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New FAO project to help African farmers cut food losses

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The Food and Agriculture Organisation has launched a project to stem post-harvest losses in Africa.

Mireille Totobesola, FAO project manager, said the $2.7 million project will give small grants of about $1,000 to smallholder farmers in Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burkina Faso to reduce food losses through the provision of modern storage facilities.

The funding will also support establishment of an online platform, where African governments can pick up some lessons and seek the help of experts who are available on a chatroom.

FAO is working on the project with the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Ms Totobesola said that in Uganda, the project will focus on maize, beans and seed oil conservation. DRC will be supported to reduce post-harvest losses in maize and rice and Burkina Faso in maize, sorghum and cowpeas.

The three countries are expected to design a roadmap for the implementation of the African Union’s Malabo Declaration of 2014. AU heads of state and government promised in June 2014 to end hunger and halve the current post-harvest food losses by 2025.

Apart from the three countries receiving direct support, other countries are expected to use the lessons from this project to help cut food losses. They include Kenya and Cameroon and Rwanda.

Kenya was put on the list of beneficiaries after FAO conducted a study that quantified maize, banana, fish and milk losses. But the study did not find out an outstanding cause of food losses.

The project is now expected to answer this question, so that Kenya can start implementing measures to reduce food losses, which stand at 11.2 per cent for dessert bananas, 7.3 per cent for milk and 24 per cent of some fish species. The losses in maize, according to the FAO study, range between 28.2 and 29.2 per cent.

According to Simon Costa, project manager of a food loss reduction initiative by WFP, post-harvest handling and storage practices in sub-Saharan Africa are to blame for food losses.

In Summary

•Mireille Totobesola, FAO project manager, said the $2.7 million project will give small grants of about $1,000 to smallholder farmers in Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burkina Faso to reduce food losses through the provision of modern storage facilities.

•The three countries are expected to design a roadmap for the implementation of the African Union’s Malabo Declaration of 2014. AU heads of state and government promised in June 2014 to end hunger and halve the current post-harvest food losses by 2025.

He said that post-harvest losses would significantly drop if governments trained farmers and provided them with proper storage facilities — plastic bags and metallic containers.

Food losses in Africa account for a third of the total food produced on the continent.

But Mr Costa says these are easy to stem. In an ongoing WFP project with maize and bean farmers in Uganda and Burkina Faso by WFP, they have reduced post-harvest losses by 98 per cent.

Under this project, 400 families received training in how to keep the moisture content below 30 per cent and store their produce for 100 days in an improved storage facility. WFP purchased 10 kilogrammes of produce, which was stored in traditional storage facilities, like granaries.

Mr Costa said that after 100 days, 98 per cent of the produce was as good as the day it was stored, while that in the granary was unsuitable for human consumption.

The plastic bag, which holds 80 kilogrammes, costs $2 while the metallic container, which holds 1,200 kilogrammes, costs $180. The plastic bag requires replacement after a while.

Mr Costa said many African governments seem uninterested in adopting these technologies, waiting for international agencies to solve the problem.