Globally, one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, the equivalent of 1.3 billion tons of food per year. In Sub-Saharan Africa – home to over 230 million people suffering from chronic undernourishment – the majority of these losses occur after grains have been harvested, but before they reach the consumer. About 30 per cent of the grains produced on the continent is lost due to inadequate post-harvest management, lack of structured markets, inadequate storage, and limited processing capacity.
With more than 70 per cent of Africans drawing their livelihoods from agriculture, finding sustainable solutions to this problem holds tremendous promise for enhancing inclusive economic growth, food security, and nutrition. Over the last decade, many actors have developed a set of innovative technologies to reduce post-harvest agricultural loss across the value chain – from the farm to the consumer.
A 36-month project to scale up the use of these technologies across Sub-Saharan Africa was launched today in Nairobi. Financed by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and implemented by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the CAD 2.889 million (USD 2.155 million) project will support applied research to bring effective, field-tested innovations for reducing post-harvest loss of soybeans and cowpeas to thousands of smallholder farmers in Mozambique and Burkina Faso.
Speaking at the launch, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA said that the moment has come to roll out these technologies across the continent to ensure that smallholder farmers reap maximum benefit from their investment and hard labour.
“Scaling up of simple technologies like hermetic storage bags can reduce post-harvest losses by up to 50 per cent and significantly increase farmers’ income. The deployment of mechanized threshers will also reduce the drudgery of farming, which is especially important among women who are the majority of farmers in Africa”, added Dr. Kalibata.
With Burkina Faso and Mozambique as pilot countries, the project will help drive these known solutions to scale and could benefit millions of farmers. In the short term, the innovations have the ability to directly benefit the lives of at least 10,000 smallholder farmers and up to 60,000 by 2020 .
Dr. Simon Carter, Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDRC, hailed the project as a partnership aimed at increasing food security and farmers’ incomes, and helping build a stronger agricultural sector in Africa. “Reducing post-harvest losses, increasing the quality of produce and improving farmers’ access to markets are key to sustaining the productivity driven transformation of the agricultural sector”, said Dr. Carter.
Reducing these losses is increasingly becoming important as the demand for food increases with population rise; as part of the push to strengthen farmers’ resilience in the face of a changing climate; and to take full advantage of the continent’s food demand, which the World Bank projects will triple from $313 million in 2010 to $1 trillion by 2030.
Soybean and cowpeas were selected for this project as they are a critical secondary food, providing essential affordable proteins as well as calories to the diets of the poor. The market opportunities for both crops are also growing, offering prospects to increase income for those farmers producing a marketable surplus.
Niger and Burkina Faso recorded close to 0% losses with the use of PICS bag compared to 30-40% under traditional storage.
Threshers: The project will introduce low-technology and low-cost threshers which will significantly reduce physical damage to the grains, increase threshing efficiency, enhance their quality and make agriculture less labour intensive. This might attract the youth to agriculture as they perceive this intervention as a viable business that is more lucrative than tilling the land.
Processing technologies: The project will identify opportunities to promote the adoption of technologies to process soybean to produce a range of consumable soy products including soy milk, soy cheese, tofu and yoghurt. These products, with longer shelf lives, will enhance food security and lead to higher incomes for the farmers