13-14 August 2018, Canberra
Marco is a Dutch national and holds a PhD degree in tropical agronomy from the Wageningen University, Netherlands. He is the Director General of the World Vegetable Center and based in Taiwan. Prior to his current position he served as the deputy director general of the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice, Benin). He also worked for the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD, France), the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC, Togo), the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI, Philippines).
Vegetables add diversity, flavor and nutritional quality to diets and provide greater profits and employment per hectare than cereals. On-farm productivity of vegetables in low-income tropical and subtropical countries is generally low and highly variable. Public-private sector networks are crucial to pilot and scale innovations to raise productivity in a safe and sustainable manner—including varietal improvement, pest and disease management, protected cultivation—and to reduce postharvest losses.
The nutritional power of vegetables can be tapped on an intensification gradient from home gardens aimed at family nutrition to intensive market-oriented vegetable farming to address the growing demand for vegetables at affordable prices.
Home garden interventions in Africa and Asia that combined training in vegetable production with communication activities targeting nutrition and health behaviors increased vegetable consumption among rural households vulnerable to micronutrient deficiencies. Less is known about the effectiveness of sack and vertical gardens in urban slums.
Training and linking youth with markets for quality vegetables in East Africa showed promise in creating income and employment. Training farmers in off-season tomato production in Bangladesh led to dramatic income improvements but also increased pesticide use. Evidence from Tanzania highlights the market potential of often neglected, nutrient-dense indigenous vegetables, such as amaranth and African eggplant. The effect of farm diversification on dietary diversity of farming households seems small, with market access being more important.
To tap the nutritional power of vegetables, governments and donors must give greater priority to the vegetable sector through a combination of supply and demand (behavior change) interventions.