FAO promotes sustainable production of fruit and vegetables

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD) launched an important publication supporting the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables 2021 today.

Vitamin, mineral and fiber-rich, fruit and vegetables are vital for nutritious diets, and the sector contributes to increasing biodiversity and improving livelihoods.  But it faces numerous challenges in production, transport, and trade that lead to high prices, making fruit and vegetables inaccessible to many, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

Fruit and vegetables are highly perishable products, which can result in loss and waste, and given that many are consumed raw or uncooked, they may also pose a risk for foodborne illnesses.  Furthermore, problematic pest and disease management of crops can lead to food safety and trade risks due to pesticide contamination or pest introduction.

The new publication, Fruit and Vegetables: opportunities and challenges for small-scale sustainable farming, offers guidance to small-scale farmers when starting up or expanding fruit and vegetable production.

Combined effort
The book is the result of a three-year effort coordinated by FAO and CIRAD with contributions from over more than 200 leading experts.

"Fruit and vegetables make an important contribution to achieving multiple Sustainable Development Goals" said FAO Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol. "Knowledge products and strategic and transformative partnerships like the ones being presented today will put us on the right track to achieve the SDGs, with a focus on better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better lives, leaving no one behind" she added.

CIRAD Chief Executive Officer Elisabeth Claverie de Saint Martin stressed the merits of the partnership between FAO and CIRAD and called for more investment in horticulture, the "poor relation in terms of agricultural research [...] The horticultural sector will be vital in pushing ahead with an agroecological transition that combines the idea of "One Health" and territory-based approaches. We need to sustain and indeed increase investment in this field", she added.

The vast diversity of fruit and vegetable crop species and their varieties offer numerous opportunities for small-scale farmers to produce nutritious and high-value crops in their rural, peri-urban, and urban environments, using relatively small areas of land.

Market liberalization and growth in international trade have created export opportunities for the horticultural sector in many countries. In parallel, rapid urbanization and income growth have led to increased consumption of horticultural produce, thereby expanding opportunities for small-scale producers and other stakeholders in horticultural food systems. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), empowering small-scale farmers in low-middle-income countries to increase their production of safe and nutritious fruit and vegetables in ways that protect the environment, generate income, and create social equity is a priority.

Case studies
The publication is based on proven, practical experiences and highlights 14 case studies from around the world. These include the grafting technique applied to vegetables in Viet Nam to prevent bacterial wilt and to tolerate flooding of tomatoes; successful agroforestry systems in Brazil's Amazonian region; the use of biological techniques to control fruit flies on the island of Réunion; and the acquisition and management of big data to help small-scale mango farmers in Senegal.

Challenges posed by the perishability of fruit and vegetables are addressed in the book with examples of appropriate technologies for the production and post-harvest management of high-quality and safe fruit and vegetables. These, in turn, provide opportunities for new, off-farm businesses and decent work for advisory, technical, and marketing services and help reduce food losses.

For more information:
Food and Agriculture Organisation UN 



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