The Role of Vegetables and Legumes in Assuring Food, Nutrition, and Income Security for Vulnerable Groups in Sub-Saharan Africa
Rising food and nutritional insecurity threatens the livelihoods of millions of poor people, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Vegetable and legume production and consumption are a potent mechanism for small-scale, disadvantaged farmers to obtain the required nutrients in their diets and to generate much-needed income through trade. Vegetables and legumes are key sources of nutrients and health-promoting phytochemicals, providing higher micronutrient contents and a wider spectrum of essential compounds to meet nutritional and health needs than other food sources. Diversifying diets with vegetables and legumes is a cheaper, surer, and more sustainable way to supply a range of nutrients to the body and combat malnutrition and associated health problems than other approaches that target only a single or a few nutritional factors. Furthermore, vegetables and legumes often accompany staple crops in meals, and most staple crops are less palatable without vegetable or legume accompaniments. As a growing world population demands more and higher quality foods, and as environmental problems such as soil degradation, water scarcity, biodiversity loss, and climate change become more acute, the need for innovative vegetable and legume research solutions to improve food and nutritional security cannot be overemphasized.