Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia (UPFC)
Understanding Colombia’s useful plants and fungi to improve people’s livelihoods, reducing inequality and gender gap by boosting its bioeconomy through the sustainable use of its biodiversity.
Colombia is the world’s second most biodiverse country. Hosting ~30,000 plant species (25% endemic; >1,000 threatened), and more than 3,500 useful plants, it is centre of origin of tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, chilies and many other crops and their wild relatives. The fungal diversity can be equally high, but still undiscovered.
Its cultural diversity is also impressive: described as one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the Western Hemisphere and in the World, Colombia holds 85 different ethnic groups, with 68 recognised native languages.
Despite its unique biological and cultural richness, vast social inequality with marked poverty in the rural areas has triggered more than six decades of internal conflict. In recent years Colombia has established policies promoting sustainable use of biodiversity to develop its bioeconomy, to reduce this social gap and consolidate peace whilst following a green growth.
Although native non-crop plants and fungi have great potential to improve livelihoods and economic development in the country, knowledge on most useful species remains dispersed, largely inaccessible, and susceptible to disappearing overtime. In addition, Colombia lost circa 5.5 million hectares of forest between 1990 and 2015, which is 200,000 hectares per year. Also, the biodiversity loss with the associated disappearance of traditional knowledge on the conservation, use and management of plants and fungi, is accelerating. This is mainly due to deforestation caused by agricultural expansion, urban development and illegal mining.
The overall goal of this 2.5-year anchor project is to develop pathways to enhance nature’s contribution to people in Colombia through increasing, consolidating and making accessible the knowledge on its useful plants and fungi for the benefit of local communities, and promoting a market for underutilised indigenous species and their high value products, to motivate the sustainable use of biodiversity whilst protecting the surrounding natural resources.
This project will document and broadly disseminate knowledge on useful plants and fungi of Colombia, reaching both general and academic audiences, as well as policy and decision makers. This will be achieved mainly through online resources (e.g. ColPlantA and 2 resources that will be developed: ColFungi and SCN) and printed outputs, including books, booklets, scientific papers and reports.
This project will contribute to capacity building of researchers, academics, practitioners and policymakers in both countries. Through the implementation of a supply chain network in three pilot areas, the project will improve communities’ livelihoods, while monitoring the impact on the ground.
In the mid-term, this project will increase awareness in the Colombian society about the importance and value of its diversity of useful plants and fungi.
This project will be achieved by pursuing 4 work packages:
- Continue gathering information on useful plants and fungi from Colombia, particularly from areas where there are knowledge gaps, and from species for which information is scanty (WP1)
- Disseminate knowledge on useful plants and fungi from Colombia in different formats to reach a broad audience (WP2)
- Develop a framework (Supply Chain Network - SCN) for creating sustainable value chains from plant and fungal diversity, enabling connection of knowledge and people’s livelihoods (WP3)
- Apply the framework of the SCN to improve local communities’ food security, health, dietary range and prosperity in three pilot areas (WP4).