Wednesday April 30 2014

What farmers can do to reduce food loss

By Michael J. Ssali

Sub-Saharan African farmers work very hard, most of them using simple tools like a hand hoe to produce food. Yet, globally, most food loss occurs in developing countries, according to a 2012 FAO report.
Some other estimates put the total annual agricultural production loss in Africa at about 30 per cent and it is believed that nearly 90 per cent of that loss takes place at household level, before, during and after harvest.

We work hard; we are hungry and undernourished, we are poor, and yet we are the world’s worst food losers! What can we do to change this?
Our effort to cause that change should include paying more attention to the maturing crops in the fields to prevent birds, insects and rodents from eating them. Rodents, incidentally, also refers to thieves.

The crops should be harvested as soon as they are ready. If they stay too long, they could absorb moisture, rot and become unpalatable. High temperatures damage grain. Crops such as fruits ripen and rot if not harvested at the right time.

Harvested grain must be thoroughly dried to reduce moisture content. In their groups, farmers can pool savings and purchase moisture meters to ensure that the stored grain has 13-15 per cent moisture content. Moisture facilitates chemical reactions and the growth of micro-organisms that spoil grain.
Drying must be done under the sun, by spreading it on clean mats or tarpaulin to avoid contamination. But harvesting of some crops takes place during the wet season, which makes it reasonable to consider purchasing solar driers.

Domestic animals and birds must be kept away from harvested food crops. The farmer should seek guidance from the agricultural services extension worker about how to use pesticides on harvest and stored crops. Because careless usage of pesticides may render the crop poisonous, and thus dangerous, to consumers.

Refrigeration facilities should be obtained by farmers producing perishable crops such as fruits and vegetables. If they have a group and some savings, they should also invest in a lorry to quickly carry their produce to markets.