Wild Foods as an Important Part of the Global Food

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There is substantial evidence that wild foods are an important part of the global food and Indigenous peoples have adapted to changing environmental conditions since time immemorial with wild foods. Indigenous people strongly believe that wild foods have better capacity to maintain good health for those who depend on them. These tribes refined their traditional ecological knowledge of when, where, and how animals, plants, algae and fungi could be used as food through their observations of wildlife foraging, harvesting and processing of foods. An important aspect of wild food use is their relative importance to poorer households. There is no comprehensive global estimate of the economic value of wild foods.

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The indigenous people reported that the food consumption shows decrease from few years because of the more cultivated foods. Changing climate, land expropriation, land conversion, unsustainable harvesting, and a decline in rainfall (time trend exercises) resulted in declining trend in the availability of wild foods. Over the time, communities have lost access to wild food collection areas due to conservation of land into protected areas for state purpose, by illegal means for individual purpose or by military for defence purpose. Overgrazing has impacted the availability of herbs; uncontrolled fires. Honey hunters and livestock owners have destroyed fruit trees in persuit of nectar, wild fruits and fuelwood. Seasons and extreme climate events were also identified as determinants of wild food availability. Both droughts and floods have affected wild food availability. For example, recent floods in the state and heavy storms knocked fruit trees and washed away riverine fruit trees. It is estimated that at least a billion people use wild plants in their diet.

Millions of people in the Himalayan region depend on wild plant resources for their daily food, vegetable requirements, fresh fruit and medicines. The wild plants provides food in the form of leaves (the most common), fruits, roots, seeds, and other plant parts, either raw or cooked. These, traditional food systems help in developing various strategies to combat malnutrition besides ensuring sustainable development. The traditional foods are used by the indigenous people to combat the needs when natural clamities occur. Wild vegetables form an important part of traditional agricultural systems. Since 1994, the Indian Agricultural Research institute (IARI), Counsil for Sxientific and industrial research (CSIR) in India are the institutions that have been at the forefront of promoting wild vegetables for food security and nutrition through research. Many Baseline surveys have been initially conducted to ascertain the consumption patterns, nutritional analysis and market values of wild vegetables.

A number of studies by other authors have documented a diverse range of WnDFP species and uses in different parts of the Himalayan region, but most have not assessed status and availability, household consumption patterns or local management practices. The study in Tibetan community of China documented the use of 54 species for household consumption. Similar study conducted in Tibetan communities of Nepal, China and India also documented 75 wild food plants of diverse uses at household level. Singh et al. documented 111 WNEPs used in Bandipora district in Kashmir, while other authors identified 112 WNEPs in Dhading and Kaski districts in Nepal and 62 in Bhutan. Khan et al. conducted assessment of wild edible plants of Sewa catchment area in Northwest Himalaya of India and listed 97 plant species used by local inhabitants for various uses. More than 380 nontimber forest products (NTFPs) were identified in Meghalaya in North East India and 739 in the Kangchenjunga Landscape (India, Nepal and Bhutan) of which many were WNEPs, although these were not separately listed.

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