Food security, defined by the World Food Summit of 1996 the situation where all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life, is one of the major developmental issues facing developing countries in the world. As part of the millennium development goals, all countries in the world nations are making efforts to reduce security. The issue of food insecurity is most severe in the developing countries, where ironically, greater portions of their populations engage in food production and other agricultural activities. The question therefore is; why are these countries not able to feed their populations when all these numbers of people are engaged in agriculture. This has been the headache of most governments in the developing countries and other development organisations like the United Nations. In an attempt to solve this problem, a great deal of attention is being given to agricultural production, with large sums of moneys being committed to research, provision of equipment, credit facilities for farmers, provision of inputs such as fertilisers and chemicals, and training of farmers.
While agricultural production is being highlighted and given much attention as a way of curbing the food insecurity problem, one important area that seriously requires more attention is the post harvest system. This is because a considerable amount of losses occur at this stage, which when prevented can lead to a significant improvement in food availability. It is estimated that about 25 percent of food produced in Africa is lost in the post harvest chain before they ever get to the consumer.
[...] Post harvest losses may be either qualitative (loss of caloric and nutritive value, loss of acceptability by consumers, and loss of edibility) or quantitative (loss in volume and weight). The concept of food security is based on three pillars, namely, food availability, food access and food use (World Health Organisation, 2009), and all these can be affected by the effectiveness of post harvest management of agricultural produce Effect of Post harvest Management on Food Security Food Availability Food availability refers to the presence of sufficient quantities of food on a consistent basis. [...]
[...] A large portion of the food produced in Africa is lost due to ineffective post harvest management, and this starts right from the farm where the produce is harvested. The factors that lead to these losses are the use of inappropriate harvesting methods, lack of facilities such as transportation equipment, storage facilities, and lack of knowledge about the effects of various post harvest activities and conditions on the quality of produce. Food availability is affected by large quantitative post harvest losses which start right from the farm, where mature produce are harvested and gathered to be transported to the market, processing factories and other destinations. [...]
[...] Lastly, all those involved in the post harvest chain, including the consumers who purchase food from the market, should be educated on the effects of certain post harvest practices, such as storage, chemical application, exposure to environmental conditions, cleaning, and processing on the economic value and nutritional quality of harvested produce. In this way the farmer will become aware of the things that are causing losses, the marketers will know the conditions in which to display their products for sale in order to maintain their quality, and the consumer will also know what to buy and what not to buy, judging from the conditions in which they are being sold. [...]
[...] Both qualitative and quantitative losses that occur due to ineffective post harvest management lead to a low income for the farmers and they are therefore unable to afford all the food they need. Moreover, each farmer may produce only a few kinds of produce, and will have to buy other produce to get a balanced meal. Therefore a low income will mean inability to afford the right balanced diet that he need. Ineffective post harvest distribution can also affect food access in that while food is abundant in some parts of the country, other parts may be suffering shortage because there is difficulty in transporting the produce to those areas. [...]
[...] Another post harvest factor that has a negative impact on food insecurity in Africa is the lack of processing of agricultural produce, such as fruits, vegetables and other perishables. Some of Africa's most important staple foods, such as cassava and yam are perishable and easily get spoilt is not processed or utilised early, making farmers poorer, and also causing shortage in other parts of the year when they are not being produced in large quantities. Apart from the spoilage of produce due to lack of processing, inability to add value to these produce through processing, thus having to sell them at low prices and this does not help to improve their levels of income. [...]
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