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Our food system, is it sustainable?

Conservation of biodiversity is not a trade-off, but a major contributor to food security
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Forest foods in Zambia are diverse and nutrient rich. At a food fair in Luwingu, Zambia, in April 2017, women display items they regularly forage and cultivate. Photo by Joe Nkadaani/CIFOR

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.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.
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