Food tree ‘portfolios’ help fill the nutrient gap in East Africa

Trees that are a source of edible fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and oils have traditionally been used to complement and diversify staple-based diets. When integrated into agroforestry systems, they can contribute substantially to food and nutrition security for smallholders – possibly for generations.

In East Africa, the Food Trees project, funded by the European Union, IFAD and GIZ, co-developed tailored ‘food tree portfolios’ with farmers to address the challenges of seasonal food availability and micronutrient deficiencies – particularly vitamins A and C, iron and folate. The portfolios combine locally available and culturally acceptable food tree species that can be harvested consecutively to provide year-round nutritious foods.

Researchers identified specific food-insecure periods and nutrient gaps in diets through surveys and discussions with farmers. The portfolio approach can be adapted to different locations with diverse agro-ecological conditions, as well as to variations in species’ suitability, fruit-tree phenology and farmers’ preferences.

“Using location-specific data allowed us to not only capture the socioecological dynamics of smallholders’ food production diversity, but also to use individual food consumption data to better understand and fill both harvest and nutrient gaps”

Stepha McMullin, Scientist

forward better


In 2020 – a year like no other – CIFOR-ICRAF continued to deliver the world’s best science on forests and trees in agricultural landscapes, shifting the conversation online as the Covid-19 pandemic evolved.

This annual report features stories about expertise, dedication and perseverance. When people responded to the pandemic with calls to ban wild meat, CIFOR-ICRAF experts stepped forward with recent, highly relevant evidence in hand, highlighting the needs of communities who rely on wild game for nutrition. Other scientists forged ahead to deliver compelling research findings on improved tree seed and restoration work in Ethiopia, agroforestry in Southeast Asia, and a new model for sustainable use of woodfuel in refugee camps – among many other topics.

CIFOR-ICRAF continued to chart its path as one organization, with a new 10-year strategy that outlines game-changing solutions to five global challenges: deforestation and biodiversity loss, the climate crisis, unsustainable supply and value chains, the need to transform food systems, and extreme inequality for women, Indigenous Peoples and vulnerable rural communities.

Three new holistic approaches will deliver actionable solutions to these challenges: Transformative Partnership Platforms, Engagement Landscapes and Flagship Products. And the newly launched Resilient Landscapes aims to leverage the power of the private sector to spur greater investment in nature-based solutions.

The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) held its first fully virtual conference in June and didn’t stop there, seeing unprecedented digital growth during the year. And the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) marked its 10th science conference – also virtual – while continuing to demonstrate the power of partnership.