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Food Security: Need To Address Post-harvest Losses

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One third of the food produced globally for human consumption is lost or wasted along the supply chain. JULIANA AGBO examines the challenges for Nigeria and possible solutions available to the country

Food loss poses tremendous problems for national food systems. At a minimum, it represents the wastage of resources, including the land, water, labour and power used to generate food.

Post-harvest loss is one of the concerns of food security and poverty reduction strategies in many developing countries, which causes reduction in producers outputs, unavailability of food, effects of economy of people and the country.

While the number of food is insecure population remains unacceptably high, each year and worldwide, massive quantities of food are lost due to spoilage and infestations on the journey to consumers.

Majority of the crops, particularly, grain cereals,  pulses, oil seeds fruits and vegetables which constitute the predominant crops in Nigeria face post-harvest challenges from time to time.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, 30 per cent of food produced for human consumption was lost or wasted along the supply chain every year.

LEADERSHIP Sunday learnt that losses that occur at all stages between production at the farm level through to consumption, have unique challenges at each stage depending on specific commodities and value chains as well as context.

Obviously, one of the major ways of strengthening food security is by reducing these losses which would in turn promote national economic development.

Farmers are of the view that, qualitative and quantitative losses which are driven by poor or wrong harvest practices, lack or have poor access to markets and poor coordination among the actors in the supply chains, have a direct impact on post-harvest issues.

They are also of the view that many technologies and innovations had been developed to address the various causes of food losses.

According to them, some of it had either not reached the targeted user or had not achieved  the desired result. This is partly because people aren’t aware of them or can’t afford them. Some technologies are also unsuitable for the African context.

Besides, the need for improving marketing system, infrastructures and the importance of education and training on post-harvest loss reduction at different level of post-harvest chain were also suggested.

Analysing the potent threat of post-harvest losses to food security, the vice national president, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Chief Daniel Okafor, said losses which occur at all stages between production at the farm level through to consumption, have direct impact on the country’s economy.

Okafor, who is also the national president of Potato Famers Association of Nigeria (POFAN), said, identifying the specific causes of post-harvest losses through producing and prioritising the data related to the post-harvest losses in strategic commodities were crucial for ensuring food security.

While explaining that relevant sectors did not have the necessary institutional mechanisms to directly deal with the levels and specific causes of post-harvest losses, he said establishing coordinating mechanisms would be instrumental for identifying causes of post-harvest losses, sharing the good practices and raising awareness.

He indicated that significant potential exists in the country to enhance the income of the farmers and engage them in more resilient, sustainable and productive agricultural practices, adding that post-harvest loss reduction was aimed at promoting food security, alleviate poverty, create income generation opportunities, foster economic growth.

An expert, Hassan Aminu, who called for concerted efforts towards improving food security by using improved techniques and management of reducing post-harvest losses in Nigeria, reiterated the need for subsequent training in post-harvest loss reduction management and technique for agricultural extension workers and processors.

Aminu noted that ensuring better post-harvest management, would decrease post-harvest losses and secure stock preservation in the event of future disasters, thus contributing to food security and disaster risk mitigation in rural communities.

The expert who urged President Muhammadu Buhari, to assent the National Seed Council Bill before him, further called on the national assembly to speed up passage of the Fertiliser and Warehouse Receipt  Bills into law before inauguration of the 9th Assembly in June 2019, to address further challenges of the losses.

He said, “When these three bills are passed into law, it has multi-sectoral impact, it would lead to improved quality of manpower in the agricultural sector, because it would lead to production of farm equipment, increased revenue generation instead of depending on borrowing and importation of these commodities that are not good for consumption.”

He further said ensuring better post-harvest management, would decrease post-harvest losses and secure stock preservation in the event of future disasters, thus contributing to food security and disaster risk mitigation in rural communities.

On technologies and innovations to curtail post-harvest losses, a fabricator, Azeez Oluwole, said Nigeria has indigenous capacity and capability to fabricate functional agro-processing and non-agro processing machinery and equipment to simulate rural and urban industrialisation.

Oluwole, who is based in Kaduna called on the government to organise a yearly joint workshop for fabricators  and small holder farmers so as to provide opportunity to showcase new technologies and innovations to them as a way of creating awareness about food losses and available solutions.

While noting that there were wide ranges of technologies from training in better handling and storage hygiene, he however called for collective responsibility to patronise and work with them to stimulate national economic growth.

Oluwole, who called for the adoption of aggressive campaign for other technologies that are useful for smallholder farmers, said the ability to create awareness about the applicable technologies and demonstrating their benefits was one way to yield results that would promote national economic development.

Speaking on the benefit of post-harvest technologies,  the national president, National Association of Yam Farmers, processors and Marketers, Prof. Simon Irtwange, said with the provision of post harvest technologies to farmers, post-harvest losses would be reduced drastically, thereby increasing the amount of food available for consumption by farmers and poor rural and urban consumers and bring about better food security in the agriculture sector.

He said, “Reducing post-harvest losses clearly complements other efforts to enhance food security through improved farm level productivity.”

He however reiterated the need for government at all levels to partner with the  private sector in establishing agro-processing industries in rural areas for all crops in order to reduce post-harvest losses and maximise profits.

He further called for provision of adequate transport facilities for easy transportation of crops from point of production to markets for sale.

 

 

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