Fruit and Vegetables for Sustainable Healthy Diets (FRESH)


Poor diets are a primary cause of malnutrition and the leading cause of diseases worldwide. Improving diets, including increasing fruit and vegetable intake, could save one in five lives lost annually. Micronutrients and dietary fiber are essential for health, and micronutrients obtained from fruit and vegetables have a lower environmental footprint than from other foods, making fruit and vegetables essential to healthy and sustainable diets. Globally, fruit and vegetable intake is far below recommended levels. However, the extent and nature of the problem is poorly understood due to insufficient dietary data, especially in low- and middle-income countries.  

Increasing fruit and vegetable intake will require starting with consumers, understanding dietary patterns and addressing barriers to desirability, accessibility, affordability and availability through cost-effective solutions. Solutions must take a holistic end-to-end approach that starts from intake and works back through the food system to improve accessibility and increase year-round supply of a diverse range of safe, affordable, nutrient-dense fruit and vegetables. 


This Initiative aims to use an end-to-end approach to increase fruit and vegetable intake and in turn improve diet quality, nutrition and health outcomes while also improving livelihoods, empowering women and youth and mitigating negative environmental impacts.


This objective will be achieved through:

  • Understanding and influencing consumer behavior through assessing fruit and vegetable intake, variations across population groups and constraints to increasing intake; co-designing contextually appropriate interventions to shift dietary behaviors; testing and working with partners to support scale-up of effective interventions 
  • Exploring vegetable biodiversity, genetic innovation and seed systems by increasing farmers’ access to quality seed of improved, resilient and nutritious vegetable cultivars of a diverse range of species that align with the preferences of consumers, farmers and other value chain actors.  
  • Working to expand safe and sustainable production by enhancing the availability of vegetables through sustainable diversification and intensification under conditions of climate change.  
  • Supporting post-harvest efforts and ensuring inclusive markets to reduce post-harvest losses, improve food safety and empower women and youth in fruit and vegetable value chains in low- and middle-income countries.  
  • Developing and influencing food environments to improve consumer access to and affordability of diverse and safe fruits and vegetables. 
  • Strengthening the enabling environment through working with policymakers and other key stakeholders to provide evidence to inform policy design and share capacity so safe and sustainable fruit and vegetable production and consumption increases. 


    This Initiative will work in the focus countries of Benin, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and United Republic of Tanzania as a priority, and may also include one or more countries in Oceania. Depending on funding, other countries that may be included over time include (in alphabetical order) Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia, Nepal and Rwanda. 


    Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

    1. Key actors from government, multilateral organizations, NGOs and academia in the four focus countries are actively engaged in designing and testing behavioral interventions targeting women or youth to increase fruit and vegetable intake. 
    2. 10,000 farmers (at least 5,000 of whom are women) adopt vegetable cultivars and/or safe and sustainable vegetable production practices across four focus countries. 
    3. Private-sector partners actively engaged in co-designing and piloting innovations are ready to scale at least four innovations to reduce post-harvest losses and/or improve food safety. 
    4. Key actors from government, multilateral organizations, NGOs and academia in three of the focus countries are actively engaged in designing and testing interventions to increase the accessibility and affordability of fruit and vegetables, especially for poor and otherwise marginalized populations. 
    5. Key actors and policy makers at national level (e.g. agriculture, finance or health ministers) prioritize fruit and vegetables and incorporate specific actions aimed at increasing intake, production, food safety and/or equity within the sector into national-level policies, laws or regulations. 


            Projected impacts and benefits include:



            Cost-effective and scalable solutions enable 62.7 million people to meet their minimum micronutrient requirements and reduce the number of people with non-communicable diseases. End-to-end solutions address issues of desirability, accessibility, affordability and availability constraints to fruit- and vegetable-rich diets. 


            Fruit and vegetables, as high-value crops, create income and jobs across the value chain, from smallholder farmers to market sellers and food vendors, benefiting 1.5 million poor households. Incentive mechanisms and technical and institutional innovations stimulate year-round production and trade in safe, diverse and high-quality fruits and vegetables with minimal losses. 


            By identifying and addressing impeding factors and introducing targeted food environment interventions, 12 million women as well as youth benefit from participation in fruit and vegetables value chains.  Diets, nutrition and livelihoods benefit from the Initiative’s approach to socio-demographic inequities, including gender, age and ethnicity. 


            Protection of biodiversity and delivery of more climate-resilient vegetable cultivars and production packages, including through regenerative agricultural practices that reduce external input use and improve system performance, improve efficiency and reduce losses in fruit and vegetable value chains, benefiting 375,000 households. 


            Consumer demand is stimulated for a more biodiverse range of fruit and vegetables beyond the current narrow range of globally important species, including an additional 1,400 new accessions of traditional African vegetables being safely duplicated and made available. Good production practices are identified that enhance rather than deplete ecosystems, bringing 537,000 hectares of land under improved management.  


            Projected benefits are a way to illustrate reasonable orders of magnitude for impacts which could arise as a result of the impact pathways set out in the Initiative’s theories of change. In line with the 2030 Research and Innovation Strategy, Initiatives contribute to these impact pathways, along with other partners and stakeholders. CGIAR does not deliver impact alone. These projections therefore estimate plausible levels of impact to which CGIAR, with partners, contribute. They do not estimate CGIAR’s attributable share of the different impact pathways.


            Header photo: A fresh food market in Sri Lanka. Photo by S. Shaleigh/CGIAR.