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Prem Nath

The world produces adequate food for everyone, but unequal distribution has created a gap between the countries that produce more food than they consume and those countries with deficit production. About 815 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition, mostly in the developing world. By 2020, the developing world is expected to face the overwhelming challenge of a 97.5% increase in population; moreover, developing countries will face serious challenges with the trend of a major shift in population from rural to urban areas, where 52% of the people will live in megacities—all asking for more food, land, and infrastructure. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 334 million children in developing countries are malnourished. In 2020, one out of every four children in these countries will still be malnourished. It is recognized that modern agriculture must diversify production and achieve sustainable higher output to supplement food security. In order to reduce pressure on cereals as well as to improve human nutrition through the consumption of other nutritious crops, diversification in cropping patterns can provide better options. The increased production and consumption of fruits and vegetables, with their wide adaptation and providers of important nutrients (especially vitamins and minerals), offer promise for the future. Fruits and vegetables as food and diet supplements are gaining momentum in most countries. In addition, recent experimental evidence has shown the growing importance of fruits and vegetables in the prevention of noncommunicable diseases. Further, horticulture would play an important role in urban and peri-urban agriculture and development.

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Prem Nath

At the International Conference on Vegetables held 11–14 Nov. 2002 in Bangalore, India, about 700 participants from 37 countries across the globe discussed more than 600 papers and posters presented on its 13 theme areas of scientific, technological, and economic importance. It was recognized that this phenomenal knowledge and much more of it that is globally available and will be available in the future should be collected, consolidated and easily retrieved and shared for appropriate use by the stakeholders. Therefore, the General Assembly of the Conference ICV-2002 decided to establish the Vegetable Science International Network (VEGINET). The goal of VEGINET will be to strengthen partnership and inter-institutional cooperation among the member organizations of the vegetable sector toward improved production and utilization of vegetables. The main objectives will be to strengthen/promote vegetable research and development by facilitating inter- and intra-regional and inter-institutional cooperation; promote partnership between public and private sectors for improving vegetable production; facilitate development of human resources; promote improved and sustainable production of vegetables for food; develop a collaborative network for dissemination of information among the member organizations; and facilitate building of a sustainable infrastructure from the farm to the consumer and processor. The rising challenge, structure and membership, partnership, human resource development, mandate and strategy, activities, and resource generation of the VEGINET will be explained during the presentation.

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Prem Nath and Sundari Velu

Among the vegetables, the cucurbitaceous crops form one of the largest groups with their wide adaptation from arid climates to the humid tropics. In Asia, about 23 edible major and minor cucurbits are grown and consumed. Though the data on cucurbits alone are not easily available, the production of watermelon was reported to be 69.7 million tons in Asia, 9.0 million tons in the Near East, 2.7 million tons in North and Central America, and 2.4 million tons in Latin America and the Caribbean (2003). Cucurbits demonstrate wide adaptability, which allows the crops to grow in varied agroclimatic conditions. Among food crops, cucurbits are the largest producers of biological water and are easily digestible. The cucurbits contain 80% to 95% water and also contain nutritive elements, such as carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, calcium, lycopene, phosphorus, potassium, and other properties, in addition to medicinal values. They are common crops in rural, urban, and peri-urban areas, and are accessible to both rich and poor. Even with the gradual increase in production and consumption, the production of cucurbits is plagued by the occurrence of diseases and insect pests, inadequate availability of quality seeds, lack of maintenance of genetic varieties and of naturally occurring biodiversities, and the lack of knowledge on the international standard of quality production and postharvest handling. The thrust areas of development, as identified, are: harnessing new sciences; diversification in cropping patterns; utilization of available genetic diversities; reversal of postharvest losses; and value addition in food products. Cucurbits hold promise as supplementary food for the common masses.

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Prem Nath and Sundari Velu

In a world that produces enough food for everyone, about 800 million people in the developing world do not have enough to eat. The important challenge facing agriculture in the new millennium is to eliminate chronic hunger. Safe and better quality food is equally important to ensure that people not only have sufficient energy but also the nutrients necessary for adequate productive lives. In order to release the pressure on cereals as well as to improve human nutrition through consumption of the other nutritious crops, diversification in cropping patterns provides better options, and horticultural crops, including vegetables with their wide adoption and providers of important nutrients, offer promise for the future. In this spirit and in the wake of the present global call for eliminating food and nutritional insecurity, the technologists, entrepreneurs, policy-makers and those interested in agriculture were invited to participate and contribute to fruitful discussion at the International Conference on Vegetables (ICV–2002), which was held 11–14 Nov. 2002 in Bangalore, India. About 700 participants from 37 countries across the globe participated in the conference, and a total of 621 papers were presented. The ICV–2002 addressed 13 theme areas, which included vegetable improvement in production, protection, underutilized vegetables, postharvest management, developmental policies and programs, marketing and trade including WTO policies and programs, and, finally, technical cooperation among developing countries. The salient recommendations of the ICV–2002 will be presented.