The two regional consultations that led to the Strategic Framework for Underutilized Plants R&D (2006) gave birth to the definition we adopt when talking about underutilized species
It is difficult to
define just what qualifies as an 'underutilized species'. Terms such as
'underutilized', 'neglected', 'orphan', 'minor', 'promising', 'niche'
and 'traditional' are often used interchangeably to characterise the
range of plant species those species with under-exploited potential
for contributing to food security, health (nutritional/medicinal),
income generation, and environmental services.
These species have the following common features:
Represent an enormous wealth of agrobiodiversity and have great
potential for contributing to improved incomes, food security
and nutrition, and for combating the 'hidden hunger' caused by micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) deficiencies
Are strongly linked to the cultural heritage of their places of origin
Are mainly local and traditional crops (with their ecotypes and landraces) or wild species whose distribution, biology, cultivation and uses are poorly documented
Tend to be adapted to specific agro-ecological niches and marginal land
Have weak or no formal seed supply systems
Are recognized to have traditional uses in localized areas
Are collected from the wild or produced in traditional production systems with little or no external inputs
Receive little attention from research, extension services, farmers, policy and decision makers, donors, technology providers and consumers
May be highly nutritious and/or have medicinal properties or other multiple uses.