Why BFN in Sri Lanka: relevance
Biodiversity with high nutritional significance (which will also be referred to as Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition (BFN)) comprises a vast array of cultivated and wild species that, if made available and utilized effectively, can contribute significantly to the dietary diversity, livelihoods and well-being of millions of individuals in communities in countries all over the world, both developed and developing. Many barriers hinder the sustainable utilization of biodiversity with high nutritional potential and have caused it to be relegated to a minor role in agriculture. Yet it could play a strategic role in development, including in food and nutrition strategies. This neglect has come at a great cost to national healthcare budgets, the global environment and society in general.
BFN could be defined as including species with under-exploited potential for contributing to food security, health (nutritional/medicinal), income generation, and environmental services. They are: highly nutritious with other multiple uses; strongly linked to the cultural heritage of their places of origin; are highly adapted to marginal, complex and difficult environments and have contributed significantly to diversification and resilience of agro-ecological niches; may be collected from the wild or produced in traditional production systems with little or no external inputs; and probably, most significantly, receive little attention from national and international research, policy and decision makers, international covenants, donors and consumer
Sri Lanka has been identified as one of the countries in Asia with a very high degree of biodiversity. The wide variation in temperature, rainfall, topography and soils that characterize the country have provided a wide diversity of ecosystems resulting in a rich diversity of plant species which Sri Lankan farmers have been able to maintain over thousands of years. Thus, there are nearly 4,100 species of flowering plants (26% endemic). A considerable diversity also exists among the major crops cultivated in Sri Lanka, including wild relatives, landraces and traditional varieties.
As biodiversity in Sri Lanka is so vast, the use of these indigenous, largely plant, genetic resources is still scarcely explored, appreciated or conserved. Therefore a project has been designed (Herein called the Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition BFN Initiative) with the objective of strengthening the conservation and sustainable management of agricultural biodiversity through mainstreaming international and global nutrition, food and livelihood security strategies and programmes. The Project will seek to achieve these goals and objectives through implementation of three components which are designed to improve: the knowledge base (Component 1); the policy and regulatory framework (Component 2); and awareness and out scaling (Component 3). Global knowledge will encompass globally relevant tools, lessons and best practices.