By Mary Hearty

The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) has collaborated with the World Vegetable Center and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation to promote healthy vegetable production and consumption in Kenya and Ethiopia.

This is through the ‘Veggies 4 Planet & People (V4P&P)’ initiative, a €6m five-year project funded by the Ikea Foundation to create jobs, increase incomes – particularly for women and youth – and improve environmental and human health through the safe production of vegetables.

The initiative will involve the adoption of safer-to-use and more environmentally friendly biological control agents – as part of integrated pest management plans – with a reduced reliance on chemical pesticides.

A healthy diet of fruit and vegetables provides a source of vitamins and minerals needed to maintain the overall health of people but is particularly important in helping to prevent obesity, heart disease, and cancers.

Consumption of vegetables in Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the lowest of any region in the world. This is due to a number of factors including low yields because of crop pests and diseases, limited marketing, poor access to seeds, soil and fertilizers, and limited knowledge of soil and plant health management.

Dr. Lorna Migiro, Senior Scientist, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Solutions (SPS), and project manager, CABI said, “Problems within the vegetable supply and value chain, including pests and the use of harmful pesticides, are causing losses and high levels of residues. To help improve livelihoods, nutrition and food security, there is a need to increase the production of safer and healthier vegetables both for domestic consumption and export to more profitable global markets.

“The project seeks to reduce risks from pesticides by recommending the use of low-risk solutions that are compatible with regenerative agriculture. Indeed, the use of bio-pesticides and natural pesticides is one of the key performance indicators for the regenerative agriculture component of the V4P&P project.”

CABI will consolidate and document information from databases and other sources to provide expert advice and insights on vegetable pest problems and farmer practices in the two countries.

Scientists from CABI’s regional center for Africa in Kenya and Switzerland will work to identify and provide insight on pest problems project farmers are likely to face and gather evidence on the management practices on priority vegetables.

CABI will also recommend regenerative approaches and the steps required to introduce further low-risk solutions that are not yet available in Kenya and Ethiopia.