For Florence and her community, the training on postharvest handling can mean the difference between keeping their harvests and losing them.

Florence Fuala (Bokwe B Community Farming Group, Masindi)

We love to teach rural in Uganda farmers conservation farming principles so they see their crop yields increase dramatically. But it would be a mistake to think our job is done. Food security isn’t just about increasing food production but also about ensuring as much of it as possible reaches people’s plates. And this of course also means extra cultivation of land is not needed, avoiding further stress on the already fragile ecosystem.

Sadly, postharvest losses are commonplace. The following responses are typical:

“We normally work so hard in the fields, but our efforts are of no benefit due to poor postharvest handling. It is depressing to see our harvests go to waste and struggle to provide for our families,” said Betty.

“The low harvest resulting from poor postharvest handling has created a cycle of poverty and food insecurity in our families. It’s a constant struggle to put enough food on the table and meet other essential basic needs,” said Godfrey.

“Our hopes for a prosperous season are continuously devastated by the consequences of poor postharvest handling. We not only face financial losses but also the stress and anxiety of uncertain food availability for our families,” said Sarah.

These losses can be in terms of the quantity and quality of the food produced from the time of harvest to when it is eaten. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, 30% of food produced for our consumption is lost or wasted. In Africa this figure could be as high as 50%.

Postharvest losses have significant nutritional, health, and financial impacts for both consumers and farmers, disproportionately affecting Ugandan women, who are largely responsible for managing postharvest drying, cleaning, and storage. For rural families, many of whom already live on the edge of hunger, lost food means lost land, fertiliser and income for those who can least afford it. It can be heartbreaking to see your hard work not paying off. Children can miss out on their education and families can lack the means to improve their lives.

As Amigos, our desire is that people maximise and enjoy the full fruit of their labours. That is why Titus and Maureen, our Sustainable Community Development Coordinators, prepare Florence and those in her community farming group ahead of the harvest on how to manage their harvests so they maximise the benefits.

This training includes:

  • Care of crops before harvest to reduce infestations such as maize stalk borer
  • Correct harvest practices and handling of the harvested crops
  • Safe storage
    • At the correct temperature to avoid decay
    • Well-sealed to reduce the chances of damage by rain or pests
  • Good packaging to avoid spoiling crops
  • Sales techniques and timing
  • Proper transportation
  • Building a local cooperative.

Learning to handle the harvest well

So Florence sums up, “Attending the post-harvest training was a gamechanger for me. I now have a better understanding of the different stages involved in post-harvest handling such as harvesting, transporting, drying, threshing, cleaning, and storage, and how to minimise losses. The knowledge I have gained through this training has not only strengthened my confidence but has also instilled in me a great belief that postharvest management holds the key to resolving issues pertaining to food security and poverty."