One of the solutions to malnutrition in the world’s population is as simple as growing the right food plants in the right places.
Imagine, if you could, a world that was free of chronic malnutrition. Where children as young as five did not die of hunger or disease. That could be a reality now thanks to the efforts of Tasmanian agricultural scientist and Officer of the Order of Australia recipient - Bruce French.
Bruce has devoted a lifetime of work to devising a simple and sustainable solution to global malnutrition through establishing the not-for-profit organisation, Food Plants International. Through his work he has documented the world’s most complete and comprehensive database of edible plants including over 27,500 food plants. It contains descriptions of the origin of food plants, growing methods, photos, drawings, edible parts and cooking methods.
In June 2007, Rotary and Food Plants International established the Food Plant Solutions project to provide information to people in developing countries to grow the most nutritious and viable food plants in their environment.
Many food plants from the local environment can have significant nutritional value and are able to provide a more stable food supply, due to better adaptation to local weather conditions and greater resistance to local pests and diseases. These plants thrive in their homelands, provide nutrition and, most importantly, provide a truly sustainable self-help solution to hunger, malnutrition and achieving food security.
Getting the relevant information contained in the food plants database to those who need it is a steep challenge. Rotary, with its global networks and its strong humanitarian concerns, is well positioned to tackle this challenge.
The aim of the Food Plant Solutions project is to develop strategies to deliver the information in the food plants database to countries most in need.
HISTORY OF FPS
Tasmanian agricultural scientist and Officer of the Order of Australia recipient - Bruce French, has spent 30 years on a voluntary mission to document information on the food plants of the world. This achievement is underpinned by Bruce’s work in developing countries, including Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
Bruce has established a plain English database of over 27,500 edible plants, which continues to grow. The database contains descriptions, countries and climatic zones of the plants’ origins, photos and drawings, edible parts, and cooking methods.
Nutritional information is available for a selection of these plants. All information in the database can be reproduced in a number of formats including CD, DVD, books and PowerPoint presentations.
Rotarian Buz Green, of the Rotary Club of Devonport North in Tasmania (D9830), recognised the potential of the food plants database in the war against malnutrition. He organised a relationship between the organisation behind the food plants database, Food Plants International, and Rotary to establish the Food Plant Solutions project.
Since June 2007, Buz Green and Bruce French, with the support of the Food Plant Solutions committee, Rotary and other volunteers, have transformed Food Plant Solutions from a concept into a dynamic international project that has come to the attention of Rotary and other organisations tackling malnutrition around the world. Recently the preeminent leader in our field recognised the significance of our work with a Letter of Support.
Click here to learn about developments with this visionary project.
Traditional and emergency responses to the problem in the human population have failed to come up with permanent solutions to the problem of hunger, malnutrition and food security. It is estimated that each year in developing countries, seven million children die from malnutrition.
An alternative approach is needed to address malnutrition around the globe. Food Plant Solutions is a visionary approach to malnutrition – to grow the best local foods, that are highest in nutrients, to meet the nutritional needs of chronically malnourished people throughout the developing world.
Food Plant Solutions empowers people in developing countries to understand local food plant resources to feed themselves and their families. No costly equipment or structural improvements are required to get people switched onto the advantages of growing local food plants including:
- more certain production
- better adaptation to local conditions – soil type, rainfall, temperature
- better resistance to pests and diseases, hence lower costs for pesticides
- simpler growing requirements, no need for extensive areas cleared for monoculture cultivation
- potentially better nutritional quality of local food plants
The Food Plants International database developed by Officer of the Order of Australia recipient - Bruce French, is a unique resource in the quest for sustainable self-help solutions to malnutrition and food security. Using the database local plants with the highest levels of key nutrients can be identified. Such plants can form the basis of a nutritionally improved diet. The graphs below highlight the relative nutritional value of many such plants and common Western food plants.
The main obstacle to local people taking advantage of local food plants is a lack of knowledge about their importance and true nutritional value. Food Plant Solutions is focussed on imparting this knowledge to people in developing countries.
At a national economy level in developing countries, switching over to growing local food crops, instead of growing exotic food crops or importing foodstuffs, can insulate the national economy from the shocks of rising world food prices or oil based products e.g. fertilisers and pesticides. Rising prices for imported foodstuffs (e.g. grains) means less money for essential services like health and education. Indirect costs, like the costs of shipping, can also push up the price of imported foodstuffs.