Guarding against post harvest losses

Sunday April 1 2018

Moisture enhances germination

Moisture enhances germination of crops, microbial development, and crop damage. FILE PHOTO 

It is difficult to emphasise clean and safe crop post harvesting practices among cash trapped farmers with very little access to knowledge, information, and improved technology like is the case in most of our rural farming communities.

The effort to guard against post-harvest losses should begin with encouraging farmers to form co-operative societies or groups so that they can pool resources to purchase the required equipment and machines to protect harvested crops and to periodically invite experts to provide them with information and knowledge about hygiene, farm produce preservation, packaging, transportation, and marketing.

Farming is a very risky business especially for people who produce fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, milk, potatoes, onions and other crops that get rotten in just a few days if no quick measures are taken to preserve them.

It is also pretty risky for farmers that produce grains such as maize, sorghum and millet, or legumes such as groundnuts and beans that may not last beyond a few months without getting damaged by pests, birds, and rodents unless they have special protection.

In many cases farm products are lost due to unhygienic handling such as placing harvested grain or legumes on the bare ground where it picks moisture, unpleasant smells and dirt that may include animal droppings and other objects.

A crop is damaged if it has a foreign smell, an unpleasant appearance, or if it is deformed or contains foreign objects such as stones, soil or sand.

Farmers must thoroughly dry harvested grain and legumes by spreading them on clean mats or tarpaulins. In their groups they can pool savings and purchase expensive equipment like moisture metres which may be used in turns to ensure they achieve high degrees of dryness.
Moisture enhances germination of crops, microbial development, and crop damage.

As a group farmers can purchase cold storage facilities in which to keep farm products including milk, fruits, meat, and vegetables. They can also purchase a truck as a group for transporting their produce quickly to far off markets. Farmers are also advised to apply pesticides on grain and legumes provided they strictly observe the manufacturers’ instructions.