Food Plant Solutions
Rotarian Action Group
There is universal agreement that hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity (HMAFI) continue to increase in the developing world. Recent media commentary on international aid is questioning whether increased spending is warranted and may, in fact, be counterproductive. There have also been calls for aid programs that provide sustainable self-help, rather than dependence. Food Plant Solutions (FPS) is a unique, low cost food production concept with significant potential to address HMAFI in a truly sustainable, self-help manner. The prime target for FPS is the 80 countries in the developing world with the highest levels of infant and child mortality, which are recognised indicators of malnutrition.
Food Plant Solutions
FPS was established seven years ago by Rotary District 9830 in Tasmania to address HMAFI in developing countries. The project is based on a database of over 26,500 edible plants for all countries of the world, developed by Tasmanian agricultural scientist, Bruce French. This database is a formidable resource for research, teaching and outreach in these countries. FPS focuses on increasing awareness in indigenous people and aid providers of the real value of neglected and underutilised plants that have been lost from the diet. Nutritious plants that are well adapted and thrive on low inputs can be of far greater value in addressing HMFAI than many of the western food plants that are frequently used in agricultural development programs. Using the unique food plant database, FPS is able to readily identify nutritionally appropriate examples of neglected and underutilised species for each specific target country or region. Through the worldwide network of Rotarians and independent NGO's, interest in the solutions FPS has to offer continues to increase. FPS is now actively working with groups in more than twenty-five developing countries. With the exception of one part time casual employee, FPS is staffed and operated by volunteers, largely from Australia, but with some from overseas.
Support and Collaboration
The concept of sustainable food production focussing on neglected and underutilised plants is not unique to FPS, and is becoming increasingly recognised by international organisations involved in health and nutrition. FPS has identified significant potential to enhance its work through collaborative association with a number of organisations involved in delivery of food aid programs internationally as well as the School of Agriculture at the University of Tasmania (UTAS) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).