Key agriculture stakeholders in Uganda have moved to support national efforts towards addressing food and nutrition insecurity as well as increasing national income through strategies to reduce post-harvest losses in grains.
This was during a recent high-level consultative workshop on the development of a comprehensive strategy and action plan for reduction of post-harvest losses in grains in Uganda held at the Golf Course Hotel in Kampala.
Development of the National Strategy for Post-harvest Loss Reduction in Grains comes at a time when the contribution of Uganda’s agricultural sector to national economy, is threatened, by among others- high food losses.
High food losses result from poor post-harvest handling practices (poor drying and high moisture content at time of storage) inadequate and inappropriate storage facilities, limited value-addition, filth and contamination, poor marketing systems, damage by insects, rodents and other pests and infestation by micro-organisms especially fungus that leads to aflatoxin.
Food losses contribute to and exacerbate hunger situations, poverty and food insecurity.
Currently, annual post-harvest loss stands at 17.6 percent for about 2.8million metric tonnes (MT), 12.4 percent of about 214 000MT and 13.5 percent of 230,000MT of maize, millet and rice produced in the country respectively.
Therefore, the Strategy, prepared by MAAIF with the support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), will focus on reducing post-harvest losses in grains, which are critical for food security and household income generation.
The Strategy will address increase in general awareness and trigger a mindset change towards grain post-harvest management.
It also seeks to enhance the knowledge and skills of post-harvest management practices; Increase availability, accessibility, adoption and utilization of appropriate and improved grain post-harvest and quality enhancing technologies and; Strengthen coordination and collaboration for efficient and effective implementation of post-harvest management actions.
The strategy will also focus on the grains value chain, including cereals such as maize, sorghum, millet, rice and wheat; pulses such as beans, peas and groundnuts, and oil crops such as sesame and sunflower.
While officiating at the workshop, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Pius Wakabi, reiterated the relevance of critical actions to reduce post-harvest losses and urged stakeholders to support implementation of appropriate interventions.
“Post-harvest losses affect quality and quantity of produce and this eventually affects access to better markets, prices, results in loss of revenue and real income for different value chain actors and reduces the country’s overall national income,” he said.
“Interventions and strategies that reduce postharvest losses are highly required to ensure sustainable quality food supply and this automatically translates into enhanced food security and income,” he added.
He pledged to implement the Strategy and realize benefits in agricultural production for Ugandans.
To achieve the objectives of this strategy, the Government will require about USD 10million (Shs 37Billion) over a proposed five-year implementation period (2020/21- 2024/25).
Funding is expected to be drawn/mobilized from government and development partners.
According to Antonio Querido, FAO’s Representative in Uganda, food loss and waste amount to waste of resources, including water, land, energy, labour and capital and needlessly produce greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn contributes to global warming and climate change.
The World Bank estimates that grain losses in sub-Saharan Africa alone could be worth up to US$4 billion a year – enough to provide the minimum food requirements for at least 48 million people.
”Development of the Strategy and Action Plan to reduce food losses and waste during and after harvest and subsequent upstream activities, in grains, are very timely,,” he said. “FAO, together with other Rome-based UN agencies- IFAD and WFP therefore aim at contributing to addressing food loss reduction in the country through this strategy and other efforts to share knowledge and experiences on post-harvest loss reduction, including capacity building for relevant officials,” he added.
While presenting the National Strategy for Post-harvest Loss Reduction in Grains, Professor Augustus Nuwagaba, the lead consultant pointed out some of the gaps in post-harvest management as: poor policy framework, limited awareness and communication, inadequate skills and training on post-harvest management, limited coordination of actors, inadequate research and development, limited mechanization, weak extension services and limited agro-processing. The strategy is therefore expected to help address these gaps while helping to ensure food security for Uganda’s growing population.
Mireille Totobesola from the Food and Nutrition Division of FAO elaborated on the relationship of the national strategy aspirations with the African Union expectations and contribution to the sustainable development goals.
The validation workshop was also attended by officials from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, IFAD, WFP, local government officials and representatives from national and regional grain councils, farmers associations and development organizations.