Twelve countries in the West African sub-region are to benefit from a World Bank-assisted regional agricultural project under the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP) reports Bassey Udo, Next Newspapers (www.234next.com) on its March 3, 2011 edition.
Nigeria is one of the countries to benefit from the $300 million facility. Other countries under the scheme include Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Togo, Benin, Gambia, and Niger. The WAAPP project is expected to assist farmers in agro-processing and value addition for agricultural products.
A major problem in agricultural production within the sub region is post harvest losses as the farming community mostly consists of small and marginal farmers. These farmers do not have the economic strength to retain the surplus produce till favourable market price and often compelled to sell their produce immediately after harvest when the prices are low. The solution to this problem lies in providing safe and scientific storage of their produce.
In agriculture, post-harvest handling is the stage of crop production immediately following harvest, including cooling, cleaning, sorting and packing. The instant a crop is removed from the ground, or separated from its parent plant, it begins to deteriorate. Under tropical and sub-tropical conditions, the losses due to poor handling and storage are reported to be in between 40-50 per cent.
The most important goals of post-harvest handling are keeping the product cool, to avoid moisture loss and slow down undesirable chemical changes, and avoiding physical damage such as bruising, to delay spoilage. After the field, post-harvest processing is usually continued in a packing house.
A packing house is a facility where crops are received and processed prior to distribution to market. This can be a simple shed, providing shade and running water, or a large-scale, sophisticated, mechanized facility, with conveyor belts, automated sorting and packing stations, walk-in coolers and the like.
A Packing House in Israel
Typically, crops are delivered to the plant via trucks or wagons, where it is dumped into receiving bins and sorted for quality and size. The crops are then transported via conveyor belts to the grading tables where it is visually sorted into three grades: top quality, average, and orchard run, and is then carried via belts to the packing tables (Wikipaedia).
The World Bank facility should be utilised in adopting technologies that would boost agricultural production and reduce post harvest losses in the sub-region. To achieve this, additional incentives should be given to educated youths to encourage them to go into modern and scientific agriculture. It is the future of the sub-region.