Agrobiodiversity is the story of neglected, underutilized, minor, orphaned and forgotten crops (but not anymore).

Today, over half the world’s plant-based nutrition comes from just 3 crops: corn, wheat, and rice (it wasn’t always like that).

Since the 1900s, farmers worldwide have increasingly abandoned traditional crops in favor of more genetically uniform, higher-yield varieties. This disturbing trend toward the intensive production of select crops has come at a cost. Global biodiversity is threatened. People in many parts of the globe face malnourishment and the impacts of diet-related diseases. Can we change course before it’s too late?

Photo by Robert Deluvio

Today, over half the world’s plant-based nutrition comes from just 3 crops: corn, wheat, and rice (it wasn’t always like that).
Since the 1900s, farmers worldwide have increasingly abandoned traditional crops in favor of more genetically uniform, higher-yield varieties. This disturbing trend toward the intensive production of select crops has come at a cost. Global biodiversity is threatened. People in many parts of the globe face malnourishment and the impacts of diet-related diseases. Can we change course before it’s too late?

Photo by Robert Deluvio

The challenge: Since the 1900s, 75 percent of the world’s plant genetic diversity has been lost.
Farmers worldwide have increasingly abandoned traditional crops in favor of more genetically uniform, higher-yield varieties. This disturbing trend toward the intensive production of select crops—growing for yield instead of nutrition—has come at a cost. Global biodiversity is threatened. People across the globe now face malnourishment and the impacts of diet-related diseases. Can we change course before it’s too late?

The Solution: Growing for greater agrobiodiversity provides benefits for people and the environment.

Cultivating agrobiodiversity can improve local economies and environmental health. Communities that invest in agrobiodiversity reap the benefits of value-added goods, women empowerment, and increased local autonomy. Agrobiodiversity can also improve soil health, increase climate resilience, and restore ecosystems.
Forgotten. Neglected. Minor. Underutilized. Orphans. Regardless of their names, farmers across the globe are “reawakening” traditionally undervalued crops.
Over the past half-century, many abandoned crops have been reappraised as communities worldwide rediscover their power to combat hunger, respond to climate change, promote greater biodiversity, provide women with livelihoods, and support healthier and more secure food systems.

The Lexicon created Reawakened with guidance from dozens of companies, government agencies and international NGOs. Their skills range from providing research, crop science and plant breeding support (Crops for the Future, Bioversity International, CIAT, and Icrisat), insight on building and promoting seed banks and sound conservation practices to ensure biodiversity (Crop Trust and Food Forever), sharing cultural and culinary knowledge (Slow Food and Future Food Institute), and organizing farming communities and family farms across the globe (GFAR).

The Lexicon asked food systems experts to select the best examples of Reawakened Crops from across the globe.

They started with 25.

An international group of experts—including agronomists, soil scientists, and food systems NGOs—selected 25 Reawakened crops that are transforming global food systems by providing nutrient security, enhancing biodiversity, supporting local economies, and increased resilience to climate change.

Many agrobiodiversity benefits, like addressing climate change and malnutrition, overlap with UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals promote adequate nutrition, gender equality, equitable economic growth, land preservation, climate change resilience, and ending hunger for all. Agrobiodiversity creates progress towards all of these goals at the local level, where making change can have the most immediate impact.
The Lexicon uses evidence-based storytelling, strategy, and mobilization to build movements that tackle our food systems’ greatest challenges.

Douglas Gayeton, Chief Lexicographer and Co-founder of The Lexicon, leads the Reawakened Global Storytelling Collective. He is an award-winning information architect, filmmaker, photographer, and writer who has created work at the boundaries of traditional and emerging media since the early 90’s. He directed the KNOW YOUR FOOD series for PBS and GROWING ORGANIC for USDA, and has authored two books, SLOW: Life in a Tuscan Town, and LOCAL: The New Face of Food & Farming in America.

Douglas is an award-winning information architect, filmmaker, photographer and writer.

He directed the KNOW YOUR FOOD series for PBS and GROWING ORGANIC for USDA, MOLOTOV ALVA for HBO, and has authored two books, SLOW: Life in a Tuscan Town, and LOCAL: The New Face of Food & Farming in America.

He is also one of Crop Trust’s Food Forever champions and a visiting professor in the Masters Program at Slow Food’s University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy.
Laura is a producer, farmer, entrepreneur and executive director of the Lexicon. She pioneered the art of multi-layered narrative approaches to film and video during her life as a commercials producer in Hollywood, then later moved to Northern California and founded the first goat milk ice company in the United States, LALOO’S.
Pier Giorgio is The Lexicon’s Head of Digital. Based near Bristol, England, his projects include short films for PBS, USDA, Warner Brothers, and Napster, as well as a feature-length documentary for HBO. He also produces short films for Sustainable Food Trust and GrowEatGather, which showcases British farmers and their role in producing sustainable food.
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