II: The Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition (BFN) Project

In this section:

  • • An overview of the global BFN Project, a multi-country, cross-sectoral initiative that promoted indigenous food biodiversity by: providing evidence, influencing policies and markets, and raising awareness.
  • A) The conceptual and historical context in which the project developed
  • B) The necessary steps to plan the project: situational analysis, development of partnerships and identification of entry points
  • C) The actions taken to implement the project with country-specific highlights, lessons learned and best practices.

The ABC of mainstreaming biodiversity for food and nutrition: Concepts, theory and practice

Eliot Gee, Teresa Borelli, Daniela Mourn de Oliveira Bel- trame, Camila Neves Soares Oliveira, Lidio Goradin, Victor Wasike, Aurillia Manjella Ndiwa, Gamini Samarasinghe, Birgul Guner, Ayfer Tan, Kur$ad Ozbek, Saadet TugruI Ay, Seving Karabak, Nurcan Aysar Guzelsoy and Danny Hunter


So far, Part I of this book has illustrated the potential of food biodiversity in contributing to much-needed food system change. It is clear that strategic promotion and use of food biodiversity is critical in uniting attempts to address conservation, nutrition and livelihood concerns. However, the knowledge base on much of this food biodiversity remains fragmented and unrecognized by decision-makers and the wider public, with few examples of initiatives that have successfully implemented approaches to assess, deliver or mobilize biodiversity.

In Part II, we turn to the Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition (BFN) Project, a cross-sectoral initiative spearheaded by Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey to research and promote local food biodiversity. As introduced in Chapter 1, the BFN Project represents a unique approach to link biodiversity, diets and nutrition through three main components: providing evidence, influencing policy and markets, and raising awareness (illustrated in Figure 5.1: the BFN approach). This approach, adapted to the context of each country, offers numerous insights into how to best mainstream biodiversity into wider food systems (see Box 5.1).

An overview of the BFN Project approach Source

FIGURE 5.1 An overview of the BFN Project approach Source: N. Ching, E. Gee, N. Lauridsen


'Mainstreaming' biodiversity means integrating actions that conserve and sustainably use biodiversity into strategies for agriculture, fisheries, forestry and other related sectors.

Including biodiversity awareness in plans, policies and programmes increases recognition of the importance of biodiversity for human wellbeing, while ensuring the sustainability of the production sectors and the people who depend on them for their livelihoods.

Mainstreaming also refers to the inclusion of biodiversity considerations into plans for poverty reduction, national sustainable development and climate change adaptation.

In the context of food biodiversity - by which we mean 'the diversity of plants, animals and other organisms used as food, covering the genetic resources within species, between species and provided by ecosystems' (FAO, 2010) - mainstreaming refers to the appropriate integrated use of a wide range of edible plant varieties (including wild, neglected and underutilized species) and animal breeds with the main goal of reducing malnutrition.

Source: Adapted from The BFN Mainstreaming Toolkit and Decision XIII/3, Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity

Part II is a single chapter divided into ABC of the BFN Project:

A. Elaborates on the context that guided the formation of the BFN Project, followed by the situation in the four target countries, and the three components that guided the project approach.

B. Outlines the planning phase of the BFN Project, with particular emphasis on developing partnerships to support the successful implementation of the project at all levels.

C. Details how the BFN Project approach was put into action. The general practices associated with each component are illustrated with country-specific case studies and highlights. These promote dialogue between the countries and provide an understanding of how these activities can be up-scaled and adapted to country and regional contexts.

A Biodiversity for food and nutrition in context

The rising concept of biodiversity for food and nutrition


Key players: Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Bioversity International, Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey.

Decisions of relevance to the project context: CBD Cross-cutting initiative on biodiversity for food and nutrition, Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA), FAO Voluntary Guidelines (2015), The International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), UN Decades on Biodiversity and Nutrition, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

The Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition (BFN) Project spanned seven years, from April 2012 to 2019, and stemmed from a build-up of fresh thinking in the late 1990s and early 2000s to redress years of ineffective agricultural and health sector interventions aimed at solving global malnutrition (Beltrame et al., 2019). The concepts emerging called for synergistic approaches towards integrating agriculture and food production, ecology and economics with nutrition and human health, environmental health and economic development, to promote sustainable agricultural and food production with minimal impacts on the environment. Concurrently, there was growing recognition of the important links between biodiversity, nutrition and health, and realization that their combined integration into public health, conservation and sustainability strategies would contribute not only to improved health and biodiversity outcomes, but also to poverty alleviation, disaster-risk reduction and, more broadly, to sustainable development, in keeping with global conversations at the time around the post-2015 UN development agenda, and the subsequent formulation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The origins of the BFN Project were indirectly linked to the launch in 1996 by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) — the chief multilateral treaty targeting sustainable development and aimed at the conservation of biological diversity — of a Programme of Work (PoW) on Agricultural Biodiversity1. The PoW recognized agricultural biodiversity as a contributor to farmers’ livelihoods and recognized the central role farmers and indigenous communities played in the conservation and sustainable use of this diversity. Within the PoW, three international cross-cutting initiatives were adopted focusing on declining or overexploited agricultural ecosystem services.

A1 Timeline

FIGURE 5.A1 Timeline: key steps in the development of biodiversity for food and nutrition Source: D. Hunter

The one most relevant to BFN, and which led to the formulation of the themes that underpin the project, is the Cross-cutting initiative on biodiversity for food and nutrition formally established in 2006 by decision VIII/23 A of the Conference of the Parties.2 Led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Bioversity International, the initiative aims to:

  • • Develop and document knowledge on the composition and consumption of food genetic resources, as well as the relationship between biodiversity and nutrition
  • • Integrate biodiversity, food and nutrition issues into research and policy instruments
  • • Conserve and promote wider use of biodiversity for food and nutrition
  • • Increase public awareness of the importance of biodiversity.


Funding for the BFN Project was channelled via the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the institutional financing mechanism of the CBD that provides financial support to the 196 countries that are parties to the CBD for the implementation of the Convention and its Protocols and for the achievement of the globally-agreed objectives, goals and targets, and associated global benefits. By the time it was approved, the BFN Project fell under the umbrella of the GEF-6 four-year funding cycle (2014-2018), which had a strong focus on tackling the drivers of environmental degradation and particularly biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation. The application process for GEF funding can be lengthy and cumbersome, and generally requires a negotiation process between countries and GEF that can take between 12 to 18 months, sometimes longer. The process is summarized (Figure 5.A2) for those interested in accessing future GEF funding. It should be noted, however, that from the time of concept development to final project approval, GEF country allocations may have been redirected to competing national projects and limited funds remain for project implementation. This was the case for one of the BFN countries, Kenya, which requested an initial allocation of approximately US$1 M at the project proposal phase, but ended up receiving US$250K to implement a five-year project. While representing a barrier at first and forcing the country to downsize activities in order to meet a more limited number of project objectives and outcomes, the shortfall eventually turned into an opportunity, leading to greater creativity, to resource optimization and the quest for alternative sources of funding. For more information, see: https://wwfgeftracks.com.

A2 The Global Environment Facility (GEF) Process Adapted from https://wwfgeftracks.com/project-cycle

FIGURE 5.A2 The Global Environment Facility (GEF) Process Adapted from https://wwfgeftracks.com/project-cycle

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