EL BATAN, Mexico (CIMMYT) — A new study shows that dietary diversity is highest in areas close to forests, even when people don’t collect forest food and don’t generate income from forest products.Dietary diversity reflects the variety of foods you eat and is strongly associated with adequate nutrition you receive. Increasing dietary diversity is a key element in combatting malnutrition. In areas near forests, people typically have high-producing home gardens, fed by manure from the livestock they let graze in the woods.
Throughout the world, and particularly in the tropics, remaining forests are cut down to make way for farmland in order to feed a growing global population. However, even in areas of high food availability, children may struggle to get enough vitamins and minerals if they only eat calorically dense, nutrient sparse cereal crops, a phenomenon called hidden hunger. The authors state that while cereal crops will no doubt remain crucial to meet the caloric needs of the global population, it is important to maintain – and restore in places – high dietary diversity when facing hidden hunger. They recommend taking a holistic approach to agricultural development that maintains landscape diversity, as opposed to the current trend toward mono-cropping – growing a single crop year after year – and landscape simplification.
Read the full study “Indirect contributions of forests to dietary diversity in Southern Ethiopia” and check out the blog published by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).