Reducing post-harvest losses key to tackling hunger – Analyst
A policy analyst at ReKSAKSS West Africa has called on stakeholders in the agriculture value chain to intensify efforts at dealing with post-harvest losses.
Dr Manson Nwafor says studies show that the number of people who cannot feed based on their income is increasing in Ghana.
“Between 2013 and 2017, the number increased by 200,000 people from 2.2 million to 2.4 million so hunger is still a problem and it’s a growing problem.
“To address hunger, you need to increase food availability, you need to increase how well food is prepared etc, but the food has be available first, and post-harvest losses are important [subject] because it reduces the availability of food,” he said.
Dr Nwafor made the comments last week when he gave an overview of the post-harvest losses situation in Ghana during a Voice for Change Partnership programme (V4C) on post-harvest losses.
The programme was held on the theme, “Achieving Food Self-Sufficiency in Ghana: The Role of the Private Sector in Reducing Post-Harvest Losses.”
The programme is a five-year evidence-based advocacy aimed at shedding light post-harvest losses in a way that would make an influence in terms of change processes.
Speaking the V4C, the National Project Coordinator, Eric Banye, also said until the country is able to address the issue of post-harvest losses the economy would not develop.
He said irrespective of the increases in agricultural production, “we cannot grow our agricultural sector without addressing the volume of losses in the sector, especially at the post-harvest stage.”
“The first thing we have to do is to identify the volume of loss along the value chain and the loss in terms of income along the value chain, who in the value chain in making the highest profit and highest lost and where the problems can be addressed from.”
Post-harvest losses among small-holder farmers range from almost 30 to 70 per cent depending on the commodity, he said, adding that despite the increase in agricultural produce, farmers had a challenge in terms of making a profit.
“From research, the losses start right from the farm, to loading, transporting, selling and storage. So from the harvest period until the time it enters into somebody’s house, there are huge losses within this chain,” Mr Banye said.
He said beyond the quantitative lost of agricultural produce, another silent killer of the sector was the qualitative lost, and this was more dangerous as agricultural produce lose their value in terms of quality leading to high rate of malnutrition and other diseases.
Mr Banye said the private sector could play a more crucial role in terms of addressing those loses.
“Under the Government’s Planting for Food and Jobs initiative, there is increased agriculture production but no farmer would be willing to produce knowing he or she would lose huge numbers of it,” he said.
“It is, therefore, time for us now to begin to think of what exactly can be done to address the high post-harvest losses in the country and all farmers must play a role.”
Mr Kwame Asafu Adjei, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs, said there was a link between the private sector in reducing post-harvest losses and achieving food security in Ghana.
He said the agricultural sector was made up of forestry, fisheries, cocoa, and livestock and that developing good infrastructure in farming communities would help address the problem.
Mr Asafu-Adjei noted that farmers were not happy when their produce got rotten on their farms and during transportation and urged the private sector to collaborate with government and small-scale farmers to solve the challenge of post-harvest losses to increase profit.
Madam Victoria Adongo, the Executive Director of Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana, said if farmers were losing 70 per cent of the produce after harvesting, invariably, they were losing 70 per cent of their income meaning that they would not be progressing and food production would reduce.
She noted that farmers were doing their best to curb the problem just as the government was doing with the Planting for Food and Jobs, but that was not enough.
“Farmers cannot always depend on the Government and, as such, the private sector involvement is key in trying to reduce post-harvest losses,” Madam Adongo said.
She, however, commended the government for its commitment towards the One District One-Factory Programme and advised that it should be tailored towards addressing some of the challenges.