Nutritious Food Portfolios: filling food harvest and nutrient ‘gaps’ in local food systems Kitui West, Kitui County Kenya
A diversity of nutrient-dense pulse, vegetable and fruit species, which are traditional components of mixed farming systems and can contribute largely to family nutrition and food security. To enhance available diversity of foods, while addressing seasonal food availability, nutritious food portfolios have been developed by the World Agroforestry Centre (based on the original Fruit Tree Portfolio concept). These are site-specific combinations of indigenous and exotic food tree species with complementary vegetables, pulses and staple crops that potentially can provide year-round harvest of nutritious foods and, at the same time, fill food harvest and nutrient gaps in local food systems when integrated into food systems.
To identify site-specific portfolio recommendations, evidence is generated on current agricultural production diversity and food consumption, preferences and dietary gaps in local communities. Participatory priority setting exercises are used with community representatives to identify suitable and preferred food crops and their site-specific months of harvest. The foods are then evaluated for their nutritional composition, following international standards on food composition for key micronutrients and their contribution to the diet. Food composition data play a key role in linking agriculture to nutrition but unfortunately information on the nutrient composition of many species, particularly indigenous and underutilised species, are absent due to a lack of research. To address this data and knowledge gap, ICRAF have collated food composition data and developed a Food Composition database of Priority Food Trees and Crops. The food composition data compiled for food tree species and underutilised crops provides a necessary repository for prioritising domestication programs to mainstream available nutritious foods.
The integration of nutritious food portfolios using ecologically suitable species, seasonal availability and their nutrient content information is a sustainable food based approach to address micronutrient defi ciencies by promoting nutrient dense foods in local diets while supporting greater food security through year-round harvest.