Never underestimate the power of vegetables

−− A groundbreaking review of the economic and nutritional benefits of vegetables points to the urgent need for greater public and private investment in vegetable crop research

·         Global hunger is declining, but malnutrition is rising. Where are the vegetables?

·         2 billion diets lack sufficient nutrients. Where are the vegetables?

·         Profits per hectare of vegetables can be 3-14 times higher than rice. But where are the vegetables?

Vegetables are increasingly recognized as essential for food and nutrition security. Vegetable production provides a promising economic opportunity for reducing rural poverty and unemployment in developing countries and is a key component of farm diversification strategies. Vegetables are mankind’s most affordable source of vitamins and minerals needed for good health.

But today, neither the economic nor nutritional power of vegetables is sufficiently realized. A groundbreaking paper by the World Vegetable Center recently published in the journal Global Food Security presents a thoughtful, well-documented case for greater public and private investment in vegetable crop research to ensure vegetables can contribute to healthier lives and more resilient livelihoods.

Tapping the economic and nutritional power of vegetables” by Pepijn Schreinemachers, Marco Wopereis, and Emmy Simmons examines the role of vegetables in the global food economy, methods for increasing the availability pf a diverse range of safe vegetables, and ways to increase vegetable consumption to improve nutrition.

To tap the economic power of vegetables, governments will need to increase their investment in farm productivity (including improved varieties, alternatives to chemical pesticides, and the use of protected cultivation), good postharvest management, food safety, and market access.

To tap the nutritional power of vegetables, consumers need to know how vegetables contribute to health, and find them at affordable prices or be able to grow them themselves. Vegetable consumption must be nurtured through a combination of supply-side interventions and behavior change communication emphasizing the importance of eating vegetables for good nutrition and health.

The authors state that to fully realize the economic and nutritional power of vegetables, governments and donors will need to give vegetables much greater priority than they currently receive. Investments in vegetables should be prioritized now to provide increased economic opportunities for smallholder farmers and healthy diets for all.

Schreinemachers P, Simmons EB, Wopereis MCS. 2017. 
Tapping the economic and nutritional power of vegetables. Global Food Security, 4 September 2017. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2017.09.005