Agronomy

Improving Income and Nutrition in Eastern and Southern Africa

Mike Titley, a vegetable agronomist at Applied Horticultural Research (AHR) in Australia, provides technical support to the project teams and farmers

Mike Titley, a vegetable agronomist at Applied Horticultural Research (AHR) in Australia, provides technical support to the project teams and farmers

AVRDC Eastern and Southern Africa recently received a visit from Mike Titley, a vegetable agronomist at Applied Horticultural Research (AHR) in Australia.

AHR is one of the partners in the  VINESA project (“Improving income and nutrition in eastern and southern Africa by enhancing vegetable-based farming and food systems in peri-urban corridors”).

Dietary diversification, malnutrition and poverty are widespread problems in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA), including the target countries; Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. Childhood malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa is widespread, and forecast to increase by 13% to 42 million in 2020. Much of the micronutrient malnutrition can be attributed to a lack of diversity in local diets. For good health, at least 400 g/day of fruit and vegetables should be consumed but only 56% of the recommended amount is consumed in the region. This shortfall can be partially attributed to inadequate supply systems (poor adoption of new technologies and practices has led to minimal improvements to production and supply chain practices), insufficient public education and inadequate policies (consumers are still largely unaware of the benefits of vegetable consumption – reflecting a need for improved education campaigns and policy). The lack of efficient channels for the adaptation and dissemination of research-based technologies and knowledge currently limits improvement in the target countries. For vegetables, their knowledge intensive nature mean that a disconnect between research and practice can have dramatic consequences along the value chain. Simultaneously, demographics in the target countries are rapidly changing, with an expanding, younger population that increasingly migrates to cities but often fail to secure stable employment.

Bridging research and practice can be achieved by focusing interventions on highly visible sites, creating Best Practice Hubs (BPHs) embedded within both current and potential (youth) vegetable farmers. Such BPHs will concurrently (i) test and fast-track options for increased production and post-harvest handling and, (ii) build the capacity of youth to explore and enable opportunities for profitable self-employment. The BPHs will become centres for crop trials and experimentation that also serve for educational interventions, which will empower producers (current and potential) with productivity-enhancing technologies within effective value chains. This approach has been tested in West Africa under the African Market Garden (AMG) initiative whereby farmers convene in community-based research hubs that provide the opportunity to didactically evaluate and demonstrate best practices while attracting traders and the wider public.

AHR staff member Mike Titley is providing the vegetable cropping expertise for the project

Click here to download a recent article on the VINESA project Vegetable Farmers in Africa Benefit from Australian Expertise