Boosting the vegetable sector in Africa

M.C.S. Wopereis
Malnutrition is a leading cause of health problems in Africa. Vegetables add nutrients and diversity to diets, can be grown on small areas, and produce high profit margins. However, production techniques are generally far from optimal, yields are low, and significant postharvest losses occur due to poor packaging, storage and transport. Microbial contamination and intensive pesticide use may pose health risks to farmers and consumers. Promotion of school and home gardens linked to awareness raising about the importance of nutrition, clean water, sanitation and hygiene will help achieve food safety and security at the household level. Boosting the vegetable sector in Africa requires technical, organizational and institutional innovations as well as market interventions. Technical options (‘good agricultural practices’, GAP) include climate-smart cultivars – resistant to pests and diseases and tolerant to abiotic stresses such as heat, with long shelf-life and high germination rates – and adoption of better management methods, in particular limiting the use of pesticides. Protected cultivation increases yield, reduces pesticide use, facilitates adoption of GAP standards and enables off-season or year-round vegetable production. Farmers need incentives to follow GAP standards, which will ultimately be driven by well-informed consumers who demand quality products in the market. Women are the custodians of vegetable value chains, especially in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and novel incentives need to be devised to encourage their participation in market-oriented farmer groups, link those groups to markets, and ensure access to microfinance. The challenge in the organization of vegetable value chains is to simultaneously address supply, demand and quality. Africa’s growing cities increasingly seek safe and reliable sources of quality vegetables. A vibrant agri-food sector in rural and peri-urban areas can tap into this demand to provide wholesome and affordable food for city dwellers – and in the process, fight malnutrition, create employment, and reduce poverty on-farm.
Wopereis, M.C.S. (2018). Boosting the vegetable sector in Africa. Acta Hortic. 1225, 11-18
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2018.1225.2
good agricultural practices, vegetable production, Africa

Acta Horticulturae