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Making the Gains Stick

Postharvest handling training enables communities to maximise the benefits of their harvest.

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

We love to teach farmers in rural Uganda 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.

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Florence, Bokwe B community, Masindi

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Sadly, post-harvest 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 post-harvest 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 post-harvest 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 post-harvest handling. We not only face financial losses but also the stress and anxiety of uncertain food availability for our families,” said Sarah.

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Farmers want to see the harvest they gather reach its maximum potential

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These losses can be in terms of the quantity and quality of the food produced from 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%.

Post-harvest losses have significant nutritional, health, and financial impacts for both consumers and farmers, disproportionately affecting Ugandan women, who are largely responsible for managing post-harvest 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 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.

“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 minimize 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 post-harvest management holds the key to resolving issues pertaining to food security and poverty,” said Florence.

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With postharvest training the joy at harvest becomes a lasting joy