The world is facing a lot of challenges with food security as a result of climate change, low farm productivity and the global growing population despite advancements in technology.
In Africa, we have a serious challenge confronting us known as post-harvest losses which account for more 30 percent of foods wasted according to the food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2013 reports. Post-harvest losses are a series of events responsible for the deterioration of foods along the various levels of harvesting, packing, sorting, transportation, processing, storage and marketing.
Addressing these problems requires the commitment of private and public sector actors to set the agenda right from ensuring adoption of more effective production systems; retraining farmers on modern harvesting and storage practices; encouraging stronger youth engagement in the sub-sector; procurement of storage facilities and restructuring markets for optimum profitability. Minimizing post-harvest losses is an effective way to increase food availability, ensure food security, promote consumption of healthy diets, create wealth for farmers and relevant actors involved across the crop value chains of West and Central Africa.
Due to the impact of post-harvest losses on the productivity, profitability and sustainability of African agriculture, renowned participants gathered to attend the epoch making event tagged “West and Central Africa Post-Harvest Congress and Exhibition (WCAPHCE)” in Abuja, Nigeria from 17th to 21st September 2018. Also, professionals in the industry utilized exhibition stands at the event to showcase their exploits in the area of curbing postharvest losses in the agricultural sector as this presents both challenges and huge opportunities for advancement.
The event became a convocation of stakeholders representing a mix from the academia, research, development sector, processors, business organizations, youth networks, farmer associations all aimed at addressing the menace of “post-harvest loss” in the agricultural economy of the West and Central Africa Regions under the theme “Upscaling Post-Harvest Activities in West and Central Africa”
The congress created a platform where researchers, policy-makers, and practitioners in the agricultural sector converged, brainstormed and forged practical, lasting solutions to the variegated realities occasioning “Post-Harvest Losses” in the agricultural value chain. Both human and natural causes such as farmer-herdsmen clashes, floods, droughts, lack of processing and storage facilities, a poor technical knowledge that are remote causes were discussed and practical solutions offered.
The keynote speaker, Professor Olufemi Peters who is the Executive Director of Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI)- Ilorin in his presentation noted that post-harvest losses (PHL) accounts for over 30 percent of global food losses, with Africa experiencing worst situations. He noted that innovative strategies need to be developed and adapted in our production, processing, value addition, storage and preservation processes in order to minimize incidences of post-harvest damages thereby enhancing food security, reducing hunger and poverty in the Sub-Saharan Africa.
There were panel sessions, plenary discussions/ break-out sessions, technical presentations and exhibitions proffering solutions and forming synergies to work for sustainable African agriculture. These presented an opportunity for YPARD Nigeria to advocate for a holistic youth engagement in championing the control of post-harvest losses since young persons are vital actors for the sustainability of agricultural initiatives.
At the end of the congress and exhibition, the following outcomes were achieved:
Participants enumerated constraints and proffered solutions to post-harvest challenges along the value chain for various crops;
This event fostered the promotion of knowledge in addressing the food system for healthy and sustainable diets;
The forum harmonized quality strategies along the value chain to ensure marketability at local and international levels;
The avenue explored the advocacy options in addressing postharvest issues;
Identification of intervention efforts by government and other relevant stakeholders in addressing postharvest challenges;
Identification of challenges of Post-Harvest Activities and opportunities for Smallholder farmers in Developing Economy and developed sustainable mechanisms for Mitigating Post Harvest Loss through adequate financing in West and Central Africa.
This being the first ever West and Central Africa Post-Harvest Congress and Exhibition (WCAPHCE) was sponsored by Centre for Food Technology and Research (CEFTER) Benue State University, World Bank, NSPRI Ilorin, Agro Nigeria/ Agro Africa in collaboration with other notable partners
Impact, risk and returns on investments are focal points in agriculture. We can only attract people or investors to African agriculture by making it innovative, profitable and productive. Many technologies and innovations have been developed to address the various causes of food losses. However, some of these have either not reached the target users or have not had the desired result. This is partly because people aren’t aware of them or can’t afford them or are unable to use them.
Some technologies are also unsuitable for the African context. There’s therefore the need for synergy and partnerships among the major and minor actors along the value chains to mitigate food losses and add value to our products by creating scalable post-harvest systems, simple technologies and creating awareness that demonstrates benefits in a way that yield substantial results.
Therefore, it is our duty to support the private and research sectors to undertake researches and processes that will deliver sustainable business models which have potentials for scale; One that will continue to run beyond their funding agencies. There is also a need to upgrade policies of the government in order to create enabling incentives and financing frameworks for stakeholders to thrive.
Photo credit: YPARD Nigeria