Highlights from Newspaper

Dietary Diversity Is Declining Despite Biodiversity Focus

  • Despite global emphasis on biodiversity, the world’s food has become increasingly homogeneous, with staples such as rice, wheat, maize, and sugar accounting for more than half of global calorie intake.
  • Supermarkets follow suit, with a limited assortment of vegetables, indicating a reduction in “dietary diversity.”

Dietary Issues and Diversity

  • Nutritional Quality: A varied diet that includes a variety of food groups improves nutrition. However, the prevalence of monoculture (the vast cultivation of a single crop) reduces “agricultural biodiversity.”
  • Importing varied food groups from remote locations is costly and environmentally damaging.

Contributors to India’s Nutritional Variety

  • Farming on a Small Scale with Agroforestry: Smallholder farmers, herders, and tribal populations engaged in agroforestry contribute greatly to India’s nutritional variety.
  • Regional Varieties: These small-scale gardeners supply a diverse range of native vegetables and crops that differ by location in India.

Local Varieties with High Nutrient Content

  • South India: Iron and calcium-rich leafy greens such as Green Amaranth (Tamil, kuppi keerai; Hindi, junglee chaulayi) and Leucas (Tamil, thumbai; Sanskrit, Drona pushpi); starchy tubers such as East Indian arrowroot (Tamil, kuva or ararut-kizhargu; Hindi, tikhur).
  • Central India: Madhuca or Indian butter tree edible blossoms and oil-rich seeds (Tamil, illupai; Hindi, mahua); Khejri pods (Tamil, parambai) utilised in local cuisine and preventing desertification.
  • Northeast India: Indigenous Jhum farming, which grows a range of crops on the same soil and provides dietary variety but is disappearing in practice.

Jhum Cultivation

  • Contrary to modern agriculture, jhum cultivation is a diverse agricultural practice. Jhum farming, which is used in Northeast India, includes producing numerous food crops at the same time, providing dietary diversity but declining in popularity.
  • Decline in Practice: According to research, there has been a considerable decrease in Jhum cultivation areas, with a shift towards monoculture crops such as areca nut, black pepper, and rubber.

Consumer Choices and Influence

  • Consumer Preferences: Consumer preferences have a considerable impact on the availability and production of varied wild food species.
  • Incorporating lesser-known fruits such as wood apples (velam pazham) and jamuns (nagai) into diets can improve nutritional quality while also supporting local growers.


  • Recognition of the value of Dietary Diversity: Recognising the value of dietary diversity is critical for nutrition, environmental sustainability, and sustaining small-scale agriculture.
  • Embracing Local Varieties: Embracing local, diversified food options can improve diets while also contributing to agricultural biodiversity preservation, harmonising with global initiatives to emphasise biodiversity.
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