Seminar: Underutilized plant species for food, nutrition, income and sustainable development

Venue and dates
Arusha, Tanzania; 3-7 March 2008

Background and justification
Underutilized plant species contribute to environmental sustainability and can combat land degradation. Products made from these niche crops are used in family health care, for animal feed and construction purposes. They can contribute substantially to family income and provide opportunities to diversify vulnerable livelihoods.

During 2006, the International Centre for Underutilised Crops (ICUC) and the Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species (GFU) consulted widely about the problems and opportunities faced by the underutilized plant species research and development community in their efforts to promote these plants for the benefit of poor people. Whilst initially ‘lack of funding’ was stated as major obstacle to increased knowledge and promotion of these plants, a thorough problem analysis showed that better communication, information exchange and knowledge sharing (including indigenous knowledge) amongst researchers, policy makers and the general public were actually amongst the key issues that need to be addressed.

Many underutilized plants actually have a wide geographic spread over several countries and continents (e.g tamarind, jackfruit, ber, amaranth etc.), however, research results are often only published in national journals or local reports, thus not reaching colleagues elsewhere. In other cases, approaches tried and tested for main crops may not be immediately apparent for underutilized species but exchange through a forum such as this symposium can trigger cross-disciplinary efforts.

The contributors to the consultation asked ICUC, GFU and other international partners to continue to play a key role as catalyst for information exchange, through electronic media (e.g. websites, Blogs, newletters) as well as the organization of conferences, workshops and training events, a challenge which we are addressing with this planned Symposium.

Problem statements
  • Limited awareness about the potential of underutilized plants to contribute to the reduction of extreme poverty and hunger, improved health and sustainable development and as a means for diversification;
  • Limited information exchange amongst researchers in different countries which has led to duplication and gaps in the overall limited research on underutilized plants.
  • Limited North-South-South research and development partnerships.

Beneficiaries/Target groups
The Symposium is intended to provide room for exchange and discussion amongst researchers who work on underutilized plant species from NARES, NGOs, ARIs and IARCs. These are therefore the primary beneficiaries. Further down the line other secondary beneficiaries, such as small-scale entrepreneurs and producers, will benefit from increased knowledge, shared information and newly formed/strengthened research alliances.

Overall objective
To contribute to the global goals of reduction in hunger, malnutrition and poverty by increasing understanding and knowledge about the benefits of underutilized plant species.

Project purpose
South-South and South-North information exchange fostered in order to increase awareness and knowledge about the value and potential of underutilized plant species and help develop new collaborative research and development projects.

ICUC, GFU, International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS), Globalhort, Asian Vegetable Research and Development Centre (AVRDC), Plant Resources for Tropical Africa (PROTA), Bioversity International, Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA)

Hannah Jaenicke (
John Woodend (

Further information

04 February 2008
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