Efforts to improve the productivity of vegetables to feed and enhance the nutrition of people in Africa and Asia have received a major boost with the release of a €1.2 million (about US$1.6 million) research grant from the German government. The grant will be used for an international initiative that will develop environment-friendly and sustainable solutions to pests and diseases of economically important vegetable crops, increase their production, and improve the livelihoods of smallholder growers.
The financial package was provided through the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
The project will cover selected vegetable-growing coastal and urban communities in Tanzania, Kenya, Madagascar, and Thailand.
The research will develop and promote ecologically sensitive but economically viable systems to manage key pests and diseases of tomato and pepper – two of the most important vegetable crops in these countries – thereby increasing production. The project will also introduce interventions that will significantly lessen reliance on chemical pesticides in vegetable farms, consequently reducing hazards to farmers’ health and the environment.
The initiative will be led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and implemented in partnership with the World Vegetable Centre (AVRDC).
Researchers from the University of Bonn in Germany, Kenyatta University in Kenya, and Kasetsart University in Thailand, as well as the national agricultural research services, NGOs, private sector, and vegetable farmers’ groups in the four countries, will also take part.
Dr Danny Coyne, IITA Soil Health Specialist based in Tanzania, will coordinate the project. He says that the urban and peri-urban production of perishable fresh vegetables is being increasingly intensified to meet rising demand, especially from urban areas. This leads to increased incidences of pests and diseases. Growers, in turn, apply more pesticides to counter the threats and maintain production.
“We will look for ways to help urban and peri-urban vegetable farmers raise their production and profits without increasing the use of chemical pesticides,” he said.