Dietary Diversity, Nutrition and Health


Biodiversity, health and nutrition are vitally connected. As stated in the flagship publication by the CBD and the WHO ‘Connecting Global Priorities, Biodiversity and Human Health – A State of Knowledge Review’ nutritional diversity required for a healthy life is dependent on diversity of crops, animals and other organisms. It can also provide a local solution to diet-related nutrition and health conditions, such as nutrient deficiencies and obesity, which are becoming a growing burden on stretched health budgets. Yet much of this biodiversity and traditional knowledge associated with it is disappearing. The FAO estimates that of 10,000 plant species used for human food since the origin of agriculture, only 150-200 species have been commercially cultivated of which only four – rice, wheat, maize and potatoes supply 50% of the world’s energy needs. Intensification of agricultural systems has led to a substantial reduction in the genetic diversity of domesticated plants and animals and the implications of this loss (and related ecological knowledge) for the quality of the global food supply are scarcely understood, especially from the perspective of nutrition.

A recent survey summarizing information from 22 countries highlights that wild biodiversity still plays an important role in local contexts with around 90-100 wild species being used per community group, and 300 – 800 species in some individual countries. In many different parts of the world, replacing traditional foods with convenience foods has resulted in a decrease in the quality of the diet and soaring prevalence of diet-related chronic diseases among indigenous communities, apart from replacing crops that are more adapted to stressful conditions. The important role of biodiversity towards nutrition and health has been highlighted by the CBD’s “Cross-cutting initiative on biodiversity for food and nutrition” and the project on Biodiversity for Nutrition co-ordinated by Bioversity International.

Relevance for the Sustainable Development Goals
Links to current proposed goals to

  • End hunger, improve nutrition and sustainable agriculture
  • TTackle climate change & impacts
  • Attain healthy life for all
  • Promote sustainable use of ecosystems & stem biodiversity loss

Relevance for the Aichi targets

Target 3: Incentives and subsidies for sustainable use
Target 6: Sustainability of fish stocks
Target 7: Sustainable management of production ecosystems
Target 13: Conserve genetic diversity of cultivated plants and domesticated animals
Target 14: Sustain ecosystem services for the vulnerable
Target 18: Respect and integrate traditional knowledge, innovations and practices

Why conserving agrobiodiversity matters in Sri Lanka

The Executive Secretary of the CBD on the Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition Project