Last year marked the 40th anniversary of AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center (AVRDC), an international nonprofit research and development institute focused exclusively on vegetable production in the developing world. The nonprofit organization serves farmers in developing countries, providing a means for better nutrition and more economic opportunities. Originally founded in 1971 as the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center, geared toward “supporting vegetable research and development in tropical Asia,” the organization changed its name and structure two years later, and has since expanded to include projects across Asia, Africa, Central America, and Oceania.
Each of AVRDC’s projects partners with local government agencies and NGOs to alleviate poverty and malnutrition in the developing world by improving production of indigenous crops, developing new varieties of vegetables with higher yields and better disease resistance, and promoting the consumption of these vegetables within the communities where AVRDC works.
Many of AVRDC’s project regions are areas that suffer from population-wide malnourishment. “Imbalanced diets lead to the death of millions of people each year, particularly in developing countries,” explains the organization. “Vegetables and fruit are important sources of micronutrients…that are essential to good health, but consumption in most countries is well below World Health Organization (WHO) minimum recommendations of 400 grams per person per day.” AVRDC’s projects work to reverse this trend of malnutrition.
AVRDC is also home to the world’s largest public vegetable germplasm collection. The AVRDC Genebank holds “more than 60,899 accession from 156 countries, including about 12,000 accessions of indigenous vegetables,” and the AVRDC Vegetable Genetic Resources Information System “contains data on all the accessions held by the Center.” This data, along with the germplasm conserved by the Center, gets distributed to farmers in needy regions, where the information and indigenous crops become part of a more stable, economically viable, and nutritious food system.