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DIVERSIFOOD Report Summary

Project ID: 633571
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DIVERSIFOOD (Embedding crop diversity and networking for local high quality food systems)

Reporting period: 2015-03-01 to 2016-02-29

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

DIVERSIFOOD will evaluate and enrich the diversity of cultivated plants within diverse agroecosystems to increase their performance, resilience and quality. By re-discovering genetic resources of a dozen underutilized and forgotten plant species for organic and low-input agriculture or marginal/specific conditions, DIVERSIFOOD will develop new healthy and tasty produce. Through new multi-actor approaches and relevant cases, DIVERSIFOOD aims to develop:
- Relevant, locally developed innovations
- New biodiversity management models
- New approaches to plant breeding and management
- New crops, diverse varieties or populations
- Diverse healthy and tasty food products and market valorisation
- Original experimental and communication tools to connect activities and people.
DIVERSIFOOD will facilitate cooperation between participatory research networks and will help professional breeders and policy makers connecting formal and informal seed systems and suggesting a framework for the implementation of Farmers’ rights as set up in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA). Key-lessons based on the diverse experiences of partners is shared to support on-farm seed production networks guaranteeing high quality seed. DIVERSIFOOD will demonstrate the socio-economic value of innovative biodiversity management systems, increase food and environmental awareness at local policy levels, and embed healthy and tasty local products in regional food chains. DIVERSIFOOD is also developing concepts and practices to support the spreading of a new culture of food based on biodiversity.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

- WP1 has ensured connexion between WPs and disciplines. WP1 provided consensus on key-words like biodiversity, resilience, innovation, sustainability, empowerment since they can have different meanings according to contexts. A toolkit has been initiated to connect methods from the biological and social sciences to optimise multi-actor approaches in diversity based breeding involving food chains.
- In WP2, a desk study and surveys for target other underutilised crops have started. Genetic resources (GR) collections of 9 species were under study in 2015. Trials have been prepared for spring 2016 in 41 fields across 12 countries, including intercropping systems. Specific protocols for performance evaluation and product quality assessment have been designed.
- At the basis of WP3 activities, original and/or untapped GR have been identified as sources of variability for bread wheat, durum wheat, barley, maize, chick pea, faba bean, tomato and lupin. These GR were combined to generate new diverse populations which are evaluated and compared on farm to assess both the breeding populations and the breeding methods. To support on farm participatory plant breeding and farmers’ score sheets, trial designs and relevant methods for statistical analyses have been adapted (e.g. Bayesian models, spatial analyses, multivariate and clustering approaches).
- WP4 activities have mainly focussed on the identification of stakeholders, key-persons and Community Seed Banks to involve in the surveys planned for this year. A questionnaire investigating Community Seed Banks, the tools used for managing them and the bottlenecks of seed production for six crops (carrots, maize, tomato, potato, wheat and buckwheat) has been produced and will be circulated in the second period. Partners also started the work on the legal framework in connection to the on-going debates about Nagoya Protocol.
- WP5 task leaders agreed on the cases to be investigated for studying key success factors and bottlenecks in the marketing of food diversity (product development, sales channels and price expectations), as well as the most supporting types of policy and networks. The survey to be used to investigate labels underutilized crops has been prepared.
- Several communication tools were established: the website, social media accounts, the newsletter, a press release, a first Innovation Factsheet, a video trailer online, a project leaflet and graphical entities. Communication with a strong involvement of partners and stakeholders was supported by more than 40 public events (farm days, field visits, workshops, forums and training sessions). DIVERSIFOOD is emphasizing face-to-face communication to demonstrate how society at large can encourage diversity based sustainable food systems.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

At the end of the first year, the involvement of farmers and all actors, in both seed and food supply chains, is already creating conditions for promoting the use of underutilised crops. Several accessions or local resources of 12 species, including several legumes to intercrop with cereals, are already under study and used in breeding in local multi-actor contexts and decentralised transnational network. We are investigating how communities are organised, what tools are being used and what bottlenecks exist in seed production. We released an Innovation Factsheet with a preliminary definition of Community Seed Banks. Partners participated to meetings at national and international levels on the implementation of conventions dealing with GR to increase the engagement of farmers and end-users.
DIVERSIFOOD is testing and recombining a wide number of accessions for crops or cultivar types which have neither been the object of formal breeding programmes, nor widely used in farming practices so far. The inclusion of quality analysis in the evaluation of the trials in the food supply chain ensures that DIVERSIFOOD will create opportunities for significantly increase the availability of diverse products with proven nutritional or sensorial qualities.
Populations under study show useful variation in climatic adaptability and resilience exploited in numerous environments and for diverse practices. The new varieties and populations under development through in-situ / on-farm management and participatory breeding are contributing to increase productivity and economic gains due to their higher quality or improved adaptation to organic farming and specialised systems. Consumers are actively involved in product evaluation enhancing the development of new markets, especially at a local scale.
We will work with a wide range of case studies, from small initiatives where farmers supply directly, to networks selling its products via large retailers. DIVERSIFOOD is already supporting local initiatives thanks to citizens’ awareness, with several events organized locally as soon as the project started the first year that involved more than 1 000 stakeholders. Internal training sessions on participatory methods facilitate the active involvement of new stakeholders.
In summary, DIVERSIFOOD is addressing food security at two levels: (1) increasing the number of cultivated crops and varieties or populations and data required to support more diverse food systems and (2) bringing together various multi-actor groups, marketing strategies developed from successful case studies, and the processes and different tools for valorisation of biodiversity.

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