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Nigeria, others need right policies to strengthen food security

Agric experts in Nigeria and other countries in Africa have expressed the need for governments and regional bodies to adopt effective policies and technology- driven interventions to reduce post-harvest losses and stifling food security in the continent post-COVID-19.

This was the call by a panel of experts who spoke during a webinar on ‘Accelerating Access to Post-Harvest Management Technologies for Enhanced Food Security and Trade in Africa,’ organised by AATF. The Director of Programme Development and Commercialisation at AATF, Dr. Emmanuel Okogbenin, noted that promotion and uptake of integrated post-harvest management systems that combine the best of technologies to reduce cost and maximise returns was the best approach to manage post-harvest losses. Emmanuel highlighted the importance of out-scalling the traditional and modern post-harvest management techniques to encourage uptake and use.

He said: “Selling technologies at discounted prices for farmers to try at home and see the value in purchasing and setting up easy and affordable demonstration trials for post-harvest management.” Emmanuel also called on African governments to increase investment in the area, while noting that the application of agricultural biotechnology can be a game changer through development of varieties that can curtail postharvest diseases, enhance resistance to bruising and slowing down ripening. The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Coordinator at the African Union Commission, Dr Komla Bissi, noted that post-harvest loss was not unique to Africa as 1.3 billion metric tonnes of food, representing about 30 per cent of global food produced, is lost every year to post-harvest-related issues.

Bissi, who 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,” said Africa was losing 100 million metric tonnes of food every year, which is translates to $4 billion. These losses have the potential of meeting the food need and requirement of about 44 million people annually. He said efforts must be scaled up to ensure that the growing disparities between food production and losses were addressed if the continent must attain food security. Bissi 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 post-harvest losses. “There is 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 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. In his submission, the Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa region at World Vegetable Center, Dr. Gabriel Rugalema, said that eliminating post-harvest losses is imperative for social, economic, environmental and food security reasons. He noted that the use of off-theshelf technologies and practices such as sun drying, blanching, smoking, and salting to reduce PHL existed and accessible, addibg that political will was urgently needed to support scale up and wide adoption of such technologies. Rugalema, who spoke on “Private Sector Participation in Post- Harvest Management: Access to technologies and emerging opportunities,” said that in Africa, all crops suffer from post-harvest losses more than any other continent. “Horticultural crops, including vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices are delicate and vulnerable to fast post-harvest deterioration,” he pointed out. He listed lack of post-harvest processing technologies, poor road infrastructure and unreliable markets as some of the main causes of post-harvest losses.

Rugalema believes there is no shortage of technologies to reduce or even eliminate post-harvest losses but added that what is lacking is scale up access to meet the growing demand. “There is a wide variety of technologies – simple (direct sun-drying), intermediate (use of solar energy or small electrical equipment), industrial (medium and large-scale plants or factories to process and add value to farm produce). There is the need to develop/scale up locally made, affordable technologies to meet demand,” he said. Opeoluwa Fayomi, the Founder of Plethora Farms in Nigeria, who presented on series of challenges faced by food producers across Nigeria and some homegrown strategies they introduced to reduce post-harvest losses, noted that PHL threatens the continent’s effort to attain food security.

 

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