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Rediscovering Asia’s forgotten crops to fight chronic and hidden hunger

Abstract

Asia has a rich variety of nutritious ‘neglected crops’, domesticated since ancient times but mostly forgotten or underutilized today. These crops, including cereals, roots, nuts, pulses, fruits and vegetables, are adapted to their land, resilient to environmental challenges and rich in micronutrients. Changing current agricultural practices from a near monoculture to a diverse cropping portfolio that uses these forgotten crops is a viable and promising approach to closing the current gaps in production and nutrition in Asia. Such an approach was proposed by the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Zero Hunger initiative in Asia, which aims to end hunger by 2030. The Zero Hunger initiative is a promising approach to help increase access to nutritious food; however, it faces substantial challenges, such as the lack of farmer willingness to switch crops and adequate governmental support for implementation. Countries such as Nepal have started using these neglected crops, implementing various approaches to overcome challenges and start a new agricultural pathway.

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Fig. 1: Percentage of wasting and stunting in children under 5 years of age.
Fig. 2: Examples of neglected and underutilized crops.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank all partners of the FAO’s Future Smart Food initiative for their collective efforts and intellectual contributions to the development of the FSF under the Regional Initiative on Zero Hunger. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

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K.H.M.S. conceived the idea. K.H.M.S. and K.G. wrote the first draft. All authors contributed to the subsequent revision of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Kadambot H. M. Siddique.

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Peer review information Nature Plants thanks Delores Piperno for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Siddique, K.H.M., Li, X. & Gruber, K. Rediscovering Asia’s forgotten crops to fight chronic and hidden hunger. Nat. Plants 7, 116–122 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-021-00850-z

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