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Women Spearhead Biodiversity Protection in Tajikistan

Women Spearhead Biodiversity Protection in Tajikistan


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Despite being a biodiversity hotspot, since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, Tajikistan has remained a poor country. Around 45 percent of people are living in poverty, with the majority in rural areas, making native varieties of food extremely important for survival. The Zan va Zamin (Women and Earth) project’s work in Tajikistan aims to address these issues and they have embarked on a project to change the way people in the country think of their role in restoring endangered local varieties of fruits and crops within the region.

Zan va Zamin was established in 1999 by a group of women striving to defend the interests of rural communities. The groups lead campaigner, Muhabbat Manadalieva, is one of Tajikistan’s few female biologists, with other notable members of Women and Earth including Tajikistan’s first woman PhD, teachers, scientists, and doctors.

Their work has been praised by numerous organizations and according to the U.N. Development Programme, “By supporting women farmers stay on the land […] Women and Earth is bolstering local food security and reviving Tajikistan’s traditional eco-agricultural practices”.

According to Conservation International, the Central Asian mountains are designated as a biodiversity hotspot, essentially a region containing an exceptional number of native plant diversity. Almost the whole of Tajikistan is included in this so-called hotspot area, containing more than 5,000 plant species. Women and Earth are trying to protect and reinvigorate as much of this diversity as possible.

As part of Women and Earth’s broader scheme, 1,200 women are learning about their land rights and over 50 women leaders have been trained to manage farms.

With a grant of US$180,000 given to Women and Earth by The Christensen Fund, the successful project is now reaching more women and communities throughout Tajikistan. As part of the project, 30 seed banks and 20 loan funds are providing funds to help farmers access a greater variety of seed varieties.

Their work has meant that twelve field schools now produce as much as 1,000 tons of vegetables annually, with community orchards supplying saplings and maintaining more than 10,000 fruit trees including apples, pears, apricots and peaches of local varieties. As a result of Women and Earth’s efforts, this biodiversity hotspot has maintained and improved a resilient ecosystem resulting in improved food security and local incomes, with women leading the process.


Improving diets with wild edibles in rural Lebanese schools

School-feeding programme in Aarsal. Photo: Malek Batal

Traditional recipes containing wild edible plants were used as an entry point to improve the quality and diversity of children's diets in two elementary schools in rural Lebanon while reviving and enhancing the image of traditional foods and providing income to three women cooperatives.

In Lebanon, dietary habits are changing as the country experiences rapid economic, social and cultural changes. Traditional and inherently varied diets, which are perceived as “less prestigious” by younger generations, are being replaced by a limited range of high calorie high sugar foods, many of which imported, coupled with an increased consumption of red meat. As a result, micronutrient deficiencies and undernutrition are on the rise as is the prevalence of non-communicable diseases. A national cross-sectional survey carried out in 2009 showed the prevalence of overweight to be 21.2% among children and young adults (6-19 yrs) and 36.8% among adults aged 20 years and above, while obesity for these groups was reported at 10.9% and 28.2% respectively. At the same time traditional food production systems are threatened by environmental degradation with consequent biodiversity loss as people move from small-scale farming to commercial agriculture or move to cities in search of work and abandon their land.

Agrobiodiversity

Wild edibles plants are the mainstay of traditional Lebanese cuisine, which is based on fresh and local ingredients. Fool’s watercress (Apium nodiflorum), wild thyme (Origanum syriacum), mallow (Malva sylvestris), green purslane (Portulaca oleracea), salsify (Tragopogon buthalmoides), Eryngium creticum, tumbleweed (Gundelia tournefortii) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) are just some of the wild edibles commonly used in Lebanese cuisine. Rarely sold in conventional vegetable markets, these plants are informally collected by local communities (mostly women) from their wild habitats and generally perceived as improving dietary diversity and diet quality. In a study carried out by Batal and Hunter (2007), wild edible plant dishes generally proved to offer a healthier alternative to popular Western equivalents.

As part of a larger project funded by the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC) Ecohealth Program, two school-feeding programmes were set up in 2010 involving a local women’s cooperative - Healthy Kitchen - and two elementary schools in the arid region of Arsaal. Over a 6-month period, 135 children aged between 6 and 9 were provided with a mid-morning snack that met 25% of their daily energy and nutrient requirements and reduced their intake of processed foods. School-feeding was complemented by a nutrition education module offered to participating students, families and teachers to encourage the consumption of wild edibles and locally grown foods, to renew interest in the local food culture and raise awareness of food as an ecosystem service, resulting in the improved management of key (and in some cases threatened) natural resources. The project was carried out in partnership with the Nature Conservation Center of the American University of Beirut, the University of Ottawa and the University of Montreal in Canada.

As a result of the school-feeding programme:

  • A significant decrease in anemia prevalence among schoolchildren (p<0.0001) was recorded
  • Eating habits improved at both schools with a significant decrease in number of children not consuming breakfast (p<0.001)
  • Participating children demonstrated improved attitudes towards traditional diets and healthy lifestyle practices.
  • The women cooperative is generating income by using and promoting wild edibles

Scaling-up
As a result of the project, Healthy Kitchen cooperatives were set up in 3 villages and training provided to 25 women in the collection, processing and marketing of wild edibles. Women were also involved in documenting traditional recipes using these plants which have been collected in a food-safety manual in Arabic and a the Healthy Kitchen cookbook containing over 40 local recipes, traditional knowledge and scientific information on the nutritional and health properties of 15 wild edible plants. Recipes are also being promoted in catering events, village cooking festivals and trade shows which have captured media attention and increased the visibility of traditional foods. The network has played a key role in promoting wild plants and ecosystem protection.


Improving diets with wild edibles in rural Lebanese schools

School-feeding programme in Aarsal. Photo: Malek Batal

Traditional recipes containing wild edible plants were used as an entry point to improve the quality and diversity of children's diets in two elementary schools in rural Lebanon while reviving and enhancing the image of traditional foods and providing income to three women cooperatives.

In Lebanon, dietary habits are changing as the country experiences rapid economic, social and cultural changes. Traditional and inherently varied diets, which are perceived as “less prestigious” by younger generations, are being replaced by a limited range of high calorie high sugar foods, many of which imported, coupled with an increased consumption of red meat. As a result, micronutrient deficiencies and undernutrition are on the rise as is the prevalence of non-communicable diseases. A national cross-sectional survey carried out in 2009 showed the prevalence of overweight to be 21.2% among children and young adults (6-19 yrs) and 36.8% among adults aged 20 years and above, while obesity for these groups was reported at 10.9% and 28.2% respectively. At the same time traditional food production systems are threatened by environmental degradation with consequent biodiversity loss as people move from small-scale farming to commercial agriculture or move to cities in search of work and abandon their land.

Agrobiodiversity

Wild edibles plants are the mainstay of traditional Lebanese cuisine, which is based on fresh and local ingredients. Fool’s watercress (Apium nodiflorum), wild thyme (Origanum syriacum), mallow (Malva sylvestris), green purslane (Portulaca oleracea), salsify (Tragopogon buthalmoides), Eryngium creticum, tumbleweed (Gundelia tournefortii) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) are just some of the wild edibles commonly used in Lebanese cuisine. Rarely sold in conventional vegetable markets, these plants are informally collected by local communities (mostly women) from their wild habitats and generally perceived as improving dietary diversity and diet quality. In a study carried out by Batal and Hunter (2007), wild edible plant dishes generally proved to offer a healthier alternative to popular Western equivalents.

As part of a larger project funded by the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC) Ecohealth Program, two school-feeding programmes were set up in 2010 involving a local women’s cooperative - Healthy Kitchen - and two elementary schools in the arid region of Arsaal. Over a 6-month period, 135 children aged between 6 and 9 were provided with a mid-morning snack that met 25% of their daily energy and nutrient requirements and reduced their intake of processed foods. School-feeding was complemented by a nutrition education module offered to participating students, families and teachers to encourage the consumption of wild edibles and locally grown foods, to renew interest in the local food culture and raise awareness of food as an ecosystem service, resulting in the improved management of key (and in some cases threatened) natural resources. The project was carried out in partnership with the Nature Conservation Center of the American University of Beirut, the University of Ottawa and the University of Montreal in Canada.

As a result of the school-feeding programme:

  • A significant decrease in anemia prevalence among schoolchildren (p<0.0001) was recorded
  • Eating habits improved at both schools with a significant decrease in number of children not consuming breakfast (p<0.001)
  • Participating children demonstrated improved attitudes towards traditional diets and healthy lifestyle practices.
  • The women cooperative is generating income by using and promoting wild edibles

Scaling-up
As a result of the project, Healthy Kitchen cooperatives were set up in 3 villages and training provided to 25 women in the collection, processing and marketing of wild edibles. Women were also involved in documenting traditional recipes using these plants which have been collected in a food-safety manual in Arabic and a the Healthy Kitchen cookbook containing over 40 local recipes, traditional knowledge and scientific information on the nutritional and health properties of 15 wild edible plants. Recipes are also being promoted in catering events, village cooking festivals and trade shows which have captured media attention and increased the visibility of traditional foods. The network has played a key role in promoting wild plants and ecosystem protection.


Improving diets with wild edibles in rural Lebanese schools

School-feeding programme in Aarsal. Photo: Malek Batal

Traditional recipes containing wild edible plants were used as an entry point to improve the quality and diversity of children's diets in two elementary schools in rural Lebanon while reviving and enhancing the image of traditional foods and providing income to three women cooperatives.

In Lebanon, dietary habits are changing as the country experiences rapid economic, social and cultural changes. Traditional and inherently varied diets, which are perceived as “less prestigious” by younger generations, are being replaced by a limited range of high calorie high sugar foods, many of which imported, coupled with an increased consumption of red meat. As a result, micronutrient deficiencies and undernutrition are on the rise as is the prevalence of non-communicable diseases. A national cross-sectional survey carried out in 2009 showed the prevalence of overweight to be 21.2% among children and young adults (6-19 yrs) and 36.8% among adults aged 20 years and above, while obesity for these groups was reported at 10.9% and 28.2% respectively. At the same time traditional food production systems are threatened by environmental degradation with consequent biodiversity loss as people move from small-scale farming to commercial agriculture or move to cities in search of work and abandon their land.

Agrobiodiversity

Wild edibles plants are the mainstay of traditional Lebanese cuisine, which is based on fresh and local ingredients. Fool’s watercress (Apium nodiflorum), wild thyme (Origanum syriacum), mallow (Malva sylvestris), green purslane (Portulaca oleracea), salsify (Tragopogon buthalmoides), Eryngium creticum, tumbleweed (Gundelia tournefortii) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) are just some of the wild edibles commonly used in Lebanese cuisine. Rarely sold in conventional vegetable markets, these plants are informally collected by local communities (mostly women) from their wild habitats and generally perceived as improving dietary diversity and diet quality. In a study carried out by Batal and Hunter (2007), wild edible plant dishes generally proved to offer a healthier alternative to popular Western equivalents.

As part of a larger project funded by the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC) Ecohealth Program, two school-feeding programmes were set up in 2010 involving a local women’s cooperative - Healthy Kitchen - and two elementary schools in the arid region of Arsaal. Over a 6-month period, 135 children aged between 6 and 9 were provided with a mid-morning snack that met 25% of their daily energy and nutrient requirements and reduced their intake of processed foods. School-feeding was complemented by a nutrition education module offered to participating students, families and teachers to encourage the consumption of wild edibles and locally grown foods, to renew interest in the local food culture and raise awareness of food as an ecosystem service, resulting in the improved management of key (and in some cases threatened) natural resources. The project was carried out in partnership with the Nature Conservation Center of the American University of Beirut, the University of Ottawa and the University of Montreal in Canada.

As a result of the school-feeding programme:

  • A significant decrease in anemia prevalence among schoolchildren (p<0.0001) was recorded
  • Eating habits improved at both schools with a significant decrease in number of children not consuming breakfast (p<0.001)
  • Participating children demonstrated improved attitudes towards traditional diets and healthy lifestyle practices.
  • The women cooperative is generating income by using and promoting wild edibles

Scaling-up
As a result of the project, Healthy Kitchen cooperatives were set up in 3 villages and training provided to 25 women in the collection, processing and marketing of wild edibles. Women were also involved in documenting traditional recipes using these plants which have been collected in a food-safety manual in Arabic and a the Healthy Kitchen cookbook containing over 40 local recipes, traditional knowledge and scientific information on the nutritional and health properties of 15 wild edible plants. Recipes are also being promoted in catering events, village cooking festivals and trade shows which have captured media attention and increased the visibility of traditional foods. The network has played a key role in promoting wild plants and ecosystem protection.


Improving diets with wild edibles in rural Lebanese schools

School-feeding programme in Aarsal. Photo: Malek Batal

Traditional recipes containing wild edible plants were used as an entry point to improve the quality and diversity of children's diets in two elementary schools in rural Lebanon while reviving and enhancing the image of traditional foods and providing income to three women cooperatives.

In Lebanon, dietary habits are changing as the country experiences rapid economic, social and cultural changes. Traditional and inherently varied diets, which are perceived as “less prestigious” by younger generations, are being replaced by a limited range of high calorie high sugar foods, many of which imported, coupled with an increased consumption of red meat. As a result, micronutrient deficiencies and undernutrition are on the rise as is the prevalence of non-communicable diseases. A national cross-sectional survey carried out in 2009 showed the prevalence of overweight to be 21.2% among children and young adults (6-19 yrs) and 36.8% among adults aged 20 years and above, while obesity for these groups was reported at 10.9% and 28.2% respectively. At the same time traditional food production systems are threatened by environmental degradation with consequent biodiversity loss as people move from small-scale farming to commercial agriculture or move to cities in search of work and abandon their land.

Agrobiodiversity

Wild edibles plants are the mainstay of traditional Lebanese cuisine, which is based on fresh and local ingredients. Fool’s watercress (Apium nodiflorum), wild thyme (Origanum syriacum), mallow (Malva sylvestris), green purslane (Portulaca oleracea), salsify (Tragopogon buthalmoides), Eryngium creticum, tumbleweed (Gundelia tournefortii) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) are just some of the wild edibles commonly used in Lebanese cuisine. Rarely sold in conventional vegetable markets, these plants are informally collected by local communities (mostly women) from their wild habitats and generally perceived as improving dietary diversity and diet quality. In a study carried out by Batal and Hunter (2007), wild edible plant dishes generally proved to offer a healthier alternative to popular Western equivalents.

As part of a larger project funded by the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC) Ecohealth Program, two school-feeding programmes were set up in 2010 involving a local women’s cooperative - Healthy Kitchen - and two elementary schools in the arid region of Arsaal. Over a 6-month period, 135 children aged between 6 and 9 were provided with a mid-morning snack that met 25% of their daily energy and nutrient requirements and reduced their intake of processed foods. School-feeding was complemented by a nutrition education module offered to participating students, families and teachers to encourage the consumption of wild edibles and locally grown foods, to renew interest in the local food culture and raise awareness of food as an ecosystem service, resulting in the improved management of key (and in some cases threatened) natural resources. The project was carried out in partnership with the Nature Conservation Center of the American University of Beirut, the University of Ottawa and the University of Montreal in Canada.

As a result of the school-feeding programme:

  • A significant decrease in anemia prevalence among schoolchildren (p<0.0001) was recorded
  • Eating habits improved at both schools with a significant decrease in number of children not consuming breakfast (p<0.001)
  • Participating children demonstrated improved attitudes towards traditional diets and healthy lifestyle practices.
  • The women cooperative is generating income by using and promoting wild edibles

Scaling-up
As a result of the project, Healthy Kitchen cooperatives were set up in 3 villages and training provided to 25 women in the collection, processing and marketing of wild edibles. Women were also involved in documenting traditional recipes using these plants which have been collected in a food-safety manual in Arabic and a the Healthy Kitchen cookbook containing over 40 local recipes, traditional knowledge and scientific information on the nutritional and health properties of 15 wild edible plants. Recipes are also being promoted in catering events, village cooking festivals and trade shows which have captured media attention and increased the visibility of traditional foods. The network has played a key role in promoting wild plants and ecosystem protection.


Improving diets with wild edibles in rural Lebanese schools

School-feeding programme in Aarsal. Photo: Malek Batal

Traditional recipes containing wild edible plants were used as an entry point to improve the quality and diversity of children's diets in two elementary schools in rural Lebanon while reviving and enhancing the image of traditional foods and providing income to three women cooperatives.

In Lebanon, dietary habits are changing as the country experiences rapid economic, social and cultural changes. Traditional and inherently varied diets, which are perceived as “less prestigious” by younger generations, are being replaced by a limited range of high calorie high sugar foods, many of which imported, coupled with an increased consumption of red meat. As a result, micronutrient deficiencies and undernutrition are on the rise as is the prevalence of non-communicable diseases. A national cross-sectional survey carried out in 2009 showed the prevalence of overweight to be 21.2% among children and young adults (6-19 yrs) and 36.8% among adults aged 20 years and above, while obesity for these groups was reported at 10.9% and 28.2% respectively. At the same time traditional food production systems are threatened by environmental degradation with consequent biodiversity loss as people move from small-scale farming to commercial agriculture or move to cities in search of work and abandon their land.

Agrobiodiversity

Wild edibles plants are the mainstay of traditional Lebanese cuisine, which is based on fresh and local ingredients. Fool’s watercress (Apium nodiflorum), wild thyme (Origanum syriacum), mallow (Malva sylvestris), green purslane (Portulaca oleracea), salsify (Tragopogon buthalmoides), Eryngium creticum, tumbleweed (Gundelia tournefortii) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) are just some of the wild edibles commonly used in Lebanese cuisine. Rarely sold in conventional vegetable markets, these plants are informally collected by local communities (mostly women) from their wild habitats and generally perceived as improving dietary diversity and diet quality. In a study carried out by Batal and Hunter (2007), wild edible plant dishes generally proved to offer a healthier alternative to popular Western equivalents.

As part of a larger project funded by the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC) Ecohealth Program, two school-feeding programmes were set up in 2010 involving a local women’s cooperative - Healthy Kitchen - and two elementary schools in the arid region of Arsaal. Over a 6-month period, 135 children aged between 6 and 9 were provided with a mid-morning snack that met 25% of their daily energy and nutrient requirements and reduced their intake of processed foods. School-feeding was complemented by a nutrition education module offered to participating students, families and teachers to encourage the consumption of wild edibles and locally grown foods, to renew interest in the local food culture and raise awareness of food as an ecosystem service, resulting in the improved management of key (and in some cases threatened) natural resources. The project was carried out in partnership with the Nature Conservation Center of the American University of Beirut, the University of Ottawa and the University of Montreal in Canada.

As a result of the school-feeding programme:

  • A significant decrease in anemia prevalence among schoolchildren (p<0.0001) was recorded
  • Eating habits improved at both schools with a significant decrease in number of children not consuming breakfast (p<0.001)
  • Participating children demonstrated improved attitudes towards traditional diets and healthy lifestyle practices.
  • The women cooperative is generating income by using and promoting wild edibles

Scaling-up
As a result of the project, Healthy Kitchen cooperatives were set up in 3 villages and training provided to 25 women in the collection, processing and marketing of wild edibles. Women were also involved in documenting traditional recipes using these plants which have been collected in a food-safety manual in Arabic and a the Healthy Kitchen cookbook containing over 40 local recipes, traditional knowledge and scientific information on the nutritional and health properties of 15 wild edible plants. Recipes are also being promoted in catering events, village cooking festivals and trade shows which have captured media attention and increased the visibility of traditional foods. The network has played a key role in promoting wild plants and ecosystem protection.


Improving diets with wild edibles in rural Lebanese schools

School-feeding programme in Aarsal. Photo: Malek Batal

Traditional recipes containing wild edible plants were used as an entry point to improve the quality and diversity of children's diets in two elementary schools in rural Lebanon while reviving and enhancing the image of traditional foods and providing income to three women cooperatives.

In Lebanon, dietary habits are changing as the country experiences rapid economic, social and cultural changes. Traditional and inherently varied diets, which are perceived as “less prestigious” by younger generations, are being replaced by a limited range of high calorie high sugar foods, many of which imported, coupled with an increased consumption of red meat. As a result, micronutrient deficiencies and undernutrition are on the rise as is the prevalence of non-communicable diseases. A national cross-sectional survey carried out in 2009 showed the prevalence of overweight to be 21.2% among children and young adults (6-19 yrs) and 36.8% among adults aged 20 years and above, while obesity for these groups was reported at 10.9% and 28.2% respectively. At the same time traditional food production systems are threatened by environmental degradation with consequent biodiversity loss as people move from small-scale farming to commercial agriculture or move to cities in search of work and abandon their land.

Agrobiodiversity

Wild edibles plants are the mainstay of traditional Lebanese cuisine, which is based on fresh and local ingredients. Fool’s watercress (Apium nodiflorum), wild thyme (Origanum syriacum), mallow (Malva sylvestris), green purslane (Portulaca oleracea), salsify (Tragopogon buthalmoides), Eryngium creticum, tumbleweed (Gundelia tournefortii) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) are just some of the wild edibles commonly used in Lebanese cuisine. Rarely sold in conventional vegetable markets, these plants are informally collected by local communities (mostly women) from their wild habitats and generally perceived as improving dietary diversity and diet quality. In a study carried out by Batal and Hunter (2007), wild edible plant dishes generally proved to offer a healthier alternative to popular Western equivalents.

As part of a larger project funded by the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC) Ecohealth Program, two school-feeding programmes were set up in 2010 involving a local women’s cooperative - Healthy Kitchen - and two elementary schools in the arid region of Arsaal. Over a 6-month period, 135 children aged between 6 and 9 were provided with a mid-morning snack that met 25% of their daily energy and nutrient requirements and reduced their intake of processed foods. School-feeding was complemented by a nutrition education module offered to participating students, families and teachers to encourage the consumption of wild edibles and locally grown foods, to renew interest in the local food culture and raise awareness of food as an ecosystem service, resulting in the improved management of key (and in some cases threatened) natural resources. The project was carried out in partnership with the Nature Conservation Center of the American University of Beirut, the University of Ottawa and the University of Montreal in Canada.

As a result of the school-feeding programme:

  • A significant decrease in anemia prevalence among schoolchildren (p<0.0001) was recorded
  • Eating habits improved at both schools with a significant decrease in number of children not consuming breakfast (p<0.001)
  • Participating children demonstrated improved attitudes towards traditional diets and healthy lifestyle practices.
  • The women cooperative is generating income by using and promoting wild edibles

Scaling-up
As a result of the project, Healthy Kitchen cooperatives were set up in 3 villages and training provided to 25 women in the collection, processing and marketing of wild edibles. Women were also involved in documenting traditional recipes using these plants which have been collected in a food-safety manual in Arabic and a the Healthy Kitchen cookbook containing over 40 local recipes, traditional knowledge and scientific information on the nutritional and health properties of 15 wild edible plants. Recipes are also being promoted in catering events, village cooking festivals and trade shows which have captured media attention and increased the visibility of traditional foods. The network has played a key role in promoting wild plants and ecosystem protection.


Improving diets with wild edibles in rural Lebanese schools

School-feeding programme in Aarsal. Photo: Malek Batal

Traditional recipes containing wild edible plants were used as an entry point to improve the quality and diversity of children's diets in two elementary schools in rural Lebanon while reviving and enhancing the image of traditional foods and providing income to three women cooperatives.

In Lebanon, dietary habits are changing as the country experiences rapid economic, social and cultural changes. Traditional and inherently varied diets, which are perceived as “less prestigious” by younger generations, are being replaced by a limited range of high calorie high sugar foods, many of which imported, coupled with an increased consumption of red meat. As a result, micronutrient deficiencies and undernutrition are on the rise as is the prevalence of non-communicable diseases. A national cross-sectional survey carried out in 2009 showed the prevalence of overweight to be 21.2% among children and young adults (6-19 yrs) and 36.8% among adults aged 20 years and above, while obesity for these groups was reported at 10.9% and 28.2% respectively. At the same time traditional food production systems are threatened by environmental degradation with consequent biodiversity loss as people move from small-scale farming to commercial agriculture or move to cities in search of work and abandon their land.

Agrobiodiversity

Wild edibles plants are the mainstay of traditional Lebanese cuisine, which is based on fresh and local ingredients. Fool’s watercress (Apium nodiflorum), wild thyme (Origanum syriacum), mallow (Malva sylvestris), green purslane (Portulaca oleracea), salsify (Tragopogon buthalmoides), Eryngium creticum, tumbleweed (Gundelia tournefortii) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) are just some of the wild edibles commonly used in Lebanese cuisine. Rarely sold in conventional vegetable markets, these plants are informally collected by local communities (mostly women) from their wild habitats and generally perceived as improving dietary diversity and diet quality. In a study carried out by Batal and Hunter (2007), wild edible plant dishes generally proved to offer a healthier alternative to popular Western equivalents.

As part of a larger project funded by the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC) Ecohealth Program, two school-feeding programmes were set up in 2010 involving a local women’s cooperative - Healthy Kitchen - and two elementary schools in the arid region of Arsaal. Over a 6-month period, 135 children aged between 6 and 9 were provided with a mid-morning snack that met 25% of their daily energy and nutrient requirements and reduced their intake of processed foods. School-feeding was complemented by a nutrition education module offered to participating students, families and teachers to encourage the consumption of wild edibles and locally grown foods, to renew interest in the local food culture and raise awareness of food as an ecosystem service, resulting in the improved management of key (and in some cases threatened) natural resources. The project was carried out in partnership with the Nature Conservation Center of the American University of Beirut, the University of Ottawa and the University of Montreal in Canada.

As a result of the school-feeding programme:

  • A significant decrease in anemia prevalence among schoolchildren (p<0.0001) was recorded
  • Eating habits improved at both schools with a significant decrease in number of children not consuming breakfast (p<0.001)
  • Participating children demonstrated improved attitudes towards traditional diets and healthy lifestyle practices.
  • The women cooperative is generating income by using and promoting wild edibles

Scaling-up
As a result of the project, Healthy Kitchen cooperatives were set up in 3 villages and training provided to 25 women in the collection, processing and marketing of wild edibles. Women were also involved in documenting traditional recipes using these plants which have been collected in a food-safety manual in Arabic and a the Healthy Kitchen cookbook containing over 40 local recipes, traditional knowledge and scientific information on the nutritional and health properties of 15 wild edible plants. Recipes are also being promoted in catering events, village cooking festivals and trade shows which have captured media attention and increased the visibility of traditional foods. The network has played a key role in promoting wild plants and ecosystem protection.


Improving diets with wild edibles in rural Lebanese schools

School-feeding programme in Aarsal. Photo: Malek Batal

Traditional recipes containing wild edible plants were used as an entry point to improve the quality and diversity of children's diets in two elementary schools in rural Lebanon while reviving and enhancing the image of traditional foods and providing income to three women cooperatives.

In Lebanon, dietary habits are changing as the country experiences rapid economic, social and cultural changes. Traditional and inherently varied diets, which are perceived as “less prestigious” by younger generations, are being replaced by a limited range of high calorie high sugar foods, many of which imported, coupled with an increased consumption of red meat. As a result, micronutrient deficiencies and undernutrition are on the rise as is the prevalence of non-communicable diseases. A national cross-sectional survey carried out in 2009 showed the prevalence of overweight to be 21.2% among children and young adults (6-19 yrs) and 36.8% among adults aged 20 years and above, while obesity for these groups was reported at 10.9% and 28.2% respectively. At the same time traditional food production systems are threatened by environmental degradation with consequent biodiversity loss as people move from small-scale farming to commercial agriculture or move to cities in search of work and abandon their land.

Agrobiodiversity

Wild edibles plants are the mainstay of traditional Lebanese cuisine, which is based on fresh and local ingredients. Fool’s watercress (Apium nodiflorum), wild thyme (Origanum syriacum), mallow (Malva sylvestris), green purslane (Portulaca oleracea), salsify (Tragopogon buthalmoides), Eryngium creticum, tumbleweed (Gundelia tournefortii) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) are just some of the wild edibles commonly used in Lebanese cuisine. Rarely sold in conventional vegetable markets, these plants are informally collected by local communities (mostly women) from their wild habitats and generally perceived as improving dietary diversity and diet quality. In a study carried out by Batal and Hunter (2007), wild edible plant dishes generally proved to offer a healthier alternative to popular Western equivalents.

As part of a larger project funded by the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC) Ecohealth Program, two school-feeding programmes were set up in 2010 involving a local women’s cooperative - Healthy Kitchen - and two elementary schools in the arid region of Arsaal. Over a 6-month period, 135 children aged between 6 and 9 were provided with a mid-morning snack that met 25% of their daily energy and nutrient requirements and reduced their intake of processed foods. School-feeding was complemented by a nutrition education module offered to participating students, families and teachers to encourage the consumption of wild edibles and locally grown foods, to renew interest in the local food culture and raise awareness of food as an ecosystem service, resulting in the improved management of key (and in some cases threatened) natural resources. The project was carried out in partnership with the Nature Conservation Center of the American University of Beirut, the University of Ottawa and the University of Montreal in Canada.

As a result of the school-feeding programme:

  • A significant decrease in anemia prevalence among schoolchildren (p<0.0001) was recorded
  • Eating habits improved at both schools with a significant decrease in number of children not consuming breakfast (p<0.001)
  • Participating children demonstrated improved attitudes towards traditional diets and healthy lifestyle practices.
  • The women cooperative is generating income by using and promoting wild edibles

Scaling-up
As a result of the project, Healthy Kitchen cooperatives were set up in 3 villages and training provided to 25 women in the collection, processing and marketing of wild edibles. Women were also involved in documenting traditional recipes using these plants which have been collected in a food-safety manual in Arabic and a the Healthy Kitchen cookbook containing over 40 local recipes, traditional knowledge and scientific information on the nutritional and health properties of 15 wild edible plants. Recipes are also being promoted in catering events, village cooking festivals and trade shows which have captured media attention and increased the visibility of traditional foods. The network has played a key role in promoting wild plants and ecosystem protection.


Improving diets with wild edibles in rural Lebanese schools

School-feeding programme in Aarsal. Photo: Malek Batal

Traditional recipes containing wild edible plants were used as an entry point to improve the quality and diversity of children's diets in two elementary schools in rural Lebanon while reviving and enhancing the image of traditional foods and providing income to three women cooperatives.

In Lebanon, dietary habits are changing as the country experiences rapid economic, social and cultural changes. Traditional and inherently varied diets, which are perceived as “less prestigious” by younger generations, are being replaced by a limited range of high calorie high sugar foods, many of which imported, coupled with an increased consumption of red meat. As a result, micronutrient deficiencies and undernutrition are on the rise as is the prevalence of non-communicable diseases. A national cross-sectional survey carried out in 2009 showed the prevalence of overweight to be 21.2% among children and young adults (6-19 yrs) and 36.8% among adults aged 20 years and above, while obesity for these groups was reported at 10.9% and 28.2% respectively. At the same time traditional food production systems are threatened by environmental degradation with consequent biodiversity loss as people move from small-scale farming to commercial agriculture or move to cities in search of work and abandon their land.

Agrobiodiversity

Wild edibles plants are the mainstay of traditional Lebanese cuisine, which is based on fresh and local ingredients. Fool’s watercress (Apium nodiflorum), wild thyme (Origanum syriacum), mallow (Malva sylvestris), green purslane (Portulaca oleracea), salsify (Tragopogon buthalmoides), Eryngium creticum, tumbleweed (Gundelia tournefortii) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) are just some of the wild edibles commonly used in Lebanese cuisine. Rarely sold in conventional vegetable markets, these plants are informally collected by local communities (mostly women) from their wild habitats and generally perceived as improving dietary diversity and diet quality. In a study carried out by Batal and Hunter (2007), wild edible plant dishes generally proved to offer a healthier alternative to popular Western equivalents.

As part of a larger project funded by the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC) Ecohealth Program, two school-feeding programmes were set up in 2010 involving a local women’s cooperative - Healthy Kitchen - and two elementary schools in the arid region of Arsaal. Over a 6-month period, 135 children aged between 6 and 9 were provided with a mid-morning snack that met 25% of their daily energy and nutrient requirements and reduced their intake of processed foods. School-feeding was complemented by a nutrition education module offered to participating students, families and teachers to encourage the consumption of wild edibles and locally grown foods, to renew interest in the local food culture and raise awareness of food as an ecosystem service, resulting in the improved management of key (and in some cases threatened) natural resources. The project was carried out in partnership with the Nature Conservation Center of the American University of Beirut, the University of Ottawa and the University of Montreal in Canada.

As a result of the school-feeding programme:

  • A significant decrease in anemia prevalence among schoolchildren (p<0.0001) was recorded
  • Eating habits improved at both schools with a significant decrease in number of children not consuming breakfast (p<0.001)
  • Participating children demonstrated improved attitudes towards traditional diets and healthy lifestyle practices.
  • The women cooperative is generating income by using and promoting wild edibles

Scaling-up
As a result of the project, Healthy Kitchen cooperatives were set up in 3 villages and training provided to 25 women in the collection, processing and marketing of wild edibles. Women were also involved in documenting traditional recipes using these plants which have been collected in a food-safety manual in Arabic and a the Healthy Kitchen cookbook containing over 40 local recipes, traditional knowledge and scientific information on the nutritional and health properties of 15 wild edible plants. Recipes are also being promoted in catering events, village cooking festivals and trade shows which have captured media attention and increased the visibility of traditional foods. The network has played a key role in promoting wild plants and ecosystem protection.


Improving diets with wild edibles in rural Lebanese schools

School-feeding programme in Aarsal. Photo: Malek Batal

Traditional recipes containing wild edible plants were used as an entry point to improve the quality and diversity of children's diets in two elementary schools in rural Lebanon while reviving and enhancing the image of traditional foods and providing income to three women cooperatives.

In Lebanon, dietary habits are changing as the country experiences rapid economic, social and cultural changes. Traditional and inherently varied diets, which are perceived as “less prestigious” by younger generations, are being replaced by a limited range of high calorie high sugar foods, many of which imported, coupled with an increased consumption of red meat. As a result, micronutrient deficiencies and undernutrition are on the rise as is the prevalence of non-communicable diseases. A national cross-sectional survey carried out in 2009 showed the prevalence of overweight to be 21.2% among children and young adults (6-19 yrs) and 36.8% among adults aged 20 years and above, while obesity for these groups was reported at 10.9% and 28.2% respectively. At the same time traditional food production systems are threatened by environmental degradation with consequent biodiversity loss as people move from small-scale farming to commercial agriculture or move to cities in search of work and abandon their land.

Agrobiodiversity

Wild edibles plants are the mainstay of traditional Lebanese cuisine, which is based on fresh and local ingredients. Fool’s watercress (Apium nodiflorum), wild thyme (Origanum syriacum), mallow (Malva sylvestris), green purslane (Portulaca oleracea), salsify (Tragopogon buthalmoides), Eryngium creticum, tumbleweed (Gundelia tournefortii) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) are just some of the wild edibles commonly used in Lebanese cuisine. Rarely sold in conventional vegetable markets, these plants are informally collected by local communities (mostly women) from their wild habitats and generally perceived as improving dietary diversity and diet quality. In a study carried out by Batal and Hunter (2007), wild edible plant dishes generally proved to offer a healthier alternative to popular Western equivalents.

As part of a larger project funded by the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC) Ecohealth Program, two school-feeding programmes were set up in 2010 involving a local women’s cooperative - Healthy Kitchen - and two elementary schools in the arid region of Arsaal. Over a 6-month period, 135 children aged between 6 and 9 were provided with a mid-morning snack that met 25% of their daily energy and nutrient requirements and reduced their intake of processed foods. School-feeding was complemented by a nutrition education module offered to participating students, families and teachers to encourage the consumption of wild edibles and locally grown foods, to renew interest in the local food culture and raise awareness of food as an ecosystem service, resulting in the improved management of key (and in some cases threatened) natural resources. The project was carried out in partnership with the Nature Conservation Center of the American University of Beirut, the University of Ottawa and the University of Montreal in Canada.

As a result of the school-feeding programme:

  • A significant decrease in anemia prevalence among schoolchildren (p<0.0001) was recorded
  • Eating habits improved at both schools with a significant decrease in number of children not consuming breakfast (p<0.001)
  • Participating children demonstrated improved attitudes towards traditional diets and healthy lifestyle practices.
  • The women cooperative is generating income by using and promoting wild edibles

Scaling-up
As a result of the project, Healthy Kitchen cooperatives were set up in 3 villages and training provided to 25 women in the collection, processing and marketing of wild edibles. Women were also involved in documenting traditional recipes using these plants which have been collected in a food-safety manual in Arabic and a the Healthy Kitchen cookbook containing over 40 local recipes, traditional knowledge and scientific information on the nutritional and health properties of 15 wild edible plants. Recipes are also being promoted in catering events, village cooking festivals and trade shows which have captured media attention and increased the visibility of traditional foods. The network has played a key role in promoting wild plants and ecosystem protection.


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Comments:

  1. Phaon

    Which excellent topic

  2. Gerardo

    Granted, a great idea

  3. Albinus

    I'm very sorry that I can't help you. I hope they will help you here. Do not despair.

  4. Mackinnon

    I do not understand the reason for such a stir. Nothing new and different opinions.



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