"The introduction of appropriate postharvest handling, storage and agroprocessing technologies can result in better appreciation and sustained adoption of yield-increasing technologies."
The reassessment of the crop postharvest handling programs carried out in the four SAA focus countries in 2009 and 2010, focused on the main pillars of the Theme 2 operation. Also revealed was a serious lack of information on postharvest handling technologies. Nor were improved technologies readily available to users. Postharvest operations were still run on a traditional basis with limited capacity and high losses, often resulting in poor quality products.
Based on these findings, a highly focused postharvest and agroprocessing extension program was developed and is now being implemented by each SAA focus country. The country programs aim to promote sustainable value-adding technologies that will enhance smallholder farmers’ food security and income through rigorous demonstrations and training, and by establishing postharvest extension and learning platforms in selected key areas. The programs will also work with private service providers to sustain the adoption of technologies. In 2011, Theme 2 activities are now concentrated on these areas to enable more efficient and profitable handling of the additional production achieved through activities associated with Theme 1 – crop productivity enhancement.
Despite recorded developments of postharvest technologies in the last three decades, appropriate technologies are still difficult to find. SAA has continued to collaborate with research and development (R&D) institutions for technology adaptation specifically with SDRTVC (Selam David Röschli Technical and Vocational College) in Ethiopia. This partnership, including the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria, has provided the R&D platform for locally manufactured, technically efficient and economically viable technologies that are locally available and easy to operate and maintain by smallholder farmers and processors. In 2010, SAA & SDRTVC developed a maize sheller with a capacity of up to 2.5 t per hour, and also a multi-grain cleaner/sorter. These machines are key tools in maintaining the quality of the crop before being stored or further processed. They are now part of the technology package being promoted in grain-producing regions of the focus countries.
The same type of partnership with UIRI (Uganda Industrial Research Institute) in Uganda, and BUK (Bayero University Kano) in Nigeria is being pursued – as are links with local private service providers – in the search for potential technologies.
Theme 2 teams also collaborated with the World Food Program- Purchase for Progress (WFPP4P) programs in Ethiopia and Uganda to improve the delivery of good quality grains (maize) and beans to enable farmers to compete for better prices of their produce in the market. In Ethiopia, WFP provided a set of maize shellers and grain cleaners to 17 Farmers’ Cooperative Unions (CU); while in Uganda, WFP funded the establishment of Marketing Centers also equipped with grain threshers, cleaners, drying patios and tarpaulins through SAA. In both programs, SAA Theme 2 teams provided technical backstopping in terms of technology selection and training on the operation, maintenance and management of postharvest handling technologies.
While farmers were quick to appreciate the new machinery, their lack of capital to buy the machines hindered full adoption. SAA is contemplating linking farmers to institutions which can provide soft loans or arrange for a revolving fund to make these technologies available to users.
|Threshing service provider in southern Ethiopia with traditional transport|
Training of the trainers, who are primarily the extension staff of the Ministry of Agriculture in all participating countries, is critical for SAA operations. Field demonstrations and capacity building among trainers, farmers and entrepreneurs, will help provide for a lack of professional postharvest extension staff in the focus countries.
Establishing farmer learning platforms to provide training and demonstration programs for such technologies requires strategically deployed permanent sites where equipment is housed, demonstrated and maintained, and where farmers can come together to learn how to use and benefit from them. These staging areas will include well-established farmer associations, such as the One Stop Center Associations (OSCAs) in Uganda, the Niet@ Kene farmer association centers in Mali, and Women in Agricultural Development (WIAD) associated with the Ministry of Agriculture in Nigeria. In Ethiopia, primary cooperative society centers are being involved.
The establishment of the Postharvest Extension and Learning Platform (PHELP) for various enterprises, identified through the re-assessment surveys, started in the last quarter of 2010. The different platforms are now being equipped with the necessary technology packages (see Table). The use, maintenance and management of the technologies are demonstrated – with a basic management course given to those interested in taking up the processes as a business enterprise.
One of the criteria for selection of sites was the existence of Women Processing Groups. This was purposely done in order not to miss addressing the concerns of women who do most of the postharvest and agroprocessing jobs.
An example of a fully operational PHELP is the Cassava Processing Platform in Ganye LGA, Adamawa State, Nigeria. The platform is being managed by the Tikamen Women Group. The group started processing a few quantities of cassava into gari – roasted, fermented and grated cassava – and starch for consumption using the traditional methods. The processors noted a major demand for gari in the area and decided to go into commercial production. With the facilities they have acquired, their processing capacity is up to one ton of cassava per hour. The source of raw materials is the local market and the interest of farmers to grow more cassava on their farms has been created. The group invites other processors to observe their operation and give training as requested.
Supervision of the PHELP is provided by the extension agent from the Ministry of Agriculture and the representative of WIAD in the State. They also provide training to the processors on record keeping and business management.
Most women, representing individual or family units, require technologies that will enable them to produce more and better food for the family – but with less labor. In addition to improving the quality of traditional food products, new products that have high potential for the market are being promoted.
SAA has also been working with individual farmers and groups to introduce technologies to improve several specific value chains in maize, rice, cassava, groundnuts, and soybean processing. In Ethiopia, SAA has been working with selected Women Agroprocessing Groups in value-addition enterprises (SAA Newsletter Issue 26) which has encouraged them to enter into the market with increased confidence because of the better quality products they can offer. However, none of the seven groups had reached sustainable levels of production, even after two to three years of SAA intervention. Issues of group management topped the lists of constraints, followed by lack of access to facilities to increase their capacity and supply the demand for their products. From June 2010 Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has provided a three year project funding to SAA to further assist the groups in order to establish a more viable enterprise.
|Training of technicians from all four focus countries on the manufacture, operation and maintenance of grain cleaner in Ethiopia|
Involving the private sector, and individual entrepreneurs as service providers, has proved to be effective. For example, the threshing service for teff farmers has worked well in Ethiopia, with over 350 units (as of December 2010) purchased by farmers and private entrepreneurs who market their in-field threshing services all over the country.
The warrantage system introduced by SAA in Mali is also working well and providing farmers with access to warehouse services while waiting for a favorable market price. This will be scaled-up through a recently secured US$1m project grant from AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa) and will include other services for threshing/shelling, cleaning and drying. The overall objective of the project is to develop postharvest handling and storage capacity, and improve farmers’ access to the market.
SAA is now developing a delivery model, including credit strategies, built around the establishment of private service providers to serve smallholder farmers with too small a landholding or too poor to afford such equipment. In many cases, these entrepreneurs could be the farmers, or local rural businessmen and women.
Fifteen technicians from the four SAA countries were trained in Addis Ababa for two weeks on the production, operation and maintenance of the maize sheller and grain cleaner. These technicians supported Theme 2 country teams in training more technicians to be part of the network of service providers.
While SAA hopes to see local manufacturing capacity develop for such machinery, SAA also recognizes the urgency of bringing mechanized post-production services to smallholder farmers. SAA is exploring importing equipment from Asia and Latin America designed to serve smallholder farmers. In particular, China, India and Brazil can be potential sources of machines for shelling/threshing, cleaning, milling, and for other agroprocessing activities.
The PHAP program is managed from the Regional Office by the Theme Director. Each country program has a Program Coordinator and one or more Program Officers. At least one Program Officer is assigned for additional extra core- funded projects.
The Program staff have backgrounds in food science, agricultural engineering, value chain development, rural development and agricultural extension. The Theme addresses agricultural activities, which are often handled by women. As a result more than 50% of Theme 2 staff are female.