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FAO and Cirad join forces to advance sustainable fruit and vegetable production

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Cooperation Center in Agronomic Research for Development (Cirad) have launched a major publication as part of the International Year of Fruit and Vegetables (2021).

Rich in vitamins, minerals and fibers, fruits and vegetables are essential to a healthy diet and contribute as a sector to enrich biodiversity and improve the livelihood of small producers. However, the many difficulties in production, transport and trade make fruits and vegetables expensive and inaccessible for many, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

Fruit and vegetables are highly perishable, which can lead to losses and waste. Additionally, agricultural practices and inadequate measures to fight against pests and diseases can lead to health risks, due to the presence of pesticide residues, heavy metals or other contaminants in the food. 

Launch of the FAO-Cirad Fruit and Vegetables publication - Opportunities and challenges for the sustainability of small farms for the International Year of Fruit and Vegetables © Cirad-FAO

Entitled “Fruit and Vegetables: opportunities and challenges for the sustainability of small farms”, the publication focuses on the difficulties encountered by small fruit and vegetable producers, as well as their possibilities for action. It aims at guiding them in starting and expanding their activity.

Available in print or digitally, the publication provides examples of practical solutions to adopt in order to ensure the sustainability of the production, stability of the value chains and market dynamics. It also offers recommendations intended to help policymakers create conditions that are favorable for the transformation of food systems so that the fruit and vegetable sector can develop in their country or region.

This publication, published in three languages (English, French, Spanish), is the result of three years of work coordinated by FAO and Cirad. More than 200 leading experts have contributed to its conception.

“Fruit and vegetables help us a lot to advance in the implementation of several sustainable development objectives,” explained Beth Bechdol, deputy director general of FAO, during the online presentation of the publication. “The products based on knowledge and the strategic and transformative partnerships such as the ones we are presenting today will put us on the right track to reach the objectives while ensuring that production, nutrition, environment and living conditions are improved, without leaving anyone behind.”

The president and CEO of Cirad, Elisabeth Claverie de Saint Martin, stressed the usefulness of the partnership between FAO and Cirad and called for even more investment in horticulture, “the poor parent of agricultural research.” “Horticulture is an essential sector to think about an agro-ecological transition that combines the notion of ‘one health’ with territorial approaches. We must continue and reinforce the investments in this domain.” Elisabeth Claverie de Saint Martin also highlighted the synergy effects obtained thanks to the strategic pooling of the federating power of FAO and the technical excellence of Cirad on this science-based work.

The diversity of the species of fruit and vegetables grown and their varieties offers small producers many possibilities to produce nutritious plants with a high economic value, no matter the environment, whether it is rural, peri-urban or urban, and on relatively small surface areas.

Market liberalization and the growth of international trade have created export opportunities for the horticultural sector of many countries. In parallel, the rapid urbanization and growth of revenues have increased the demand for local fresh products and it has opened new prospects for small producers and other actors of the horticultural sector. In order to reach the sustainable development objectives, giving small producers the means to produce more quality fruit and vegetables must be a priority, while protecting the environment, generating revenues and building social equity.

As for the problem of perishability of fruit and vegetables, the publication gives examples of adequate techniques of production and postharvest management for optimal quality. These innovations contribute to reducing food losses and offer the possibility to create new companies, beyond the farms, as well as decent jobs in consulting, technical assistance and sales.

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