Reduction of Post-Harvest Losses to promote Food Safety and Security.

Pixbay photos.

Post-harvest loss is the damage or loss of mature crops/grain resulting in a reduction in total harvest. The majority of farmers in rural areas experience significant crop losses due to poor post-harvest management practices. Studies have shown that crop losses in maize farming accounted for about 20 – 30 percent of the total harvest. This showed a colossal challenge in achieving food and nutrition security. Reduction in Post-Harvest Losses requires collaboration between the public and private sectors to ensure farmers have access to a wide range of services from Knowledge to finance, and technology while ensuring that these facilities are tailor-made to suit their farming needs. A multi-stakeholder environment must be cultivated to better serve farmers in the provision and enhancement of the following amenities;

Training on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)

Most farmers lack enough information on improved post-harvest techniques that would increase the shelf-life of harvested produce. The adoption of efficient agronomic practices such as planting certified high-yielding varieties, good spacing, application of fertilizers, and application of effective crop protection measures all go a long way in minimizing post-harvest losses. In addition, training on Post-Harvest management before the harvesting period is essential in ensuring that farmers make informed decisions on proper harvests and storage of produce. Extensive dissemination of this information to all farmers in rural areas is crucial. Despite the training sessions from the private and public partners, there is a need to present this information in languages that most farmers understand. Radio stations are one way of effectively communicating GAPs and Post-Harvest management information, to a wide range of farmers, in indigenous languages. We can also leverage the use of social media for those farmers with mobile phones. It is also imperative to conduct refresher training sessions to reinforce the adoption of GAPs and Post-Harvest Management Practices.

Access and use of Post-Harvest Technologies

There is a wide range of technologies that are suited to meet the needs of farmers. The use of moisture meters to measure the moisture content of grains during drying, use of canvas materials when drying, simple hand-held shelling machines, and storage facilities like PIC bags and silos, are essential tools that should be made readily available to farmers. Sustainable subsidization of prices of these technologies by the government will enhance the demand for these technologies by well-informed farmers, prompting local agrovets to increase the stock of these tools. Furthermore, self-Help groups, like VBA groups, act as an entry point for NGOs and Departments of Agriculture to provide technology-specific tools that meet the needs of group members.

Access to finance

Farmers and other value chain actors face constraints in accessing finance, which includes but is not limited to; lack of collateral and excessive risks in agriculture. Accessing financial support as individuals from financial institutions is a challenge to smallholder farmers, creating a need to form groups. Groups that actively perform table-banking activities and save regularly are more likely to get financial support from financial institutions. Financial access is vital for obtaining post-harvest technologies that promote good storage and value addition for farmers.  Our VBA groups are examples of groups that have interacted with financial institutions like Hand in Hand and are in the process of receiving loans to support group activities. More private partners, however, need to be encouraged to invest in agricultural insurance to curb risks.

Aggregation by farmer groups and Market Linkages

Farmers organized in groups can advance in the value chain, by reducing Post-Harvest Losses and increasing their bargaining power when marketing their produce. As aggregators, members establish centers where farmers can sell their produce, creating a ready market and reducing transaction costs. Shelling services and storage facilities are a prerequisite for most aggregators, thus significantly reducing losses incurred by farmers. On the other hand, due to the bargaining power, members have access to relatively cheaper inputs compared to the market price. The bulk produced from aggregation attracts potential buyers while accessing new markets for its members.

Public-Private Partnership

Private and public Stakeholders’ collaboration in the reduction of Post-Harvest Losses is critical in increasing food security in the country. Private-sector engagement should be in tandem with public sector investments in initiating programs that reduce Post-Harvest Losses. The Warehouse Receipt System, for example, should encourage financial institutions to provide finance to farmers: while attaching other incentives like insurance packages, and promoting the use of the System by the private sector to increase its adoption by farmers in the rural areas. Additionally, partnerships with the private sector to implement programs that promote access to Post-Harvest technologies in rural areas are is also critical. The creation of an enabling environment that promotes public-private synergies in the reduction of Post-Harvest Losses will increase the incomes of farmers, improve food safety and security in Kenya.