Let’s pass on the staples: bring in the vegetables!


It’s time to add an extra load of veggies to that Asian rice bowl, according to Dr J.D.H. Keatinge of the World Vegetable Centre.

Dr Keatinge told the High Level Policy Dialogue on Investment for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, that wheat, maize and rice supply more than 60% of humanity’s calories. However, the current global focus on food security, instead of nutrition security, is a major flaw in an agricultural research  system that is suffering from chronic under investment.  The bottom line is: “Feeding the world without nourishing it at the same time is not the most sensible option.” It’s time to rethink and redesign agricultural systems. We need innovation if we are to achieve sustainable intensification.

According to Dr Keatinge’s  findings, a switch to vegetables can prove to be a win-win situation, bringing greater value in nutrition as well as profit.  He presented a case study where Bangladeshi women trained in home gardening and nutrition produced a significantly higher supply of vegetables, and key vitamins and nutrients.

A farmer in a developing country can never get rich with staples, though vegetables can provide a pathway out of poverty:

  • Vegetable production leads to higher farm income and generates more jobs than other crops;
  • Vegetable value chains contribute to commercialization of the rural economy;
  • Smallholders often have a comparative advantage in producing vegetables, since there are limited economies of scale.

“Why not invest more in vegetables, fruits, fish, livestock and other agricultural products which can help abolish malnutrition and poverty?”

Dr  Keatinge also elaborated on how training youth in peri-urban horticulture can reduce  migration from rural areas.  When vegetable farming is made “sexy” and attractive to rural youth they need not go to cities in search of a future that does not exist.

There are, however,  a few “cons” to farming vegetables, including the challenges of storage and keeping vegetables fresh. Transport and distribution to markets can also prove difficult.

Yet it is critical that agriculture research responds to new trends: ways that generate better livelihoods and healthier lives for farmers, as well as benefitting people as consumers.  Research should focus not only on quantity, but also on quality. It must recognize stronger areas of research and respond accordingly.  There is a need to revive the current agriculture system.

We need food security, with a direct focus on nutrition security. Move away from staples, to a bowlful of vegetables. This will enable rural communities to grow themselves a better future.


View Dr. Keatinge’s Powerpoint presentation.  

Blogpost by Samurdhi Ranasinghe, #GCARD3 Social Reporter – s.ranasinghe(at)cgiar.org
Picture by Kannan Arunasalam (

This post is part of the live coverage during the #GCARD3 Regional Consultation for Asia and Pacific region. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.


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