The Guinean zone of West Africa is considered to be the food basket of the sub-region. Benin, which is located in the area, has a large number of traditional food resources, but many are neglected and underutilized. Despite the abundance and diversity of foods within the food systems in Benin, there is evidence of food insecurity, high rates of under-nutrition and diet-related chronic diseases.
Local agricultural biodiversity has the ability to provide an important safety net for resource-poor families and communities by improving resilience. To enhance the utilization of foods from local agro-biodiversity, the Work Package 4 of the Food Africa Programme will generate and provide information that will strengthen the knowledge base about locally sourced foods in target communities.
Increased knowledge of available nutrient-rich traditional food resources by households in the project communities will enable these households to expand and improve food choices, strengthen resilience, and improve food and nutrition security in their families, in particular the nutrition and health of infants and young children .
Level of production of traditional foods needs to be increased
During the mid-20th century, communities’ food base included local cereals such as sorghum, millet, rice, and maize; roots and tubers such as cassava, yams and cocoyams; pulses such as cowpea, African yam bean and Bambara groundnuts, and local fruits. These were supplemented with minor food components, including some seasonally harvested from forests along with wild game, snails and aquatic foods.
‒ The diversity of local foods still exists but is in decline. The shrinking of local food availability and narrowing of the food base of cultivated local cereals, legumes, tubers and other minor food components has resulted in a decreased level of production and thus availability, says Francisca Smith, the Bioversity International advisor for WP4.
Expected outcomes for Work Package 4
Based on the identified needs, Work Package 4 will result in the following outcomes:
• Increases in the consumption of local foods sourced from agro-biodiverse systems in target communities achieved through improvements in knowledge and practice of production, processing and utilization.
• Increased dietary diversity with improved dietary quality leading to improved nutrition and health.
• Improvements in the knowledge and use of local foods for infant and young child feeding for children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years.
Examples of local food: