Latin America is home to an extraordinary diversity of nutritionally important fruit-tree species (Kermath et al., 2014) and, for millennia, local people have selected and domesticated useful species in their landscape (Levis et al., 2018).

Despite the high diversity of nutritionally rich fruit trees, the homogenization and Westernization of consumption patterns in the region have driven the spread of poor diets, particularly in rural areas. Diets, especially of Indigenous communities are increasingly based on staples and processed food with lower nutritional values (Coimbra et al., 2013). Farming in Latin America is increasingly based
on unsustainable and environmentally damaging practices, which drive tropical forest degradation and deforestation (Dobrovolski et al., 2011). Over 80% of Latin American farms are managed by smallholders (Leporati et al., 2014), who are incentivized by policy initiatives to prioritize fruit cash-crops at the expense of on-farm diversity (Sthapit et al., 2016). Although crops such as palm oil Elaeis
guineensis), cacao (Theobroma cacao) and banana (Musa sp.) can play an important economic role in the region, monocultures make farmers increasingly vulnerable to socioeconomic and environmental shocks (Maas et al., 2020).

The advantages of adopting a greater diversity of fruit-tree species clearly extend beyond economic resilience. One premise of this chapter is that ecological benefits, including restoration of landscapes and delivery of ecosystem services – carbon sequestration, pollination, soil protection, and fauna habitat connectivity – will be generated through increasing the role of underutilized
fruit species in local, national and international markets. This will also contribute to the conservation of important genetic resources (vanHove and VanDamme, 2013; Thomas et al., 2018; van Zonneveld et al., 2020).

Van Loon, Robin; Lagneaux, Elisabeth; Guerra, Gabriela Wiederkehr; Chiriboga-Arroyo, Fidel; Thomas, Evert; Gamarra, Bruno; van Zonneveld, Maarten; Kettle, Chris

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