Bronwen Powell


Broadly, my research examines the social, cultural and environmental drivers of human nutrition, diet and food security. Specifically, my research is focused on the relationship between biodiversity and human nutrition: how do people draw on wild and agricultural resources and diversity to improve dietary diversity, food security and nutrition? Much of my recent research examines how landscape structure and biodiversity from different land-use types influence human diet and nutrition. I am interested in how the concept of healthy food environments, which has been widely explored in urban and developed country settings, can be applied in rural African settings to understand dietary choice. While availability and accessibility are widely acknowledged as important aspects of the food environment that influence dietary choice, I am also specifically interested in the (often overlooked) social and cultural aspects of food environments. I use both quantitative and qualitative methods. Drawing on qualitative, ethnographic and participatory methods, my research uses Ecohealth and Complex Systems approaches to examine socio-cultural factors that mediate peoples’ relationship with and use of their environments to meet their livelihood needs. My research is applied and policy focused; generation of research findings that can help inform national and international policy and practice for improved nutrition, sustainable development and conservation is a key objective. As communities in developing countries experiences nutritional transitions, away from traditional foods and toward increased consumption of processed foods high in calories, fat and refined sugar, there is a need for solutions that can address over-nutrition and obesity, and under-nutrition and micronutrient deficiency simultaneously. I believe that holistic approaches hold the key to improving the health and nutrition of communities in a manner that is culturally appropriate, sustainable and conducive to improving overall ecosystem health. 


Primary Research Sites:


  • Burkina Faso, Dagara land (Dano / Dissine, South-west Burkina Faso)
  • Ethiopia, Benishangul-Gumuz, western Ethiopia, Kamashi Zone (Gumuz ethnic group)
  • Tanzania, The East Usambara Mountains, Eastern Arc Mountains, north-eastern Tanzania
  • Morocco, Taounate (Rif Mountains, north or Fes), Azilal (central High Atlas Mountains), El Hauze (Ourika Valley, western High Atlas Mountains)


Select Media Outreach and Policy Engagement:

•    UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) on "Sustainable Forestry for Food Security and Nutrition" (2015-2017)
•    CIFOR Forest News: Forests and food: Get your facts straight! By Bronwen Powell, Oct 12, 2015
•    IUFRO Global Forest Expert Panel: Forests and Food Security and Nutrition (2013-2015)
•    The Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative Blog: Traditional Markets are an important part of Nutrition-sensitive Landscapes in Morocco. By Bronwen Powell and Abderrahim Ouarghidi, Feb. 2, 2015
•    Scientific American: Food-matters. Seeing The Forest Through The Trees: How Wild Foods May Contribute To Food Security. By Layla Eplett. February 12, 2014
•    Expert background paper for the International Conference on Nutrition 2, FAO, Aug 2013
•    Guardian Professional: Wild foods: a food security strategy that's hard to swallow? By Caspar van Vark, July 3, 2013
•    Background papers for the FAO meeting on “Forests for Food Security and Nutrition”, May 2013


Research Interests

  • Environmental social and cultural determinants of diet and nutrition
  • Biodiversity for food security and health
  • Wild and forest foods
  • Dietary patterns and dietary diversity
  • Food systems and traditional foods
  • Ecosystems and Landscape level Approaches to Human and Ecosystem Health
  • Applied Research for improved policy and practice


•    Powell, B, A Ickowitz, M Balinga, M Zida, T Sunderland. (forthcoming) Traditional land-uses and their importance for nutrition-sensitive food systems in a semi-arid landscape, South-west Burkina Faso.
•    Ickowitz, A, D Rowland, B Powell, T Sunderland (under review) The effect of tree cover on child nutrition in Indonesia: Examining the relationship between tree cover and consumption of micronutrient-rich foods.
•    Rowland, D, A Ickowitz, B Powell, R Nasi, T Sunderland (under review) Contributions of forest foods to meeting recommendations for dietary intakes: A multi-country case study analysis.
•    Ouarghidi, A, B Powell, GJ Martin and A Abbad. (under review). Impact of traditional sustainable harvesting knowledge and community protection on a rare wild medicinal root (Anacyclus pyrethrum var. pyrethrum) in Ait M’hamed Valley, Morocco.
•    Powell, B, R Bezner-Kerr, SL Young and T Johns. (accepted). Determinants of dietary diversity: Ethnonutrition knowledge from the East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine.
•    Powell, B, S Haraksingh Thilsted, A Ickowizt, C Termote, T Sunderland and A Herforth. 2015. Improving diets with wild and cultivated biodiversity from across the landscape. Food Security 7(3): 535-554.
•    Contribution to multiple chapters in: Vira, B, C Wildburger and S Mansourian (eds). 2015. Forests, Trees and Landscapes for Food Security and Nutrition – A Global Assessment Report. IUFRO World Series Vol. 33. Vienna. 172 p
•    Rowland, D, RR Blackie, B Powell, H Djoudi, E Vergles, B Vinceti and A. Ickowitz. 2015. The role of dry forests in food security: A review. International Forestry Review 17(S2):45-53.
•    Powell, B, A Ouarghidi, T Johns, M Ibn Tattou and P Eyzaguirre 2014. Wild leafy vegetable use and knowledge across multiple sites in Morocco: a case study for transmission of local knowledge? Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, 10: 34.
•    Ickowitz, A, B Powell, MA Salim, and T Sunderland. 2014. Dietary quality and tree cover in Africa. Global Environmental Change, 24:287-294.
•    Powell, B, P Maundu, HV Kuhnlein and T Johns. 2013. Wild Foods from farm and forest in the East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. Ecology of Food and Nutrition. Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 52:6, 451-478.
•    Ouarghidi, A, GJ Martin, B Powell, G Esser, A Abbad. 2013. Botanical identification of medicinal roots collected and traded in Morocco and comparison to the existing literature. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, 9:59.
•    Johns, T, B Powell, P Maundu, P Eyzaguirre. 2013. Agricultural biodiversity as a link between traditional food systems and contemporary development, social integrity and ecological health. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 93(14):3433-42
•    Powell, B, A Ickowitz, S McMullin, R Jamnadass, C Padoch, M Pinedo-Vasquez, T Sunderland. 2013. The role of forests, trees and wild biodiversity for improved nutrition-sensitivity of food and agriculture systems. Expert background paper for the International Conference on Nutrition 2, FAO, Rome, Italy.
•    Vinceti, B, A Ickowitz, B Powell, K Kehlenbeck, C Termote, B Cogill and D Hunter. 2013. The contributions of forest foods to sustainable diets. Unasylva 241: 64
•    Ouarghidi, A, B Powell, G Martin and A Abbad. 2012. Species substitution in medicinal roots and possible implications for toxicity of herbal remedies in Morocco. Economic Botany, 66(4): 370-382.
•    Arnold, M, B Powell, P Shanley, and T Sunderland. 2011. Human health, food security and forests (Editorial for a Special Issue). International Forestry Review 13(3): 259-264.
•    Powell, B, J Hall, H and T Johns. 2011. Effects of forest cover and use on dietary intake in the East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. International Forestry Review 13(3):305-317.
•    Wan, M, CJP Colfer and B Powell. 2011. Forests, women and health: opportunities and challenges for conservation. International Forestry Review, 13(3):360-387.
•    Powell, B, J Watts, A Boucard, Z Urech, L Feintrenie, E Lyimo, S Asaha and J Sunderland-Groves. 2010. The role of Wild Species in Local Governance of tropical forested landscapes, Chapter 7. In: Collaborative Governance of Tropical Landscapes by Carol Colfer and JL Pfund (eds.), Earthscan, London.