations has been the formulation and submission of recommendations to amend the EU Novel Food Regulation, a non-tariff barrier to trade with NUS based products. A revised version of the Regulation, circulated in early 2008 for further comments and notified to WTO, will provide better access to NUS products from non-EU countries to the EU market. It is expected to enter into force in 2009.

In order to respond to the perceived high potential of NUS for income generation through their commercialisation, the GFU has developed guidelines for NUS value chain development and provided a set of recommendations regarding geographical indications as tools for sustainable use of genetic resources and rural development. GFU has been instrumental in the design and establishment of a regular training course on marketing NUS at Wageningen International. GFU developed and made available a number of public awareness materials, including posters, leaflets and brochures. A travelling exhibition of commercial products made from NUS demonstrates the market potential of these species.