We live in a world with huge diversity – there are nearly 300,000 different edible plant species alone. Despite this we only regularly consume around 2,500 of them. 80% of our calorific intake is derived from less than 20 (highly modified) species. At some point we’ve eaten, or at least sampled, all 300,000 of them, but along the way we’ve forgotten, lost and eventually given up completely on almost all of them. This is sad, but it also presents huge opportunities in terms of rediscovering some of these underutilised, neglected species. At BIZ, we’re working not just on food plants, but also on plants with medicinal, cosmetic, health ingredient, biofuel and even ornamental applications. And everyone benefits: we create new livelihood options to bring people out of poverty, we conserve biodiversity (making our planet healthier) and our bodies are healthier.
Promoting underutilised species selectively favours very poor people, particularly women, living in the driest, remotest and least agriculturally productive areas of the country, people for whom alternative livelihood options are extremely limited. Underutilised species complement conventional food crops, bestow competitive advantage to local producers, and increase family income enormously. In most cases the women are in charge of those additional funds and they can spend them on food, education and health.
Bio-Innovation Zimbabwe (BIZ) is a specialised research organisation that develops and promotes underutilised plant species as new crops to strengthen food security and create wealth among Zimbabwe’s small-scale rural producers.