Fighting African Hunger from Crop Loss

Fighting African Hunger from Crop Loss

Every year, across the African continent, $4 billion worth of grain is wasted while its people go hungry.

According to a Voice of America article by writer Eugene Nforngwa, 25-to-40 percent of the food produced on the continent is lost because of inadequate harvest, poor storage, transport practices and inadequate market access.

Nforngwa went to Ethiopia to meet with Mamadou Biteye, the managing director of the regional office of the Rockefeller Foundation, to gain insight on the problems.

The $4 billion loss from grains turns out to be the exact amount paid to import grain, Biteye told Nforngwa. “This means that if we are able to reduce this significantly, we don’t need to increase production,” Biteye said.

The World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization found that decay — from poor storage practices — pests, and the scattering of grain during harvest and transport were responsible for most of the loss, Biteye explained.

And although the focus is usually on grains, fresh foods suffer similar losses. Fresh vegetables are packed tightly in sacks and stuffed up against each other in trucks so they are easily bruised and begin to decay and wilt, said Nforngwa.

While discussing solutions, however, agri-business technology must include small farmers, who make up 80 percent of African farmers and are mostly women with children. Rather than building huge, high-tech farms, for example, solutions should include access for small farmers to irrigation and better storage methods, the report said.

Severe drought and flooding have plagued African farmers for decades and also contribute to crop loss. According to an AlertNet report posted on All Africa, the World Meteorological Association has developed a scientific program to help African farmers deal with weather-related problems.

A pilot project of The Climate Services Adaptation Program was launched in November 2013 in Malawi and Tanzania with $10 million pledged by Norway.

The program will show farmers how to fight weather issues such as droughts and floods with a variety of techniques. They will be taught to choose drought-tolerant crops, adjust planting dates according to rainfall patterns, plant barrier crops to reduce pest damage, install drains to avoid water runoff flooding their fields, and other ways of handling too much and too little water.