By Itohan Abara-Laserian
Some experts on food security have expressed the need for national governments and regional bodies to apply effective policies and technology-driven interventions to reduce Post-Harvest Losses (PHL).
They made the call in a statement they made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Lagos.
They spoke during a panel session of a webinar organised by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) coordinated in Kenya, on ‘Accelerating Access to Post-Harvest Management Technologies for Enhanced Food Security and Trade in Africa’.
Dr Emmanuel Okogbenin, the Director of Programme Development and Commercialisation at AATF, noted that the promotion and the uptake of integrated post-harvest management systems that combine the best of technologies to reduce cost and maximise returns were the best approaches to manage PHL.
Okogbenin highlighted the importance of out scaling the traditional and modern post-harvest management techniques to encourage uptake and use.
He said that this would be achieved by selling technologies at discounted prices to farmers to try at home and see the value in purchasing and setting up easy and affordable demonstration trials for post-harvest management.
Okogbenin also called on African governments to increase investment in technology.
He noted that the application of agricultural biotechnology could change the game through the development of varieties that would curtail post-harvest diseases, enhance resistance to bruising and slowing down ripening.
Similarly, Dr Komla Bissi, the Coordinator, Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) at the African Union Commission, noted that post-harvest loss was not unique to Africa.
He said that 1.3 billion metric tonnes of food representing about 30 per cent of global food produced were being lost every year to post-harvest related issues.
Bissi spoke on ‘Creating an Enabling Environment for Efficient Post-harvest Management to Facilitate Regional Trade in the context of AfCFTA: The role of regional bodies’.
He said that Africa was losing 100 million metric tonnes of food every year which was equivalent to four billion dollars.
According to him, these losses have the potential of meeting the food needs and requirements of no fewer than 44 million people annually.
Bissi said that efforts should be scaled up to ensure that the growing disparities between food production and losses are addressed if the continent must attain food security.
He cited the Malabo Declaration of the African Union which African governments signed in 2014 to eradicate hunger and food waste as a reference for governments to intensify action on addressing issues related to PHL.
“There is the need to improve systemic capacities of national institutions across the continent.
“At the AU level, we are already working with national governments to develop strategies to reduce these losses.
“But there is the need for the involvement of the private sector players as we strive to explore options to attract and increase finances to address this critical area,” he added.
Also, Dr Gabriel Rugalema, the Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa region at the World Vegetable Center, said that eliminating PHL was imperative for social, economic, environmental and food security reasons.
Rugalema noted that the use of off-the-shelf technologies and practices such as: sun drying, blanching, smoking, and salting to reduce PHL exist and are accessible.
He, however, added that political will was urgently needed to support scale-up and wide adoption of such technologies.
Rugalema listed: lack of post-harvest processing technologies, poor road infrastructure, and unreliable markets as some of the main causes of PHL.
The Founder of Plethora Farms in Nigeria, Ms Opeoluwa Fayomi, presented a series of challenges faced by food producers across Nigeria and some home-grown strategies they had introduced to reduce post-harvest losses.
She noted that PHL threatens the continent’s effort to attain food security.
Fayomi said that already, people faced with the PHL challenges were trying out some locally-made technologies such as: slicing and drying tomato, using Neem Leaves as a preservative and dehulling of maize as a preservation technique.
She called for adherence to good agronomic practices, and effective planning and implementation of strategies that deal with PHL.
She also called for the introduction and production of cheaper technologies that would address PHL across the continent. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)