Although vegetables are necessary for a healthy diet, very few countries grow enough of them to supply their people. Availability and cost contribute to both poor demand and consumption – yet increasing vegetable intake could vastly boost global nutrition and health.
This is why the role of WorldVeg is important.
WorldVeg is an international non-profit institute with a unique vegetable research and development mandate and a vision to contribute to healthier lives and more resilient livelihoods through greater diversity in what people grow and eat.
‘Our goal is to unleash the nutritional and economic potential of vegetables in low-income and middle-income countries, inclusively and sustainably,’ said Dr Marco Wopereis, WorldVeg director-general.
WorldVeg has an established presence in Asia and Africa, and an extensive network of partners around the world, including ACIAR. These partnerships allow WorldVeg to maintain a global perspective while grounding efforts in local contexts.
Dr Wopereis explained that core funding from ACIAR provides WorldVeg with the flexibility to conduct strategic research in diversity in vegetable seeds, production systems and vegetables in diets. The funding also provides resources for impact assessment studies to guide future research efforts.
Dr Julianne Biddle, ACIAR director of multilateral engagement, said WorldVeg played an important role in producing and maintaining global public goods, such as providing stewardship to the largest public vegetable germplasm collections in the world.
‘This kind of global intellectual and physical architecture is not very well supported by individually funded projects,’ said Dr Biddle. ‘Core funding means staff capacity is enhanced, with career prospects on the horizon. Long-term research occurs and germplasm and other important resources are well maintained and effectively mobilised. This has many other benefits for food systems.’
Core funding also allows ACIAR to work alongside larger funding partners, enhancing the investment impact. Dr Biddle added that these efforts are important not just for smallholder farmers in low-income and lower-middle-income countries but also for Australian breeding programs. These include mungbean breeding, with WorldVeg germplasm being the foundation for the varieties grown across much of northern Australia for many years.
The WorldVeg gene bank also holds germplasm of tomato breeds with genetic resistance to tomato yellow leaf curl virus, which poses an ongoing threat to the Australian tomato industry.
ACIAR supports the valuable ‘Push-Pull-Policy’ framework of WorldVeg. This emphasises the need to focus simultaneously on improving production, building consumers’ appetite for more vegetables, and engaging with policy actors to create an enabling environment for vegetable diversity.
WorldVeg recently took a leading role in the design of the new Fruit and Vegetables for Sustainable Healthy Diets (FRESH) One CGIAR Initiative. This strategic partnership between WorldVeg and One CGIAR signals a strong commitment across food and agricultural research organisations to collaborate towards global food and nutrition security.