Postharvest Forum: A Tree is Planted!
Back in August last year, something normal happened and it has been the start of something remarkable ….
Denis Twinamatsiko dropped me a note on Linkedin last year inviting me to connect and, in common with every enquiry from someone involved in fresh food systems, I agreed. Denis’s profile told me that he was concerned about sustainable development and environmental conservation. I dropped him a note back to say that I liked his African proverb: “One generation plants a tree and another generation enjoys the shade”. Over the years, I have planted many trees – I love the feeling that what goes into the ground on the day of planting will likely still be growing in a couple of hundred years time – being a tree: giving shade and shelter.
And so I believe it can also be with friendship: planting a seed today can yield wonderful surprises for our future. Through subsequent exchanges, I also learnt that Denis was concerned about levels of postharvest losses in his home region:
“Here in sub-saharan africa as much as we are trying to improve food production so as to boost food security the post-harvest losses are still high (as high as 75% for the case of fruits and vegetables). This is mainly due to lack of preservation facilities that can extend the shelf life and low processing capacity. Even the little that is salvaged, most of the nutrients like vitamins are lost before consumption.”
I invited Denis to tell me more about the products he was working with and where the particular challenges seemed to be in the postharvest handling of each:
“Perhaps to start with, choose just one and tell me about frequency of harvest, what is the market, how the market is prepared to be ready for arrival of the product, distance of transport, method and temperature(s) of transport, packaging / labelling and how the product is prepared to go into the packaging?”
From Denis’s reply, I learned that he is currently managing a cassava processing facility in Liberia that is producing “Super Gari” – made from combining Gari (fermented roasted cassava granulates) with soy and a vitamin-mineral premix. Super Gari is being distributed to pregnant women and young children in Liberia as part of a Food for Peace program funded by USAID (more details available at http://www.wishh.org/globaloutreach/liberia.html).
The final processed Super Gari product is stable – it has a 6 months shelf life in its polythene packaging. The challenge is to be able to get a higher percentage of the fresh product into the processed form. At the time of our first writing, losses of the fresh cassava were typically 20 – 40% through difficulties encountered right the way through from harvest to the processing facility itself. Like so many fresh produce postharvest handling systems, there is real scope to make a useful difference.
Over the next two or three exchanges of messages, it became clear that the conversation we were having was not at all something that was unique to cassava – the issues we were covering were totally relevant to the handling of most fresh products after harvest. So I asked Denis if he’d be comfortable if we shared our conversation openly. Following his positive response I realised that whilst the postharvest.co blog would not be a bad place to create open discussion, even better would be to add a forum to the postharvest.co website.
So come and sit with us under the tree – the new today postharvest.co postharvest forum – enjoy the shade and pitch in your thoughts on how we can make a difference. Take the opportunity to support cassava growers supplying the Super Gari facility in Liberia with your own suggestions. And as soon as you want to add a question that’s been bugging you for a while, there will be more topics upon which to flesh out our understanding of the amazing world that is “postharvest”. See you there: http://www.postharvest.co/forum.