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Domesticating forest products for development

I very much agree with the tenet of the recent article "Beating world hunger: the return of 'neglected' crops", however, I would argue that we need to do more than just go back to these traditional crops.

I think we have to domesticate them further to make them even more attractive to both farmers and consumers. I have been doing work of this sort for about ten years.

Many 'non-timber forest products' such as fruits, nuts, fungi, medicines and fibres, which have traditionally been collected from forests are now grown deliberately by farmers and generate income for poor households, especially the women, when sold in local and regional markets.

When used domestically they provide valuable nutrition and health products. Through domestication these products can be sold more widely and do even more for the livelihoods of rural producers and urban processors.

We have developed a horticultural approach to domestication, which is done in the villages so that the farmers are the beneficiaries. I see this participatory approach, which supports the rights conferred by the Convention on Biological Diversity, as an alternative to 'biopiracy'.

It starts with finding out what farmers want to grow, and helps them develop varieties that interest them and integrate these new/traditional crops within complex farming systems.