ROLES OF WOMEN REDUCING POST HARVEST LOSES IN CONVERTING FOOD SCARCITY IN SUB-SAHARA AFRICA. (NIGERIA AS A CASE STUDY).
Sub-Saharan Africa is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara desert. Politically, it consists of all African countries that are fully or partially located south of the Sahara (excluding Sudan, even though Sudan sits in the Eastern portion of the Sahara desert). Every year across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) unacceptable levels of food loss continue to occur. Although these losses are being recorded at every stage in the supply chain, from production through to retail and consumer levels, the area of highest concern (where the greatest % of crop losses are recorded) are pre-farm gate, where poor harvesting, drying, processing and storage of crops occurs. Post-harvest management at farm level is the critical starting point in the supply chain .Current inefficiencies in this segment represent one of the largest contributing factors to food insecurity in Africa, directly affecting the lives of millions of smallholder farming families every year and impacting enormously on available volumes of food for consumption and trade in low-income, food -deficit countries.
The 1996 World Food Summit in Rome defined food security as existing “when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” A declaration was made at the time to halve the proportion of chronically undernourished people by 2015. This bold aspiration, which formed the basis of the first Millennium Development Goal, may have seemed realistic at the time, but today, with an estimated 1 billion people going hungry every day, there is clearly a lot more work to be done.
Food losses and waste are becoming increasingly critical to the African farmer and threats to sustainable food and environmental security. Analysis of the current food situation shows that almost 1.2 B people are going hungry in the world and one-third are found in Africa with many being farmers (Ajilore 2013). About 1.3 B tonnes of food waste has also been reported to be produced annually around the world at a direct economic cost of $750 B (FAO 2011, 2013a). A report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO 2013a) shows that while about 54% of the world’s food waste occurs ‘upstream’ during production, postharvest handling and storage, only 46% happens ‘downstream,’ at the processing, distribution and consumption stages. Food losses and waste are, therefore, not only causing major economic losses but also wreaking significant harm on the natural resources that humanity relies upon to feed.
Going by the most recent estimates from FAO that 842 M people in the world do not eat enough to be healthy implies that one in every eight people on earth goes to bed hungry each night (FAO 2013b). It is projected that the world population will rise to 10.5 billion by 2050 (FAO 2011) with more than half of this growth expected to come from Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where about one quarter of the population is already undernourished. This also implies that SSA needs to feed about 33% more human mouths with the greatest demand in the poor communities. To fill the gap between food demand and supply by 2050, food supplies would need to increase by about 70% (FAO 2009, Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012) and 65 million hectares could be saved by reducing food waste in the value chain (excluding consumer food waste) by 2030 (McKinsey Global Institute 2011) if proper attention is paid to it by all the stakeholders.
ROLES OF WOMEN REDUCING POST HARVEST LOSES IN CONVERTING FOOD SCARCITY IN SUB-SAHARA AFRICA.
• NIGERIA AS A SUB-SARAHA FARMING COUNTRY
Nigeria faces huge food security challenges. About 70 percent of the populations live on less than N 100 (US$ 0.70) per day, suffering hunger and poverty. Despite its reputation as petroleum resource-dependent, Nigeria remains an agrarian economy. The sector provides over 40% of gross domestic product (GDP) with between 60 and 70% of the population productively engaged in farming. But large regional differences exist. For instance, in the southeast, 22% of the people live in rural areas with most of them engaged in non-farming activities.
Nigeria has about 79 million hectares of arable land, of which 32 million hectares are cultivated. Over 90% of agricultural production is rain-fed. Smallholders, mostly subsistence producers account for 80% of all farm holdings. Both crop and livestock production remains below potentials. Inadequate access to and low uptake of high quality seeds, low fertilizer use and inefficient production systems lead to this shortfall. Despite a seven percent growth rate in agricultural production (2006–2008), Nigeria’s food import bill has risen. The growing population is dependent on imported food staples, including rice, wheat and fish.
Nigerian agriculture contributes to a small extent to global warming through bush burning and other poor land management practices, but it bears first and foremost the full brunt of climate change impacts. This matches the findings on the state of agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, summarised in the international assessment of agricultural knowledge, science and technology (IAASTD, 2008).
Women & Post-harvest practices at household level
Women in Nigeria Households make choices on how much to store and how much to sell depending on the market price, their own consumption needs, storage facilities and their needs for immediate cash. If the local distribution and marketing system is efficient, they can rely on food being available for purchase all the year round, but if they are isolated for at least part of the year through bad roads and lack of transport, their food security will be more at risk and home storage is likely to receive higher priority. A good marketing infrastructure, maintenance of rural roads and marketing services have profound effects on food availability, market prices and physical access to food at the community level(Fox, T and Fimeche, C 2013).
The level of production is also affected by post-harvest prospects, market facilities and market information. Some perishable food crops such as roots and tubers may not be stored at all, but are simply left in the ground until they are needed. Other crops, if they are to be marketed, may be lifted at once and transported to market in fresh condition. Although in many countries central planning of production is now a thing of the past, there is still a need to orient producers on the needs of consumers, (Kitinoja, L 2013). Inadequacies in information about demand, concerning quantity, location and product requirements, frequently lead to misallocation of resources and loss of markets. Under central planning or State purchasing arrangements the cost of such misallocation was absorbed by the government, but under a liberalized market system it is the farmer who suffers. The greater availability of market information should permit farmers to make more informed decisions about what and when to plant.
Example of maize grain loss to moulds
Post-harvest handling and storage
Storage of roots, tubers, bananas and plantains
Roots, tubers, bananas and plantains account for some 40 percent of total food supplies (in terms of food energy) for about one-half of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, where overall food supplies are at very low levels. Production could be increased to meet future needs, although consumption has been tending to decline. The decline has been associated with increased urbanization, which does not favour highly perishable and labour-intensive products. Further research into converting starchy roots into less perishable and more convenient food products for the urban population could help reverse these trends (see also discussion of urbanization in Chapter 4).
Most farming families adjust their production of perishable products such as roots and tubers to minimize post-harvest risks. Women farmers in the North-West Province of Cameroon produced potatoes as a cash crop but limited their production to the estimated quantity that could be marketed before the roads were closed by the onset of the rainy season. The producers believed that they could not store potatoes through the rainy season when transport was impossible. If a bumper harvest resulted in low prices or if they were unable to get all of the crop to market, they left the surplus in the field to rot This transport constraint to increased production was overcome, to some extent, by improved storage.
Ensuring an effective post-harvest system
Priority areas for action include increased awareness by government of the importance of the post-harvest sector with regard to the contribution it makes to household food security and improved nutrition in both rural and urban areas. An effective food processing, distribution and marketing system will require an appropriate and well-maintained infrastructure, including markets, road networks and extension services to advise farmers on improved storage techniques or on how to bulk their produce as a group to reduce marketing costs, and this will involve the woman (Aulakh, J and Regmi, A 2013). This requires interventions by both government and the private sector, which could work hand in hand in the establishment of marketing information systems and training in marketing management, accounting and business methods. With regard to the special needs of the many women involved in food processing and marketing, governments can assist by providing information and training on the use of appropriate processing technology and by providing extension support for marketing of fresh and processed produce
Nigeria Women’s Multiple Roles in Food Security
Women play important roles in food security as food producers, keepers of traditional knowledge and preservers of biodiversity, food processers and preparers and food providers for their families. Because of their multiple roles, women are key players in overcoming food insecurity.
Nigeria Women as farmers and food producers
Women produce a large part of the world’s food. Exact data is very hard to come by but FAO estimates that women are the main producers of the world’s staple foods: maize, wheat and rice. Overall, women bare responsible for about 50 per cent of the world’s food production and, in some
countries of sub-Saharan Africa, women provide between 60 and 80 per cent of the food for household consumption, mainly as unpaid labourers on family plots in Nigeria.. Women perform many tasks in household crop production, including sowing seeds, weeding, applying fertilisers and pesticides, and harvesting and threshing of the crops.
They are also responsible for post-harvest food processing, storage, transport and marketing. In addition to producing staple crops, women in many countries also grow legumes and vegetables to feed their families.
They also play an important role in raising poultry and small livestock such as goats, rabbits and pigs. They also feed and milk larger livestock. Their tasks vary from country to country
Women as food processors, preparers and providers
Women are universally responsible for food preparation for their families and engaged in various stages and steps of processing this food. In many cultures and countries, women have the main responsibility for the provision of food—if not by producing it, then by earning income to purchase it. This applies to urban and non-farming women as well as women farmers, and is not limited to the large percentage of female-headed households in Nigeria.
This gender division of responsibilities is often unrecognised by development
planners. False assumptions about households as a unit can have detrimental
effects on food security. Development planners often assume that the increase of household income through the employment of men in cash crop production will benefit everyone and enable the household to purchase food.
Factors Contributing to Nigeria Postharvest Food Losses
In Nigeria high food losses are due to a number of factors. These include: lack of resources, poor processing facilities/ use of outdated technology, damp weather at harvest time, poor production practices/planning, transportation facilities, grading, lack of infrastructure, consumer preferences/attitudes, unavailability of financial markets, premature harvesting, lack of access to good quality packaging materials and technology, inadequate market systems (Anon. 2013).Harvest and postharvest losses of roots and tubers can be physiological (caused by the effect of environmental conditions), pathological (cause by the attack of pathogens, such as fungi, bacteria, insects and so on), and endogenous (caused by endogenous processes like respiration, transpiration and sprouting). Exposition to extreme temperatures (high, low) during pre- and postharvest and rough handling does not only reduce the value of the crop through damage created in appearance, it also leads to invasions of pathogens causing decay of the attacked crop in the storage (Edmunds et al. 2003).
Options for Reducing African Postharvest Food Losses
Technologies aimed at reducing harvest and postharvest losses exist but they are not sufficiently adopted by farmers in Nigeria. Even though a number of these technologies have proved to be successful in Asia, more research and piloting are needed to identify interventions that are adapted to local environments on the continent. To succeed, interventions must be sensitive to local conditions and practices, be viewed within a value chain lens, and ensure that appropriate economic incentives are in place. Technologies that have taken off in Asia, such as small-scale rice-drying and the introduction of pedal threshers and rice mills have been successfully adopted in some parts of Africa. In addition, there is need to adopt the modern post-harvest technologies even more in Africa, given that high population migration, aging farming populations, and high rates of HIV/AIDS infection are reducing the available labour and thus raising wages. Fresh cassava tubers, once harvested have a short shelf life of 3-5 days before they undergo internal oxidation and begin to blacken; they should, therefore, be left unharvested until needed as the technology for its storage still remains scarce. For sweet potatoes and yams that exhibit a period of dormancy, storage life can be extended by curing.
Effects of Postharvest Losses and Food Waste
Agricultural production uses 2.5 Tm3 of water per year and over 3% of the total global energy consumption, and estimated food losses of about 30-50% of total production translates to wasting 1.47-1.96 Nigeria (global hectares or 4931 million hectares) of arable land, 0.75-1.25 Tm3 of water and 1% to 1.5% of global energy (Fox and Fimeche 2013). This shows that food losses have negative environmental impacts on land, water and non-renewable resources such as fertiliser and energy that are used to produce, process, handle and transport food that no one consumes. Postharvest loss reduction will increase food availability without increasing the use of land, water and agricultural inputs.
Losses after harvest of both quantity (weight losses) and quality deprive farmers of the full benefits of their labor. Food losses do not merely reduce food available for human consumption but also cause negative externalities to the society through costs of waste management, greenhouse gas production, and loss of scarce resources used in production (FAO 2011). Food losses contribute to high food prices by removing part of the food supply from the market. Postharvest food losses significantly endanger the livelihoods of stakeholders across the value chain by reducing valuable incomes and profitability. The benefits to consumers from reducing losses include lower prices and improved food security. In addition, postharvest activities such as processing and marketing can create employment.
What Should Nigeria women do to Ensure Sustainable Food and Environmental Security?
High harvest and postharvest losses are still imminent to poor subsistence farmers who still dominate food production in most African countries. A majority of the small-scale farmers still rely on traditional technologies rather than modern systems that produce limited food losses. Research findings show that a reduction of just 1% in postharvest food losses leads to a gain of USD 40 M annually. Nigeria needs to urgently pay attention on how to reduce postharvest losses at the farm, retail and consumer levels, which constitute a threat to food shortages, food insecurity and environmental problems rather than increasing the level of production. African policy makers should go beyond the target set by the European Commission on reduction of food losses and food waste by 50% by 2020 by tackling the underlying causes now, (Alexandratos, N and Bruinsma, J 2012).
Specific and well-targeted policy interventions are needed to educate the farmers on how to reduce postharvest food losses and waste. The continent needs to focus on adoption of better postharvest practices and new marketing arrangements such as collective marketing. Cooperation is also needed among the farmers, marketers and consumers to share the costs of investment in new technologies as well for learning from each other. Farmers need to know and experience that a new technology is significantly superior to the existing system, and can provide a secure income. Post-harvest technologies for poor farmers should be built on the traditional approaches with the utilisation of locally available materials as much as possible (Ajilore, B 2013).
Governments can help by creating an enabling environment: reduction of market transaction costs through investment in infrastructure (such as roads, electricity and water), and strengthening of agricultural research and extension by identifying where losses occur along the food chain and how to tackle them.
Nigeria women has a leading role to play in order to ensure that post harvest loses In Nigeria are converted to food security for the populace. Small holder agriculture must be promoted, including crops and livestock and artisanal fisheries. Farmers, peasants, fisherfolk and their organisations have
been saying this for years, along with supportive NGOs and CSOs. In the face
of the global food crisis, international development agencies are also re-lookin
at small holder agriculture as a way out of the crisis. FAO remarked, “focus should be on helping producers, especially smallscale farmers, to boost food production….”
Women food producers must be central to this focus because they comprise a large proportion of small-scale and subsistence farmers and play multiple essential roles in food security. Meanwhile, women food producers must be empowered and enabled to speak. They must be listened to and heard at the community level, within peasant, farmer, fisherfolk and indigenous organisations and at the tables of government and development agencies at all levels. They must be empowered to participate in debates, discussions and decision-making. Organising and mobilisation of women are key to empowering women’s participation in decision-making in regard to food security policy and programmes. Rural organisations have the potential to promote food security, strengthen women as food producers and empower women to participate in policy and decision-making on food security. Many of these organisations are themselves male dominated, particularly at the decisionmaking level. This is gradually changing along with a growing gender awareness and as women are becoming more active. This may enable these organisations to play a more effective role for the benefit of both men and women. So I say, Food loss is a solvable problem in Nigeria. The degree to which the current concerns can be eliminated will depend largely on the supporting policies of the incumbent Governments and the willingness of corroborative agencies and the global community to assist with implementing the proven solutions over the coming years. We may not achieve the declaration of the 1996 World Food Summit to halve the proportion of chronically undernourished people in the world by 2015, however there are some very clear obligations we must embrace to ensure the food losses contributing to the reported 1 billion people going hungry every day are eradicated. On the strength of the results of this Action Research Trial, WFP intends to lead an ambitious Special Operation, commencing in 2014, to increase the number of farmers able to benefit from these improved technologies and farming practices in and beyond
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