Collective Action on Forgotten Food
Forgotten foods include cultivated, semi-domesticated and wild species and traditional
varieties that have been produced and consumed for centuries or even millennia for their
food, fiber, fodder, oil, and medicinal properties, but whose roles have been undervalued
and their importance neglected by researchers, policy makers and markets.
Forgotten foods are key elements of multifunctional, diversified and sustainable agri-food
systems. They are nutrient rich and contribute to food and nutrition security, income
generation, good health and wellbeing. They are often embedded in cultural and ethnic
identities and traditions, which they sustain and by which they are sustained.
Forgotten food can diversify the production of staple foods and thus the intake of more
diversified foods. They can generate employment and new income. They are well adapted
to marginal environments and yield under unfavorable agro-ecological and low input
conditions, hence very resilient.
In the face of climate change, forgotten foods can play an important role in the
diversification and resilience of farming systems. They contain valuable genetic material
that can be used for crop improvement and plant breeding.
Last, but not least, forgotten foods can be ingredients of empowerment of rural
communities, notably of youth and women, through the development of activities that add
social, cultural, environmental and economic value to forgotten foods.
When communities engage in research and innovation as actors, rather than just
beneficiaries, they get empowered. Such more inclusive organization of neglected
knowledge on neglected crops, and neglected people, can bring transformative
changes to these communities and beyond. It embraces partnerships and
collaboration as a core principle.
A new approach that aims to unleash the potential of forgotten foods and include it
on the research and development agenda. It combines farmers’ insights,
perspectives and experiences with formal research built on the principles of
partnership, collaboration, and productive exchanges between equally valid
Co-research implies the involvement of different stakeholders' knowledge, world views,
values, concerns, perspectives and interests in all stages of the innovation process. This is
from the definition of the problem, priorities and research question, to the choice of the
methodology, (co)validation of the results, and their dissemination. It is based on a number
of key ‘Partnership Principles’ defined by the Global Forum for Agricultural Research and
Innovation (GFAR), Swiss Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing
Countries (KFPE) and Prolinnova.
Co-research and co-innovation on forgotten food therefore refers to a collaborative
endeavour that places farmers at the centre, by promoting the use of traditional and
indigenous peoples’ knowledge to reinvigorate forgotten food crops. Through this
process, farmers themselves identify such crops, as well as the best solutions for
seed selection, conservation and multiplication, value addition, marketing and
“We know that many of these crops are nutritious and can readily provide for our families’ needs for food, fiber, health, medicine, and sometimes income, as we can sell them in local markets. These crops have grown well in our soil, even in marginal areas, with very little inputs, and they withstand adverse conditions. We also use indigenous crops for religious and cultural activities, such as festivals. Our communities, in particular the women, have conserved these crops for centuries. We rely on traditional knowledge and existing practices to grow, consume and sell these crops. We have been developing new resource management approaches to better conserve, process and market these crops. Our work is a testament of the role of family farmers as custodians of our country’s agrobiodiversity and caretakers of the environment. Our communities are rich repositories of diverse species, wisdom and knowledge.”
Excerpt of the Asia-Pacific Farmers’ Declaration Manifesto on Traditional and Indigenous Food Crops (28 May 2021)
- Press Release: Small and marginal farmers from India, including women, at the centre of co-research and co-innovation to bring back nutritious crops and food that have been “forgotten”
- Why does farmer remain hungry? Women in Gujarat, India, lead discussions on forgotten crops and food
- Local consultations with Indian farmers in Tamil Nadu, India: Bringing back forgotten foods
- Local consultations with Indian farmers held in Koraput, India: Prioritizing forgotten food crops
- Stakeholders Consultation initiated to advance India’s Collective Action on Forgotten Food
To build and leverage strong multi-actor partnerships around farmers’ initiatives on forgotten food, with the aim to maximize the efforts and resources to promote these foods at local, regional and global levels, in line with the priorities of the Global Manifesto on Forgotten Foods and an inclusive multi-actor approach based on co-innovation and co-research with farmers.
About the Collective Action
Throughout 2020-2021, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research and Innovation (GFAR) facilitated an intensive consultation process in Asia-Pacific, as well as Africa, Europe and the Middle East. It is part of a Collective Action to empower farmers at the centre of innovation funded by the European Commission.
Stage 1: Development of a Global Manifesto on Forgotten Foods
Thousands of actors from many countries took part in research activities, data analysis, presentations and discussions, deliberations and debates, as well as in the drafting of three regional manifestos on forgotten foods, including one for Asia-Pacific. APAARI led the initial regional consultation and a farmer perception survey from 2020 to 2021, which resulted in the Regional Manifesto.
The multi-actors involved in this initiative included members of farmer organizations, civil society and community-based organizations, women and youth organizations, research, extension and development organizations, private sector entities, regional fora, and government agencies. In addition to APAARI, regional fora, including the Association of Agricultural Research Institutes in the Near East and North Africa (AARINENA), Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), as well as the Crops for the Future (CFF) and Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, supported the initiative.
The Manifesto on Forgotten Foods is the result of this process, and represents a significant step forward to guide the global forgotten foods agenda. It situates smallholder farmers as central actors in designing and implementing research programmes on forgotten food to support transformation of agri-food systems and adaptation to climate change.
Stage 2: Co-design of the Programme on Forgotten Foods
Since the development of the Manifesto on Forgotten Foods, the partners continued to regularly meet through a Community of Practice, to discuss and implement the next steps in this Collective Action. India has been chosen as pilot country to participate in the co-design of the action, with direct involvement of multi-actors from national and local farmers’ organizations, agricultural research and extension institutions, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), supported by regional and international partners.
The co-design stage, with India as a pilot, represents the beginning of national-level actions that enable a diverse set of actors to design the full programme on forgotten food following the launch of the Global Manifesto on Forgotten Foods. The specific activities undertaken during the co-design stage include state- and district-level consultations with key stakeholders in India, development of scoping studies analysing the key outcomes of the local consultations, and global multi-stakeholder consultation to raise interest at the international level, and mobilize partners and resources.
The local-level consultations were undertaken throughout January-February 2023. The key outcomes were not just substantive inputs into the programme design, but the nature of the collaboration between researchers and farmers, which resulted in trust building, and a creation of an avenue for local farmers and their communities to contribute to the development of a full programme on forgotten foods. The full programme design will be used to facilitate international consultations and engagement involving a range of development partners, donors, and innovation actors.
APAARI’s role in the Collective Action
APAARI is one of the key regional partners in the Collection Action on Forgotten Food. Since 2020, APAARI led the initial regional multi-actor consultations, and a farmer perception survey, which resulted in the Regional and consequently Global Manifesto. Furthermore, it has facilitated monthly Community of Practice meetings with all partners, who are interested and committed to jointly contribute to the common objective of the Collective Action.
During the co-design stage, APAARI is leading the development and implementation of a sound Communication Strategy to build and leverage strong multi-actor partnerships around farmers’ initiatives with the aim to maximize the efforts and resources to promote forgotten foods at local, regional and global levels. This is done in line with the priorities of the Global Manifesto on Forgotten Foods, and the approach of co-innovation and co-research with farmers based on the defined partnership principles.
Using the outcomes of the local-level consultations and building on the existing communication tools and channels of the partners, the Strategy aims to promote forgotten knowledge, people and food in meaningful ways. This is through communicating their importance, benefits and role in sustainable development to selected local, regional, national and global audiences.