Potential of #Local Food to Improve Food and Nutrition security Okra in #Ethiopia

Okra

Okra, also known as Ladies Fingers, Gombo, Bendi or Gumbo, appears to have originated from West Africa, probably somewhere around Ethiopia, and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians as far back as the 12th century B.C.

Okra is a member of the Mallow family, related to cotton, hibiscus, rose of Sharon, and hollyhock. Okra or ladies finger is an important vegetable of the tropical countries and most popular in India, Nigeria, Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan, etc. Though virtually not grown in Europe and North America, lots of people in these countries have started liking this vegetable due to the presence of good amount of vitamins.

The plant can be grown throughout the year and resembles cotton in its habit. It is an annual vegetable crop grown in the tropics of the world. It can be grown on all kinds of soils. However, to get the best results, it requires a friable well-manure soil. Okra used in countries like India in huge amount, okra accounts for 60 per cent of the export of fresh vegetables. India exports okra mainly to West Asia, Western Europe and the US. The demand for fresh okra is more in the overseas markets.

Okra pods are available year round. Okra is a very healthy green vegetable that contains many important minerals, vitamins, electrolytes and antioxidants which are essential to good health. Read on, to learn various okra health benefits.

Nutritional value of okra, scientific evidence

Okra is low in calories and is a good source of many nutrients including vitamin B6 and C, fiber, calcium, and folic acid.

Okra is a powerhouse of valuable nutrients. Nearly half of which is soluble fiber in the form of gums and pectin’s. Soluble fiber helps to lower serum cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease. The other half is insoluble fiber which helps to keep the intestinal tract healthy decreasing the risk of some forms of cancer, especially colorectal cancer. Nearly 10% of the recommended levels of vitamin B6 and folic acid are also present in a half cup of cooked okra. Like soybean oil, okra seed oil is rich (60 to 70%) in unsaturated fatty acids. Okra mucilage refers to the thick and slimy substance found in fresh as well as dried pods. Mucilaginous substances are usually concentrated in the pod walls.

 

Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), Fresh, raw pods:

Nutrition value per 100 g.  (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)

Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 1.5% 31 Kcal
Carbohydrates 7.03 g 5.4%
Protein 2.0 g 4%
Total Fat 0.1 g 0.5%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 9% 3.2 g
Vitamins
Folates 88 mcg 22%
Niacin 1.000 mg 6%
Pantothenic acid 0.245 mg 5%
Pyridoxine 0.215 mg 16.5%
Riboflavin 0.060 mg 4.5%
Thiamin 0.200 mg 17%
Vitamin C 21.1 mg 36%
Vitamin A 375 IU 12.5%
Vitamin E 0.36 mg 2.5%
Vitamin K 53 mcg 44%
Electrolytes
Sodium 8 mg 0.5%
Potassium 303 mg 6%
Minerals
Calcium 81 mg 8%
Copper 0.094 mg 10%
Iron 0.80 mg 10%
Magnesium 57 mg 14%
Manganese 0.990 mg 43%
Phosphorus 63 mg 9%
Selenium 0.7 mcg 1%
Zinc 0.60 mg 5.5%
Phyto-nutrients
Carotene-ß 225 mcg
Crypto-xanthin-ß 0 mcg
Lutein-zeaxanthin 516 mcg

 

Health and Medicinal Value: Scientific Evidence

 

  • The fiber content of okra has many high qualities; it helps in maintaining the health of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Okra helps to reabsorb water and traps excess cholesterol, metabolic toxins and excess bile in its mucilage and slips it out through stool. Because of the greater percentage of water in the bulk, it prevents constipation, gas and bloating stomach problems.
  • This is a very good vegetable for weight loss, as it is a storehouse of health benefits, provided it is cooked on low flame, so that the okra health benefits are retained. This way the invaluable mucilage obtained from okra, is not lost due to high heat.
  • To add volume and bounce to your hair, you can use this hair care tip. Boil horizontally sliced okra, till the brew becomes slimy. Then let it cool, add few drops of lemon to it and use it as a last rinse. This will bring bounce and volume to your hair.
  • The mucilage and fiber present in okra, helps in maintaining blood sugar levels and regulating their absorption in small intestine.
  • Okra facilitates in propagation of good bacteria known as probiotics. These bacteria are similar to the ones proliferated by yogurt in the small intestine, and helps in biosynthesis of vitamin B complex.
  • Protein and oil found in the seeds of okra serves as a good source of high quality vegetable protein. It is rich in amino acids like tryptophan, cysteine and other sulfur amino acids.
  • Okra is a very good laxative, as it helps in treating irritable bowels, healing ulcers and soothing the gastrointestinal track.
  • Okra is good for summer heat and sun stroke treatment.
  • Okra is good for atherosclerosis, and is good for asthma.
  • It can help in prevention of diabetes.
  • Okra Is High In Foliate (Folic Acid) an Important Vitamin for Preventing Birth Defects

 

Okra in ETHIOPIA: Berta Community

Berta is one of the five local ethnic groups found in Benishangulumuz regional state. According to 2007 national census survey (CSA, 2007) report around 173,743 Berta communities found in the region. This local community resides along the Ethiopia Sudan border and they shared same ethnic group in the other side (Sudan) of Ethiopia-Sudan border. Berta community use some special local foods like ocra ( kenkase) , hibiscus (kerkada)and bamboo shoot as a stable food recipe in the area.

The Berta community usually uses okra as a wet to eat food prepared from sorghum and maize, sorghum and maize are the two main stable crops cultivated in the area.

Besides using okra for household consumption, there is a great demand for the plant in the local market to be used for the town communities like in Asosa and also substantial amount of it is cross to Sudan with rewarding price.

The Berta community proudly reported that the reason behind resisting from the high risk of malaria case in the area, for their digestive system and general healthy condition is their food habit of using okra in their food.

Future Direction

As we can see Okra is very important crop for the local Berta community and research papers show that okra is become known in western and North American dishes. However there is no significant promotion and research done in Ethiopia to promote and enhance the food value and market of okra. Future research strategies should give emphasis on promoting local food like okra that have play significant role in improving nutritional content of the Ethiopian dish.

Research and development focuses on traditional food plants and on essential oils shall be one of the Ethiopian national agriculture research systems program in addressing the national calorie deficit , malnutrition and for the treatment of life style diseases that are recently become prevalent  in urban parts of the community.

Since processed food items derived from traditional crops like have a potential export market value, on the quest of developing traditional and indigenous plants that have a great medicinal value for fighting diabetes, nutritional dense in micronutrients and treating the case of different cancer cells could be a source of generating additional income if they are properly researched, developed and marketed.

 

Reading material reviewed

How to Plant and Grow Okra | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2325331_plant-grow-okra.html#ixzz1LISuMOn0

http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/okra.cfm

http://www.neurophys.wisc.edu/ravi/okra/pictures/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/new-health/health-nutrition/leslie-beck/cut-sugar-to-lower-triglycerides/article1999190/

http://healthmad.com/nutrition/health-benefits-of-okra-cleopatra-and-yang-gifei-of-china-ate-okra/

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/okra-health-benefits.html

http://www.healingfoodreference.com/okra.html

http://wilsonbrosnursery.com/Articles/Organic-Gardening/Vegetable-Fruit-Nutrition/Okra-Nutrition-Health-Benefits.aspx

http://www.vegrecipes4u.com/health-benefits-of-okra.html

http://naturalhealthezine.com/okra-health-benefits/

http://www.ifood.tv/blog/how-to-eat-okra

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Vitamin A-enriched maize released in Nigeria, seen to benefit health of millions

 

Two new maize varieties that contain high levels of beta-carotene – the precursor of vitamin A – have been released in Nigeria, offering hope against the menace of vitamin A deficiency plaguing millions in the country. Vitamin A deficiency leads to blindness and, in some cases, even death among vulnerable groups particularly children, pregnant women, and mothers.

 

Beta-carotene is converted by the body into vitamin A when the maize is consumed, thereby boosting the immune system.

The hybrids, which are the first generation provitamin A-rich maize, were released on 4 July 2012 by Nigeria’s National Variety Release Committee as ‘Ife maizehyb 3’ and ‘Ife maizehyb 4’. They are recognized as IITA hybrids A0905-28 and A0905-32, respectively.

“The hybrids are a product of nearly a decade of targeted breeding for enhanced levels of provitamin A,” says Dr. Abebe Menkir, maize breeder with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), who led the project that developed the new maize hybrids.

Menkir added that apart from being nutritious, the maize hybrids are also high yielding, producing 6 to 9 tons of the crop per hectare. In Nigeria, local maize varieties commonly grown by farmers produce only about 2 tons per hectare.

The new maize varieties are well suited to the tropical lowlands typical of many West African countries and are expected to spread beyond Nigeria’s borders.

 

IITA, a member of the CGIAR Consortium, developed the provitamin A hybrids through conventional breeding in partnership with the Institute of Agricultural Research & Training in a project funded by HarvestPlus—a Challenge Program of CGIAR. Other partners include the Institute for Agricultural Research, Zaria; University of Maiduguri; CIMMYT, University of Illinois, and the University of Wisconsin.

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African Development Bank approves US$63M for research initiative

Written by Adeleke Mainasara

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved a US$ 63.24 million fund package for the implementation of a 5-year project dubbed “Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa” (SARD-SC).

The SARD-SC is a research, science, and technology development initiative aimed at enhancing the productivity and income derived from cassava, maize, rice, and wheat – four of the six commodities that African Heads of States, through the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program, have defined as strategic crops for Africa.

The project will be co-implemented by three Africa-based centers under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) namely: the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Africa Rice Center, and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas. IITA is also the Executing Agency of the project.

The notice of grant approval was received by Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of IITA, on March 2. It was signed by Dougou Keita, Manager of the Agriculture and Agro-Industry Division 2 of the Bank.

The SARD-SC Project comes at an opportune time when food security and nutrition are high on the national agenda of the Bank’s Regional Member Countries (RMCs), as rising food prices push millions of people into extreme hunger and poverty.  The SARD-SC allows – for the first time ever in a single project – a continental coverage of the food security challenges in Africa.

Its overall goal is to enhance food and nutrition security and contribute to poverty reduction in the Bank’s low-income RMCs. Its target beneficiaries are individual farmers and consumers, farmers’ groups including youth and women, policy makers, private sector operators, marketers/traders, transporters, small-scale agricultural machinery manufacturers, and institutions.

The Bank’s low-income RMCs include Benin Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The project is expected to contribute towards addressing the current shortfall in food supply in these countries and beyond by working across the full value chain of each crop and addressing both food costs and employment creation. Through its value chain approach, SARD-SC will also contribute to crop-livestock integration based on the use of the commodities’ by-products.

The well-tested, IITA-espoused research-for-development model adopted in this project can deliver stellar results as most of the successful technologies, models, manpower, and knowledge to be mobilized in SARD-SC are already available from the implementing CGIAR Centers and national partners. SARD-SC will produce regional public goods that may be used not only in the target RMCs but also in other countries in Africa.

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China-Africa friendship enhanced by diverse, growing cooperation

 

 

by Wang Chenxi, Wei Jianhua

ADDIS ABABA, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) — The friendship between the world’s largest developing country and the continent home to mostly developing countries has lasted for over 60 years and touched the lives of over 2.3 billion people.

As a new monument of the long-standing friendship between China and Africa, the 20-story African Union (AU) Conference Center and Office Complex constructed with the aid of the Chinese government, was just inaugurated in Addis Ababa before the 18th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly Saturday.

At the inauguration ceremony, Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said the new AU headquarters is a gift from the Chinese government and people and also a symbol of the growing China-Africa relationship.

“The Chinese government has attached great importance to economic and trade cooperation with Africa, and promoted all-round cooperation in fields such as trade, investment, infrastructure, agriculture, human resources, clean energy and environmental protection,” Jia said.

ECONOMIC, TRADE COOPERATION ON FAST TRACK

The booming China-Africa economic and trade cooperation serves as a major driving force for overall cooperation between the two countries and is becoming increasingly important to both, especially when the developed countries, the main export destinations for both China and Africa, are suffering from global economic woes and the eurozone debt crisis.

The establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000 put their economic and trade ties on the fast track. Bilateral trade grew from 10.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2000 to 160 billion dollars in 2011, and Chinese investment in Africa rose from tens of millions of dollars to over 10 billion dollars.

China has become Africa’s largest trading partner, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

At the same time, Africa has become one of China’s top investment destinations. More than 2,000 Chinese enterprises are investing in the continent. Accumulated investment from China has surpassed 40 billion dollars.

In addition, China has further facilitated the entry of African commodities into its market. During the G20 summit held in Cannes in November 2011, Chinese President Hu Jintao said that China will give zero-tariff treatment to 97 percent of the tariffed exports from the least developed countries (LDCs) with diplomatic ties to China.

The LDCs — 33 from Africa, 14 from Asia plus Haiti — are defined by the United Nations as those with a per capita income of less than 745 dollars a year.

China has imported African products worth 1.32 billion dollars under the zero-tariff terms from 2005 to June 2010, according to a government white paper on China-Africa economic and trade cooperation released in 2010.

Moreover, China is building economic and trade cooperation zones in Zambia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Egypt and Ethiopia, involving 250 million dollars in infrastructure construction.

Once completed, the cooperation zones will work as business incubators that help host countries attract foreign investment, create jobs, and improve local infrastructure and investment environment.

EDUCATIONAL, AGRICULTURAL, ENVIRONMENTAL EXCHANGES PROMOTE SUSTAINABILITY

China is not only Africa’s trade partner, but also a dedicated participant in strengthening Africa’s development sustainability by helping countries on the continent improve their education, agriculture and environment sectors.

According to China’s Foreign Ministry, during the academic years of 2010 and 2011, China has provided 5,710 government scholarships to African countries, fulfilling the pledge of 5,500 scholarships announced by China at the 2009 FOCAC ministerial conference two years ahead of schedule.

To speed up science and technology cooperation between China and Africa, and facilitate technology capacity-building in African countries, China also launched the China-Africa Science and Technology Partnership Program (CASTEP) in November 2009.

Under the Program, 100 joint projects on scientific and technological research will be carried out in the forms of equipment donation, technique training courses and workshops, popularization of technology, and joint research. Besides that, 100 African postdoctoral fellows will conduct scientific research in China with financial assistance.

Agriculture is one of the main fields that have witnessed growing China-Africa cooperation. From 2007 to 2009, China has dispatched 104 senior agricultural experts to 33 African countries, established agricultural technology centers in 14 African countries and has decided to build 10 more, said Lu Shaye, director-general of the Department of African Affairs at the Foreign Ministry.

Since 2009, China has sent 16 groups of agricultural experts to Africa and trained 874 Africans as agricultural experts, Lu said.

In the multilateral field, China actively participated in the Special Program for Food Security of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It has sent more than 700 agronomists to eight African nations. Besides sending professors to do research in African universities and institutions, China has also built demonstration centers and dispatched field experts to the countryside.

In Zimbabwe, construction of such a center began in October 2009 at Gwebi Agricultural College outside Harare. The center is expected to become a hub of high-tech agricultural experimental study and demonstration, technical training and sustainable development in the country.

In Malawi, Chinese companies and the China-Africa Development Fund jointly invested in a cotton cultivation program. Once completed, the program will help more than 50,000 local farmers increase their cotton production and processing capacity.

In Nigeria, much progress has been achieved by Chinese experts working with local farmers in the country’s 36 states. The cooperation involves fisheries, animal husbandry, crop production and processing.

Alhaji Gidado Bello, coordinator of the China-Nigeria South-South Cooperation Program, said the Chinese experts and their agricultural service stations across Nigeria have boosted technological advancement and led to improved production and income generation.

Environmental protection is another sector that shows strong ties between China and African countries, which all face the challenge of environmental degradation.

In a village in Nigeria’s Kano state, Chinese scientists have joined their Nigerian counterparts in setting up a research base for desertification control.

They will carry out forestation experiments and desertification control cooperation, hoping to nurture shelter-belts and foster sand-related industries to restore local ecology and boost economic growth.

The same project is also being conducted in several other desert countries including Kenya, Egypt, Algeria and Niger.

Meanwhile, in order to improve African countries’ abilities to adapt to climate change, China has been launching 100 clean energy projects including solar power, biogas and small hydropower projects in Africa, Lu said at the China-Africa Think Tanks Forum (CATTF) in October 2011.

Lu said China has worked out country-specific plans and signed an exchange of notes on setting up projects with 11 countries, including Ethiopia and Mozambique. Relevant projects will start in the near future.

TIMELY AID

The all-round cooperation and friendship between China and African countries proved to be solid when the Horn of Africa and its neighboring regions were hit by severe drought and famine in 2011. Millions of lives were threatened.

By the end of October 2011, China delivered food donations worth 443.2 million yuan (69.58 million dollars) to the Horn of Africa and its neighboring regions, according to China’s Foreign Ministry.

In late July 2011, China had already announced plans to provide 90 million yuan (14 million dollars) worth of emergency food aid to the drought-hit African countries.

On Aug. 15, 2011, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said that China will provide an additional 353.2 million yuan (55.28 million dollars) in food aid to Ethiopia and other drought-hit African countries.

This is the single largest grain donation to foreign countries ever delivered by the Chinese government since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Also, this tremendous donation is just the latest evidence of China’s continuous aid to Africa. Since 1956, China began to help African countries in various forms ranging from infrastructure construction to medical support.

During the past few years, China has not only helped African nations to build schools, hospitals, bridges and other important projects, but has sent many agricultural experts, medical professionals and volunteers to train nearly 30,000 personnel.

According to the white paper on China’s foreign aid activities issued by the Chinese government, China provided 256.29 billion yuan (38.54 billion dollars) in aid to foreign countries, including 106.2 billion yuan in grants, 76.54 billion yuan in interest-free loans and 73.55 billion yuan in concessional loans, with Asia and Africa accounting for 80 percent of the total amount.

“In order to help African countries achieve independence and development, the Chinese government has unswervingly supported Africa with all it can provide, which has promoted the socio-economic development of Africa and benefited African people,” Jia said.

With the good will and joint efforts of both China and Africa, the unique relationship between the two sides has an even brighter future ahead.

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Why Food Security May Not Be Achieved Before 2020 in Nigeria

Why Food Security May Not Be Achieved Before 2020

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Written by Seye AdeniyiSaturday, 15 October 2011

 

 

Nigeria is, indeed, a blessed nation. The country is endowed with abundant natural resources. These include 68 million hectares of arable land, fresh water sources covering 12 million hectares; 960 kilometres of coastline and an ecological diversity which enable the country to produce a wide variety of crops and livestock, forestry and fishery products.

In spite of these natural endowments and favourable agro-ecologies, Nigeria is still far from attaining sustainable agricultural development. The per capita food production has not kept pace with the growing needs of the population. The country continues to import agricultural raw materials.

Agriculture plays the most determinant long-term role in the Nigerian economy, accounting for 40 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and providing 60 per cent of employment. Indeed, agriculture bellies the veritable growth reserves to drive Nigeria’s economic greatness.

But Nigeria’s arable land, going by experts’ submissions, still remain grossly underutilised with only 32 million hectares or 46 per cent of its arable land under cultivation. Close  to 90 per cent of this is accounted for by households with less than two hectares under-cropping, with farm sizes ranging from 0.5 hectares in Southern Nigeria to four hectares in the north.

Inputs supply to farmers, according to agriculture experts, have also been abysmally low and of poor quality. Not only that, fertiliser consumption in Nigeria, according to experts, is put or estimated at seven kilogramme per hactare and is one of the lowest in the Sub-Saharan Africa. Also, less than 10 per cent of irrigable land is under irrigation.

Nigerian farmers have limited access to credit with lending to agriculture, representing a paltry 1.4 per cent of aggregate lending far below the six per cent in Kenya and 18 per cent in Brazil.

It is also estimated that there is one extension worker per 15,000 farm households in Nigeria, compared to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) best practice estimate of one to 500-1000 farm households. There are also about 30,000 tractors for 14 million farming households in Nigeria.

In terms of agricultural processing, Nigeria loses significant value of between 15 to 40 per cent of its post-harvest outputs due to many factors ranging from poor or non-existent roads, through poor practices to lack of processing facilities.

Not only that, in livestock production, local supplies, as experts explained, have been inadequate with an estimated 30 per cent of livestock slaughters imported from neighbouring countries. The daily animal protein intake per head per day, as explained by Dr Charles  Chukwudike, President, Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA), is currently estimated at 10 grammes compared to the FAO recommended 36 grammes.

However, there is a growing concern among the Nigerian populace and it has to do with the ever-increasing prices of food items with its attendant effects on almost every household. Many Nigerians are saying agriculture is not performing the expected roles as much desired, and every attempt to unravel the reason (s) for this unfortunate situation has been attracting attention, yet, without a concrete solution.

The major and recurring question on the lips of many however is: “When would Nigeria be food sufficient and food secured?

Going by the submission credited to Dr. Gabriel Akinboye Oluwatosin, a principal research fellow in Soil Survey and Land Evaluation at the Institute of Agricultural Research, and Training (IAR & T), Apata, Ibadan, Oyo State, lack of access to food and its availability is of great concern to Nigeria and a fundamental challenge to human welfare and economic growth.

Low agricultural production, he said, results in low incomes, poor nutrition, vulnerability to risks and lack of empowerment. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), in Dr. Oluwatosin’ s opinion targets an average annual increase of six per cent in agricultural productivity to ensure food security and sustained national economies.

In the nation’s agricultural sector, post-harvest handling is the stage of crop production immediately following harvest, including drying, threshing, cleaning, sorting, packing and cooling. Immediately a crop is removed from the ground, or separated from its parent plant, it begins to deteriorate. Postharvest treatment largely determines final quality, whether a crop is sold for fresh consumption, or used as an ingredient in a processed food product.

Speaking with Engineer Anthony Egba, the  National Secretary of Agricultural Machineries and Equipment Fabricators Association of Nigeria (AMENFAN), he explained that one of the major challenges facing food production in Nigeria is the issue of post harvest losses of our agricultural produces. Nigeria produces so much food crops but most of them are lost during harvest and others are lost as a result of poor handling and poorer storage facilities.

“So much emphasis had been placed on intensive land clearing, fertilizer distribution and other inputs, at highly subsidised costs with very little or no attention paid to post-harvest loss prevention. Whereas, no matter the tonnage of food that you produce, if you are unable to store them or add value to this food product by partial or full processing, there will still be food shortage and scarcity.

In Nigeria, the second biggest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa, losses easily exceed one-third for many crops,” he stated.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Bank are currently urging Nigeria and other Sub-Saharan African countries to invest in post-harvest technologies in a bid to reduce food losses that could significantly increase their food supply. This is contained in a new FAO/World Bank report that was released recently.

The report, entitled: “Missing Food: The Case of Postharvest Grain Losses in Sub-Saharan Africa, “ produced in collaboration with the United Kingdom’s Natural Resources Institute, estimates the value of post-harvest grain losses in sub-Saharan Africa at around $4bn (about N600bn) a year. “This lost food could meet the minimum annual food requirements of at least 48 million people, “ said FAO Assistant Director- General, Maria Helena Semedo.

Egba further explained that “If we agree that sustainable agricultural systems need to be developed to feed nine billion people by 2050, addressing waste across the entire food chain must be a critical pillar of future national food strategies.” According to estimates provided by the African Post-harvest Losses Information System, physical grain losses prior to processing can range from 10 per cent to 20 per cent.

Nigeria produces a wide variety of fruits including citrus, mango, pawpaw, guava, pineapple, banana and watermelon. The country is also a leading producer of pepper and large amounts of tomatoes, plantain, onions, okra and other vegetables.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are inherently more liable to deterioration under tropical conditions characterised by high ambient temperatures and humidity, and a high incidence of pests and diseases. Consequently, postharvest losses of fruits and vegetables are extremely high in Nigeria (30 to 50 percent).”

Postharvest losses are a great threat to food security in Nigeria. It leads to food scarcity during the agricultural off season.  If one travels round this country when a particular agricultural product is in season, one will see a lot of such products rotting away. For example, more than 50 percent of mangoes, 20 to 30 per cent of tomatoes and 30 per cent of grains are wasted during their seasons in Nigeria.

If our crops are well handled using the appropriate post harvest technology, it is very possible to eat fresh maize and mangoes round the year. The most painful aspect is that this wastage is not limited to the farm alone but during transportation. There are a lot of wastages as a result of poor roads, wrong packaging and wrong vehicles.

“If you also go through our markets, you will see fruit, vegetables and tubers wasting all over the place,”Engineer Egba lamented. One of the major problems that lead to post-harvest losses is the problem of markets in Nigeria. For most of the farm produces, the farmers are at the mercy of the middlemen who take advantages of the highly perishable nature of the unprocessed crops to offer the farmers ridiculous prices for their products.

Major causes of post-harvest losses, as explained by National Secretary of AMEFAN, include the following but not limited to them.

They are premature harvest, poor threshing, insufficient drying, poor equipment, insufficient cleaning, bird attack, rodent attack, insect attack, poor packaging, transport, micro-organism attack, biochemical changes, inadequate storage, transport techniques, poor marketing and  poor distribution system,

Poor power supply

• How to minimize post-harvest losses — In order to minimize food losses as highlighted by Egba, appropriate solutions must be proffered for the above causes. Paramount among the various solutions to post-harvest losses is to encourage farm gate partial or complete processing of the agricultural produce. Strategies for improving handling of agricultural perishables in Nigeria  should include:

•Application of current knowledge to improve the handling systems of horticultural perishables and assuring their quality and safety;

•Removing the socio-economic constraints, such as inadequacies of infrastructures, poor marketing systems, and     weak research and development capacity; and

•Overcoming the limitations of small-scale operations by encouraging consolidation and vertical integration among producers and marketers of each commodity or group of commodities.

Improvement in the agricultural product value chain will also go a long way in reducing post- harvest losses. The terms, “value chain” and “supply chain” can be used interchangeably to include production, collection, processing, wholesaling, and retailing, as well as support functions, such as input supply, financial services, transport, packaging, and advertising. A systematic analysis of each commodity production and handling system is the logical first step in identifying an appropriate strategy for reducing post-harvest losses.

Most of the production, storage and processing have remained in the hands of peasant farmers using primitive techniques that are grossly inefficient, largely unsafe, and invariably uneconomical.

In Nigeria, roads are not adequate for proper transport of horticultural crops. Also, transport vehicles and other modes, especially those suited for fresh horticultural perishables, are in short supply. This is true whether for local marketing or export to other countries. The majority of producers have small holdings and cannot afford to own their own transport vehicles. In a few cases, marketing organisations and cooperatives have been able to acquire transport vehicles, but they cannot do much about poor road conditions.

Marketing cooperatives should be encouraged among producers of major commodities in important production areas. Such organisations are especially needed in Nigeria because of the relatively small farm size.

Advantages of marketing cooperatives include: providing central accumulation points for the harvested commodity, purchasing, harvesting and packing supplies and materials in quantity,

If Nigeria must become the real giant of Africa, we must be able to feed its populace very well and then be ready to feed the whole of Africa. Nigeria must be able to produce and process (reduce post-harvest losses) its agricultural produce within the country.

Nigerian cannot afford to produce cocoa and sell cocoa beans to Europe for $3000per ton and then buy it back in chocolate at $1.00per 10g.

There must be a law that every produce must be partially processed at least before export.

In order to minimize food losses, local production of processing equipment must be encouraged and strongly supported by the government.

Food processing industries alone can give job to five million Nigerians directly and indirectly.

Transportation, packaging and storage techniques are very important in minimising losses in food production.

Post-harvest losses can also be controled in fruits and vegetables by encouraging investors, both local and international, to invest, for example, in fruit processing company in Ogbomoso, Benue and Kaduna. Big companies should also be encouraged to invest in tomatoes canning in Kano, Nasarawa, and other cities.

Stability in power supply is one of the major factors that can minimize food losses especially in the area of fish and frozen foods.

If Nigeria would achieve  food security, it must not only increase productivity, but learn to utilize and preserve all the foods that is produced within. Government should also be more consistent in policy implementation and regulatory activities on agricultural produce and should also invest more on appropriate technology for the handling and post-harvest processing of agricultural produce.

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