During my travels across Nigeria, I have witnessed a distressing amount of food being wasted due to spoilage. In farms and markets, particularly raw foods, are being discarded, while we simultaneously grapple with food insufficiency.
This issue demands immediate intervention.
In this modern world, where hunger stemming from high levels of poverty is prevalent and meeting the food demands of a rapidly growing global population poses a significant challenge, it is crucial to closely examine the problem of food insufficiency, specifically post-harvest losses. This becomes even more critical as the world’s population continues to rise. By 2050, it is projected to surpass 9.1 billion people, requiring an additional 70 per cent increase in food production to sustain them. In light of this, why not preserve what we already have instead of incurring losses?
Research indicates that a substantial portion of this population growth will occur in emerging nations, many of which currently grapple with hunger and food insecurity. Concerns about escalating food needs are exacerbated by factors such as urbanization, climate change, and the diversion of land for non-food crop cultivation. While numerous countries have focused on enhancing agricultural productivity, land utilisation, and population control in recent decades, the issue of post-harvest loss remains inadequately addressed.
Post-harvest losses pose a significant and escalating problem, particularly in developing nations like Nigeria, where they result in a reduction of at least 15% in income for the 470 million smallholder farmers and stakeholders in the downstream value chain. The majority of these individuals are among the 1.2 billion people experiencing food insecurity. Insufficient or ineffective post-harvest techniques contribute to losses ranging from 20 per cent to 40 per cent of farm produce, leading to an unstable supply. This information comes from Mrema and Rolle, who highlight that post-harvest losses affect not only perishable crops but also grains, livestock, and fish. It is estimated that up to 25 per cent of fruits, 40 per cent of vegetables, and 15-20 per cent of grains are wasted after harvest. Consequently, eliminating post-harvest losses in agricultural products is crucial for enhancing food security and availability in Nigeria.
The scenario outlined by Mrema and Rolle necessitates concerted efforts from relevant authorities and institutions to prevent the nation from plunging into a severe food crisis. While I acknowledge that institutions such as IITA have developed technologies to mitigate this problem, more needs to be done.
The Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, along with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, must urgently collaborate to address this issue before it spirals out of control. Food sustains life, and without it, the average person cannot survive. In fact, adding a food crisis or exacerbating food insecurity to the myriad challenges currently facing the nation is simply unacceptable.
Within the realm of science, technology, and innovation, I am aware that the National Centre for Technology Management (NACETEM) is actively focusing on this challenge. The agency is seeking solutions to post-harvest losses in order to enhance agricultural productivity in Nigeria. Their research work, aptly titled “The Role of Science, Technology, and Innovation in Boosting Agricultural Productivity and Food Security,” represents a step in the right direction by providing evidence-based policy advice. However, I believe it is essential for other stakeholders, such as farmers, entrepreneurs and fintech companies, to join forces with researchers in order to effectively address this menace. The issue of post-harvest losses demands market-ready technological solutions.
My urgent call is for all stakeholders, within and outside the realm of science, technology, and innovation, to unite and take action in order to prevent a food crisis resulting from post-harvest losses. We must work together, pooling our resources and expertise, to overcome this challenge.