Hidden Harvest

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Food diversity includes an astonishing number of edible plant and animal species that are managed and harvested in the wild, a practice that is especially common in households experiencing seasonal food shortages.

In India, for example, an estimated 600 wild plant species are used or managed as a source of food. Worldwide, some 1,069 species of wild edible fungi provide nutrition and income for foragers. Wild foods are excluded from official statistics on the economic values of natural resources, but recent studies indicate that wild species play a vital role in local food security, as well as provide substantial health and economic benefits.

Studies of 36 agricultural/foraging communities in 22 countries of Asia and Africa found that people in these areas were, on average, using 90–100 wild plant and animal food species. For indigenous communities, the use of wild food species was even greater, with 120 wild species.

Wild food diversity is threatened by climate change, destruction of natural habitats and in some cases by over-harvesting.

Links and Resources

  • Bharucha, Z., Pretty, J. (2010, September 27). The roles and values of wild foods in agricultural systems. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. 365(1554) 2913-2926. Retrieved from rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org

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