Global Horticulture Assessment


Global Horticulture Assessment

International report that led to the creation of the Horticulture CRSP and Horticulture Innovation Lab

Published in 2005, the Global Horticulture Assessment is the result of a collaborative effort between the University of California, Davis, AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center, Michigan State University, Purdue University and the University of Hawaii at Manoa to analyze the opportunities and challenges for global horticultural development.

The Global Horticulture Assessment was the first study of its kind and has paved the way for USAID to support research that has advanced global nutrition, economic development and empowered smallholder farmers. This assessment mobilized the creation of the Horticulture Innovation Lab, originally known as Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program or Hort CRSP.

More than 750 participants from 60 countries provided direct input to this assessment, either by participating in one of the four workshops or by completing a survey. This data collection led researchers to identify eight primary issues (listed and defined below), that either constrain the growth of horticultural development or represent core social considerations across all regions.

Primary issues for global horticulture

1. Market systems for horticulture

The modern market for horticulture is changing rapidly and new procurement strategies, fueled by the growth of supermarkets around the world, increasingly require producers to meet stringent quality, consistency and quantity standards. In the developing world, local and regional market outlets are undeveloped, and accessing markets is often impossible because of infrastructure and a paucity of available agricultural inputs.

These undeveloped markets are a special challenge for small-scale producers because they have neither the resources nor the skills to access and interpret market information. They lack financial, human or social capital to develop the linkages needed to succeed in the market.

Therefore, coordination and information exchange between all elements of the value chain (producers, marketers, exporters, etc.), the creation of stronger producer organizations, targeted investment in market infrastructure, and a combination of carefully focused and well integrated research and development activities is needed to help producers gain access to markets more effectively.

2. Postharvest systems and food safety for fruits and vegetables

Poor postharvest management and lack of knowledge about required technologies, quality standards and food safety protocols severely limit many producers’ access to markets. Improper harvest and postharvest procedures in developing countries result in losses that amount to more than 50 percent for perishable horticultural crops. Improper harvest and postharvest operations result in quality deterioration, short shelf life, rejection by consumers, and contamination risks.

While vertical integration has meant that larger producers and wholesalers in the horticultural industry do most of their postharvest management “in-house,” smaller-scale producers and firms often lack access to critical postharvest knowledge, technology and infrastructure.

Research and development of appropriate postharvest technologies for small- and medium-sized producers, value-added processing techniques, food safety protocols and quality standards for horticultural commodities can help to reduce postharvest losses, improve food safety, and contribute to increased producer incomes and the subsequent development of rural economies.

3. Genetic resources conservation and development for horticultural crops

Quality seed and planting stock represent a package of genetic technology that is the foundation of a sound horticulture supply chain. Currently, inadequate effort is expended in research and development of appropriate, locally adapted modern and traditional varieties of horticultural crops, resulting in decreased productivity.

The development of high-quality seed and planting stock programs, focused on locally adapted and market-demanded varieties, will lead to greater yields and higher market values. Because many developing regions are rich in endemic horticultural diversity, they could take advantage of the growing demand for indigenous and traditional crops in local, regional and export markets.

In order for regions to exploit the richness of their endemic horticultural diversity, traditional knowledge and native horticultural varieties must be identified, characterized and conserved. Small local producers have neither the knowledge nor the skills to accomplish these major research and development projects. 

4. Sustainable production systems and natural resources management

Compared to cereal crops, most horticultural crops demand high levels of inputs, water and agro-chemicals. Negative environmental impacts are inevitable from misuse or mismanagement of chemical inputs. Producers in developing regions often lack access to appropriate inputs and the necessary technical production skills due to inadequate input and credit markets as well as weak agricultural extension systems.

Research and development of locally-adapted, integrated crop management strategies to address production demands of small producers is critical to ensure sustainable production systems that will meet market demands in the future. Improving access to appropriate inputs and information resources, especially in rural areas, can help farmers raise productivity and contribute to sound natural resource management.

5. Capacity building in horticulture

Horticulture is perhaps the most knowledge-intensive and dynamic agricultural system. Short-term growth and long-term viability are critically dependent on access to technical knowledge, the ability to adapt that knowledge to local conditions, and the flexibility to develop new production systems as market conditions change.

Capacity building is an integral component of each identified primary issue. Lack of human, institutional, and research capacity inhibits local innovation, technology adoption, and the development of solutions to address key constraints in the horticultural industry. The development of effective education and extension networks, involving public, private, and civic sector collaborations, will strengthen the technical capacity of horticultural producers and improve the efficiency of current production and marketing systems. Training horticultural experts in participatory research methodologies will build local research capacity and develop relevant solutions to horticultural constraints. Enhancement of capacity at all levels and along all stages in the value chain, from production to postharvest and marketing, is critical to the creation of a dynamic and sustainable horticultural industry. 

6. Enabling environment for horticulture

An enabling environment can be defined as the set of interrelated economic, social, and political elements necessary for development. A structured, reliable enabling environment plays an especially critical role in determining success in modern horticulture. Horticulture requires a sound legislative and policy framework, adequate local and regional infrastructure, and institutions with a focus on capacity building, management instruments, and monitoring and evaluation. Social and political stability are also necessary components of a secure enabling environment.

Examples of important policy considerations include regulatory systems for horticultural standards; clarification and application of intellectual property rights agreements; secure land tenure and credit markets for small-scale producers and agribusinesses; water use systems; and postharvest and food safety protocols. Significant research will be required to determine the effects of intellectual property rights on production choices; the consequences of trade liberalization and market aggregation for small producers and households; credit markets; and operation of up-to-date phytosanitary monitoring systems.

7. Gender equity supports horticulture success

In today’s horticultural industries, women play significant roles as farmers, agricultural business laborers, entrepreneurs, and consumers. Women face unique constraints in horticultural production systems including inadequate or unequal access to land, credit, technology, information, and working conditions. Nevertheless, women have much to gain by investment in the horticultural industry, including increased opportunities for employment and income generation.

Gender-based research has informed development agencies of the critical importance of the specific roles and needs of women to ensure a project’s success. The knowledge-intensive nature of horticulture will require that women have access to educational opportunities and that technical information is delivered in a gender sensitive manner.

Future horticultural development must consider women’s roles and needs in culturally-specific food systems, emphasize research on women’s participation in small-scale production for export; include comparative research on the gendered dimensions of horticultural production across regions and market levels; and document women’s particular constraints and opportunities in the horticultural sector.

8. Nutrition and human health benefit from horticultural crops

Horticultural crops play a valuable role in food systems by diversifying diets and increasing dietary consumption of micronutrients and other plant products known to benefit human health (fiber, antioxidants, etc.). Supplements and fortified foods can effectively address micronutrient deficiencies in the short-term, but food-based solutions, such as increasing the consumption of vegetables, legumes, and fruits represent the most sustainable method of reducing and controlling micronutrient deficiencies in resource-poor communities.

Analysis of the nutritional properties of select indigenous and traditional crops and varieties, and the bio-availability of specific nutrients from enhanced mineral-rich foods and food mixtures can help to determine which crops should be promoted and marketed for their health benefits. Research into how processing affects the bio-availability of certain nutrients and the limitations for utilizing crops as supplements for high-risk groups will permit the design of effective food-based nutrition interventions.

Cropping systems research, including the effects of soil quality and fertilizers on the mineral content of food, as well as manipulation of the cropping mix to foster dietary diversity, optimization of irrigation and fertilization regimes, postharvest handling and storage, and control of pests and diseases can all contribute to the density of nutrients in a diet.

Regional context and focus

In addition to the eight primary issues that are equally relevant to all regions, regionally-specific priorities were also identified by stakeholders.

Horticulture in Sub-Saharan Africa

Although horticultural production has risen steadily in most regions of the world over the past few decades, the average annual growth in per capita supply of horticultural produce was negative in sub-Saharan Africa between 1971 and 2000 (Weinberger and Lumpkin 2004).

Stakeholders in sub-Saharan Africa highlighted the need to develop local and regional markets because inadequate transportation infrastructure and inability to comply with EUREPGAP standards limits their participation in export markets throughout the region. Many producers lack access to even their local and regional markets making the development of cold-chain, transportation, and communications infrastructure critical to linking producers with these markets.

Stakeholders throughout the region emphasized the importance of accessing and promoting the untapped wealth of indigenous crops and genetic resources for improving nutrition and incomes. Horticultural crops represent an opportunity for enhancing the diets of people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as for increasing the incomes of women, the traditional producers and marketers of horticultural crops throughout the region. 

Capacity building for horticultural business management, as well as training for scientific capacity and research, were also identified as priorities.

Horticulture in Latin America and the Caribbean

Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) currently export a high percentage of their horticultural products, especially to the United States; Mexico supplies the majority of the fresh vegetables consumed in the United States. Despite some notable successes involving small-scale producers, however, the majority of LAC smallholders remain disenfranchised from the thriving export market.

LAC stakeholders stressed the necessity to create opportunities for smallholders to access niche export markets for high-value and brand-marketed products such as Fair Trade and certified organic products. The ability to meet strict phytosanitary standards of export markets will be accomplished only with increased extension assistance and with local adoption of good agricultural practices (GAP) and good handling practices (GHP).

LAC stakeholders emphasized the need for research, conservation and increased commercialization of indigenous fruits. Research and extension for management of natural resources and cultivation on hillsides and other marginal land, as well as appropriate crop selection, testing, certification and quality assurance programs are of critical importance to all producers, large and small and is essential to reverse widespread environmental degradation.

Despite their prominence in export horticulture, most Latin American countries consume inadequate amounts of fruits and vegetables as a result of limited access, poor quality and inadequate safety of the available produce. While there is significant potential for expansion of local production and consumption, product quality and reliability must be enhanced and there must be a coordinated public education campaign to emphasize the benefits of fruits and vegetables before this potential can be realized. Programs aimed at children are especially important if the dramatic increase in child health problems of malnutrition and obesity are to be reversed. 

Horticulture in Asia and the Middle East

The Asia and the Middle East region is a remarkably heterogenous area characterized by a great diversity of agro-climatic zones, allowing for the production of almost any crop species and supporting a considerable richness in dietary diversity and indigenous species of regional interest.

Most of the region suffers from poor market distribution, lack of adequate water (except in the humid tropics), a low level of market development, and generally poor infrastructure and human capital development.

Stakeholders in this region stressed the importance of protecting intellectual property rights and conducting research to characterize and commercialize promising indigenous herbs and medicinal plants. Participants and respondents emphasized the need for varieties adapted to the diverse agroecological zones throughout the region, especially cultivars adapted to the climatic extremes of drought and high humidity, and the expansion of protected cultivation techniques to reduce seasonality.

Appropriate water management was a priority throughout the region; research and development of strategies to maximize water use for smallholders will be important to ensuring the growth of the industry.

Why horticulture?

Economic growth in horticultural products has far exceeded the growth of other agricultural commodities, and the demand for horticultural produce continues to accelerate in both domestic and international markets. This growth is fueled by affluent urban consumers in developing countries, as well as by consumers in developed countries whose diets are increasingly incorporating greater amounts of horticultural products.

Simultaneous with this growth in demand is an increasing relocation of production from the developed world to the developing world. Many parts of the developing world have a relative advantage in the production of horticultural crops by virtue of the relatively high labor-to-land ratio. Small growers can usually earn much higher farm incomes cultivating horticultural products compared to cereal crops, and horticultural production results in rural economic growth and the creation of off-farm jobs through value-added industries and the local marketing of these goods. Horticultural crops also have the potential to benefit human health by increasing dietary diversity and alleviating micronutrient deficiencies. Crop diversification and proper management of horticultural crops can lead to significant benefits to the environment as well.

Collaborative research support program for horticulture

A Collaborative Research Support Program in Horticulture is proposed. This CRSP would be designed to provide the research, capacity building and knowledge extension support essential for the development of the global horticulture sector. The new Horticulture CRSP would partner closely with the World Vegetable Center and its CGIAR partners in the newly developed Global Horticulture Initiative. This partnership ensures synergy and efficiency of programs and directly enhances the capacity to identify and implement key development programs in horticulture.

In addition to its role as a center for knowledge generation, capacity building and integration, the Horticulture CRSP would also partner with individual, regional and global consortia of USAID Missions, and private and public partners to design and implement specific targeted short- and mid-term projects that address the core challenges in horticulture identified in this analysis. 

The following projects are provided as illustrative examples of high priority projects:

  • Development of Phytosanitary and Postharvest Protocols for the Small Producer.
  • Development of Small Scale Agrochemical and Seed Supply Micro-enterprises
  • Establishment of a Global Horticulture Knowledge Bank and Extension System

The initiative would strengthen the ability of USAID in Washington and its in-country Missions to develop and implement effective programming in the horticulture sector, would strengthen existing USAID funded programs that have a horticulture component, and would serve a coordinating and integrating role. The initiative would also partner with existing CRSPs to strengthen their ability to achieve their development goals. A core principle of this initiative is to support USAID and missions by providing program design and implementation advice, technical expertise and coordinated knowledge generation and extension programs