In Africa, a significant portion of food loss occurs in early stages of the food value chain, mainly due to financial, managerial and technical constraints in harvesting and handling techniques as well as storage and cooling facilities. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates indicate that post-harvest losses can reach up to 20% for cereals, 30% for dairy and fish, and 40% for fruit and vegetables.
Below are ten post-harvest handling practices that are used by farming cooperatives to reduce post-harvest losses and increase their annual sales in Rwanda.
Tarpaulin is a large sheet of strong, flexible, water-resistant or waterproof material. Tarpaulins will come in handy especially in drying and sorting of cereals. They prevent contact between crops and soil preventing source of microorganisms.
Mesh net bags
These are bags used to package onions, garlic, cabbages, and potatoes. The bag’s design facilitates crops inside to be properly aerated. Net mesh bags are used to ensure proper storage and shelf life of potato and horticulture crops.
A pallet is a flat wooden or metal platform on which goods are stored. They are used inside the warehouse or stores to prevent air exchange between crops in bags and soil. Thus, they prevent the increase of soil moisture accumulation especially for maize production.
Weighing scale is used to accurately determine the weight of produce especially maize, beans, potatoes, and some horticultural products. Most of the farmers do not own accurate weighing scale and they lose a big quantity of harvest. At least 44 cooperatives in 10 districts requested 59 weighing scales that are accurate.
Crates are mostly used to transport fruits and vegetables and they are very crucial for reducing damage through proper aeration and storage. They are used especially during transportation of horticulture.
Moisture meter is used to measure the moisture content of grains before storage. It shows farmers whether the grains once are stored will be safe from potential aflatoxin contamination.
The frequent use of moisture meters is a starting point for farmer/ cooperatives decisions of whether to continue drying or store as well as whether to sell at a given price as a function of moisture content.
Plastic silos are used for storing grains safely and extending quality during the storage period.
The majority of cooperatives are requesting plastic silos produce maize and Irish potatoes.
PICS bags are used for storing grains. They are the hermetic storage option and they are useful in preventing aflatoxin. At least 31 cooperatives requested 4,247 PIC bags from all ten districts.
Hand shellers are crucial in the quality of small quantities of grains during the shelling process. If grains are broken, they are susceptible to contamination.
Motorized shelling machine
Motorized shellers are very crucial in maintaining the quality of large quantities of grains to avoid contamination.