Introduction: Social-Ecological Diversity and Traditional Food Systems: Opportunities from the Biocultural World

Ranjay Kumar Singh*, Nancy J. Turner, Victoria Reyes-Garcia, Jules Pretty

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in BookForeword/postscriptResearch


This introduction describes the role of biocultural diversity in food systems of native and indigenous peoples across the world: an issue which has attracted global attention in the recent past. It has been recognized that culture, language, worldviews and livelihood of a particular community are intricately linked with the ecosystem they inhabit. The types and scales of interaction between local communities with their surrounding environment shape both social-ecological systems and biocultural diversity. Ecological and environmental considerations compel local communities to decide ‘what to eat’, ‘when to eat’, ‘how to eat’ and ‘how to produce the food stuffs’. Such decisions are governed by social characteristics, including local and traditional knowledge systems and their nurturing institutions. Biocultural diversity has a key role to play, not only in assuring the food security of local communities but also in determining the sustainability of natural resources in their territories. Socioeconomic and climatic changes at the global level have threatened the diversity of both cultures and biological resources. The industrialization of the process of food production, by negating and overlooking the traditional ways and means of food security, has threatened long term biocultural sustainability. In this introduction, in addition to providing the framework for the rest of this volume, we provide a synthesis of the contributions made by authors on biocultural resources from a variety of locations across Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. The diversity of knowledge systems and institutions developed by native and indigenous peoples worldwide illustrates the breadth of information on how best biocultural diversity can provide a foundation for facing challenges and creating a sustainable future in the scenario of global environmental change. What opportunities are available in focusing on biocultural resources of native and indigenous peoples? and what do these peoples need external helps in terms of inputs, scientific knowledge and policy support from the formal systems? These questions are discussed in order to learn about biocultural sustainability at a global scale.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial-Ecological Diversity and Traditional Food Systems
Subtitle of host publicationOpportunities from the Biocultural World
PublisherTaylor and Francis AS
ISBN (Electronic)9781000507997
ISBN (Print)9781032159034
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • adaptation
  • Biocultural diversity
  • conservation
  • global challenges
  • opportunity


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