By Maimuna Sey-Jawo
The department of agriculture under the ministry of agriculture in collaboration with the committee for economic and commercial cooperation of the organization of the Islamic cooperation recently commenced a 5-day sub regional training forum on reduction of post harvest losses in cereals for improved rural livelihood.
The training attracted participants from various countries in the area of extension, researchers and food processors, held at Khamsys center in Bijilo.
The training is funded by COMCEC and aimed at bringing stakeholders together to discuss with them and see the way forward to reduce post harvest losses in cereals in order to improve better livelihood of farmers in the rural areas.
Presiding over the official opening on behalf of the minister of agriculture, the acting director general of the department of agriculture Sariyang Jobateh stressed that handling and processing commodities requires the necessary technical knowledge and expertise.
He however said researchers on postharvest issues are very scarce in the Gambia and the benefits that can be gained from them are poorly acknowledged.
“In this respect, identifying the specific causes of postharvest losses through producing and prioritizing the data related to the postharvest losses in strategic commodities are crucial for ensuring food security. On the other hand, relevant sectors do not have the necessary institutional mechanisms to directly deal with the levels and specific causes of postharvest losses,” he noted.
“In this regard, establishing coordinating mechanism would be very instrumental for identifying causes of post harvest losses, sharing the good practices and raising awareness.”
According to Mr. Jobateh, post-harvest losses, which can and do occur all along the chain from farm to table resulting in higher prices and lost revenue which reduces real income for producers and consumers and especially the poor.
“The Gambia agricultural sector is characterized by many smallholder farmers, 95% of whom have farms that are less than one hectare in size. This fragmented production base leads to serious challenges in getting product market efficiently and integrating farmers into commercial marketing channels that allow for differentiation. Among the impacts of fragmentation, small farmers lack the capital and technical know-how to efficiently harvest, store and market their small surplus yields,” he explained.
He said the low capacity in post-harvest management leads to an estimates of 15%-22% post-harvest losses in cereals alone. On the other hand, for perishable crops such as horticultural crops marketing difficulties leads to glut and a time losses of about 30%, he added
Ramatoulie Hydara, director of monitory and evaluation at the department of agriculture, said the importance of post harvest losses reduction in the quest to promote food security, alleviate poverty, create income generation opportunities foster economic growth of African countries.
She added that a post harvest loss is especially critical for the grain cereals, pulses and oil seed, as these sectors constitute the predominant staples of many African communities.