Document Sample

                           DATES: April 21-May 19
                          Prepared by: Paul Bordoni1

    1. Background
          a. Climate change
          b. Marketing
          c. Nutrition
          d. Agrobiodiversity
    2. Identifying priority underutilized species
    3. Raising awareness
    4. A statement of intent
    5. Suggestions for follow up

 Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species (GFU)

As a follow up to the underutilized species symposium held in Arusha 3-7 March 08, a
web based electronic discussion took place between 21 April and 19 May.
CTA provided the technology to run this web based discussion setting up and hosting on
its server the Discussion Group (DGroup) that can be found at the following link:
The GFU agreed to moderate the debate around the four themes:

What can we do on Underutilized Plants:

      1. To address the opportunity of using underutilized plant species as risk buffers in
         times of climate change?
      2. To address the opportunity of using underutilized plant species for better
      3. To meet the challenge of enhanced and sustained market access for underutilized
         plant products?
      4. To address the challenges regarding using underutilized species without
         undermining agrobiodiversity?

The goal of the e-conference was to strengthen the recommendations made in Arusha and
that can be found in the report from the Symposium available on ICUC‟s web site2.
The Arusha Symposium, and this e-conference that stemmed from it, represent an
international gathering that brought together 205 experts half of which where from ACP
countries. A total of 41 people participated in the e-discussions and 34% of them belong
to ACP countries (13 from Africa and 1 from the Caribbean)
Initially the discussion was split into the 4 groups of Marketing, Nutrition,
Agrobiodiversity and Climate change; for each of these streams some background
information, documents and links where posted on the DGroup web site with the idea to
hold parallel discussions. As it resulted complicated to keep the 4 streams separated, each
one receiving contributions from others, the information derived from the 4 different
groups was re-grouped.


This theme enjoyed the facilitation of Colm Bowe from Southampton University (UK)
that set the scene and stimulated the group making climate change the liveliest theme

Some points to address on the opportunity of using underutilized plant species as risk
buffers in times of climate change are to:

   1. Build a database on climatic adaptability of underutilized species, identify
      institutions for networking, promote exchange of information and to deploy the
      database on climate-species (variety) match mapping.
   2. Identify underutilized species that tolerate various stress situations
   3. Involve communities in the conservation, information gathering, knowledge
      sharing and dissemination

Sayed Azam Ali from Nottingham University suggested to form a consortium and
develop a tool that allows us to assess which UPS can be grown now and in the future in
certain areas.
This important point of creating models that can be used and adapted throughout the
communities and its different environments is echoed by Retha Slabbert from South
Retha shared her team's experience with regards to screening UPS for drought/heat
tolerance - in particular projects involving on how to improve UPS to improve production
in arid and semi-arid areas, thereby addressing malnutrition and/or famine. Screening
techniques to rank UPS for heat/drought tolerance, involved in mutation breeding
towards improved drought tolerance for training African breeders, specifically on
methods of screening for drought/heat tolerance in food crops,

Kalyanasundaram Kumaran from India pointed out a network research programme on
UPS coordinated by ICAR that deals with screening of UPS for drought tolerance. There
are 12 centers doing research in various UPS both annuals and perennials.

Kristina Toderich from ICBA-CAC [ International Center for Biosaline Agriculture in
Central Asia and Caucasus (the CGIAR Facilitation Unit) ] has made very significant
contribution to saline land development using under-utilised tree species. This
contribution seems a most valuable experience to capitalize upon and as Narayan Hegde
from BAIF India mentioned “we certainly need to consolidate these success stories which
will be of immense use and benefit all the scientists working in different continents”.

Quoting from Kristina Toderich‟s contribution find some relevant points:

- Our findings from the screening of 16 multipurpose tree species offer a spectrum of
options for afforesting of degraded rangelands and salt affected marginal lands.
 - It was found that the high productivity of T. androssowii, T. hispida, Haloxylon
aphyllum, E. angustifolia and Atriplex undulata makes them the most promising
candidates for afforestation of highly degraded saline habitats, with immediate economic
 - Another aspect that remains unstudied is the degree to which this type of afforestation
effort can contribute, on a larger spatial scale, to carbon sequestration
 - As mentioned by Dr Erika Vohman of the Equilibrium Fund, USA, perennials are
much more resilient in the face of climate change and therefore should be priorities for
research and dissemination.
 - An international Network for genetic material sharing and germplasm documentation
should be of great help in our future work.

Vijay K. Yadav briefs the group about the importance of minor millets in India that have
proven wider adaptability but as Nigel Maxted from Birmingham University says “we
need scientific evidence to support statements” - this is one of them.
Nigel suggests hijacking a system that the ecological conservation community is using
for an evidence-based analysis and could prove to be a helpful tool for making strong and
sound statements


Some discussion regarded how best to market underutilized species and the focus from
the conference in Arusha was about creating a sustainable market for these plants.

The Association and Enterprise-Farmer Model pointed out by Erika Vohman from the
Equilibrium could be useful to consider:

“Association Model” in which farmers form an association to promote production and
industrialization, enhance research and help develop new products and markets. Through
this association farmers can increase productivity and have access to markets in order to
sell their products not only in small fairs but also to enterprises.

“Enterprise-Farmer Model” in which each farmer signs a planting contract with an
enterprise to ensure that the ups produced on farm will be sold at the agreed price, and
receives technical support from the enterprises. Thorough this model the enterprises
secure a sustainable and high quality source of the USP and the scale of planting of the
USP was expanded.

Wouter Vanhove of Ghent University, Belgium pointed out the variable usefulness of
Certification systems as they may have shortfalls. He mentioned that “sustainability
consists of 3 components (ecological, social and economic)” but some of the certification
bodies, such as Rainforest Alliance, Forest Stewardship Council, etc. “take ecological
criteria into account but companies operating under this label might neglect social
issues... furthermore these labels can also be adopted by the largest companies, which
might still result in pushing smaller producers out of the market/value chain”. On the
other hand, “ „Fair Trade‟ should be regulated so that companies abusing Fair Trade
labels can be filtered out...” however, “Fair Trade isn't always the most adequate
instrument for integrating small-scale farmers in the value chains of underutilized
species, since fair trade markets are mostly export markets”. Wouter pointed out that
“denominations of origin (or other types of geographical indications) can be a way of
both conserving on-farm intraspecies (genetic) diversity of underutilized plant species
and assuring small-scale producers remain integrated in the value chain, but only
provided that these geographical indications represent distinctive quality that cannot be
achieved by larger companies, producing the same species anywhere in its appropriate
agro-ecological area.”

The threads of C - NUTRITION and D - AGROBIODIVERSITY where not tackled separately
as many issues were already discussed through the other threads. From week 2 onwards,
most of the discussion took place at the higher level forum rather than the separate
thematic groups. However it would deserve a revive from a moderator to stimulate some
reaction from the DGroup members on these particular topics.

During the workshop in Arusha common constraints identified were the lack of
knowledge for processing; about the role underutilized species have in nutrition, of
efficient marketing strategies to use - especially for a sustained access to the markets.
Generating a list of UPS so to focus, create models and lobby for as a group, was
mentioned by many as a central exercise to engage in.
It will be important to ensure diversity while short-listing a limited number of species.
Various methods where suggested for prioritizing
Hannah Jaenicke suggested a “spears and shield” approach. The “spears” representing the
few species to work on and the “shield” a basket of species providing backup and
Nigel Maxted from Birmingham University reiterated the scoring method suggested in a
previous discussion forum managed by Markus Schmidt and dealing with underutilized

Prioritization should be a regional/country based exercise although a global oversight
would add value to the process ensuring that a model and coordinated effort is in place
and both of these approaches should be pursued.

It is important to avoid creating neglected species amongst the neglected ones.

The four themes selected for an initial screening of plant species capable to contribute
best where: Nutrition, Climate Change, Agrobiodiversity and Marketing.
During the discussion more criteria were suggested to be considered when undertaking

      Germplasm access
      Market intelligence data availability
      Expected rates of adoption
      Non financial factors
      Ecological zoning
      Georeference
      Nutrition
      Ecosystem services

This tool will:
      Rank species according to perceived values (nutrition, climate change resilience,
       marketability, contribution to agrobiodiversity, etc.)
      Allow multiple users to work simultaneously
      Be flexible to permit users to add species

The tool was determined not to be appropriate for use in plant clusters, such as African
Leafy Vegetables and Andean Root and Tuber crops because these clusters do not deal
with individual species, but rather are made up of conglomerations of individual species.

For this online prioritization process, several iterations of a survey through
SurveyMonkey® were tested and will be further refined as some technical issues are still
to be dealt with. Nevertheless the prioritization process is an important that helped to
clarify some of the missing information.

Susanna Thorp from WrenMedia and a communication specialist helped the group in
realizing about the importance of communicating in the right language and format.
It is crucial that the message we are intending to get across to other stakeholders (e.g.
policy and decision makers, research managers, the general public) about the livelihood
option these plants offer and the engagement we are committed to as a WG on UPS is
scientifically sound and packaged in an attractive way for the reader.

Quoting David Nkwanga from the Nature Palace Foundation, Uganda
“While we need to maintain our 'scientific/discipline integrity', at the same time we don't
want to present a 'dull' paper that no body will be interested in picking and reading. Why
not package the same good points we have managed to come up in the course of our
discussion in an attractive way by utilizing existing opportunities like Wren Media? ”

In this context it is important to mention that the group was approached by Karen
Hampson of ILEIA Magazine who offered a forum within one of the next issues of the
magazine for practical examples of how farmers build resilience to changes in their
farming systems, with special reference to climate change.


We took advantage of my attendance to the 9th meeting of the Conference of the parties
of the Convention on Biodiversity in Bonn, Germany May 2008 in order to try and get a
message out to the participants of this important event.

The DGroup proved to be a useful workspace to develop a statement of intent from our
working group on UPS (attached) that was distributed amongst the participants of a side
event organized by the Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research and during which I
presented a project on agrobiodiversity and climate change
During the discussion the traditional, local and underutilized species where featured as
important assets we should capitalize upon to improve livelihoods.

    Refine the web survey to make it more useful and results-oriented (Hannah
    Formalize the working groups which were suggested (Nutrition, Climate Change,
     Agrobiodiversity, Marketing)
    Follow up on commitments from participants (chairmen and women of
     committees) Colm Bowe (Climate Change), Nabeel I. Abu-Shriha, Anke Weisheit
     and H.M. El Shaer (Agrobiodiversity), Michael Femi (Marketing).
    Attend and advocate for NUS at high-level meetings such as the IUCN World
     Congress in Barcelona and the PELUM symposium on global campaign for UPS
     and distribution of seed kits in Tanzania – both of them coming up in October
    Contribute to the Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research project on climate
     change by contributing case studies. (Paul Bordoni is coordinating)
    Use the GFU calendar of events to find opportunities to showcase our work (Paul
    Opportunities for further publicizing presented themselves during the e-
     conference by ILEIA making contact and offering to publish case studies for their
     magazine LEISA
    Take advantage of Wren Media as a communication specialist agency that is
     eager to support us to package and get our messages out in order to raise
     awareness about UPS and the WG on UPS.