April 12, 2015
Just outside Arusha, a women’s group is learning to make and can a variety of jams that they can sell in nearby markets: mango and guava, banana-ginger and an onion marmalade.
It’s a sharp learning curve for them. To be able to sell commercially, they have to learn about health and sanitation (for a food-safety certification) in addition to perfecting their jam recipes.
Like much of sub-Saharan Africa, Tanzania produces all kinds of food for local consumption as well as export. Yet here, in the part of the world that can arguably least afford to waste food, a good portion of these crops are lost.
Much of the loss happens before the food can be eaten, during the so-called “post-harvest” phase between harvest and the point of sale or consumption. The problem is that the equipment and methods that many small-scale farmers use to process and store their crops are inadequate, so months after the harvest, tons of corn might be infested with insects or contaminated with toxic mold.
This waste stream of food is starting to attract attention from global agriculture organizations and financial institutions, offering hope that the losses can be reduced, and with them rates of rural hunger and malnutrition.
Food waste in Africa and other developing nations is an entirely different problem than it is in developed regions. In developed regions, the biggest waste — more than 40 percent — occurs at the retail and consumer levels. In developing regions, often the biggest chunk of food loss — more than 40 percent — occurs during the post-harvest phase, according to a 2011 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report.
Across sub-Saharan Africa, more than a third of fruits, vegetables, roots, and tubers are lost by the time they are processed or packaged, according to the FAO report, the most recent comprehensive estimate available.
More precise estimates vary from year to year and from country to country. In Kenya, pests destroy up to 30 percent of all maize harvested — a total loss of about 162 million tons, according to the government-run Kenya Agricultural Research Institute.
Ghana, meanwhile, loses up to 50 percent of its main crops of vegetables, fruits, cereals, roots, and tubers, said Joe Oteng-Adjei, the country’s Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, according to the news service GhanaWeb.
There’s a growing interest in solving this problem.
There is a quickly-growing array of tools, from forced-air cooling rooms to solar dryers, that can help farmers and processors preserve their harvest in the absence of the grain elevators, refrigerators, and freezers that developed countries rely on so heavily.
Research has shown that switching from wood-slat to plastic crates can reduce tomatoes lost during transport from 53-to-22 percent.
Compatible Technology International, a Minnesota-based nonprofit, has designed and tested several products to reduce crop losses in various African countries in recent years. The organization recently introduced equipment for processing millet in Senegal that it says captures more than 90 percent of the grain — up from roughly half using traditional methods — while also nearly eliminating contaminants.
Other researchers in Tanzania, Kenya, and a few other countries are studying the potential of plant materials to serve as pesticides during crop storage.
Source AFK Insider