Food security was the main focus during last year’s G20 Summit. With the rapidly increasing population, food supply is becoming more scarce. A lot was discussed including factors that affect food security and how to prevent them. We know that climate change is one of the biggest threats to food production. However, storage is another food security threat that often goes overlooked and can be easily solved.
Part of Kenya’s Big Four agenda is to ensure food security by reducing losses and wastage. In 2017, Kenyan farmers lost Ksh 150 billion due to spoilage caused by lack of adequate or effective storage facilities. The hardest hit foods included maize, milk, potatoes, bananas and tomatoes. Such figures are heartbreaking especially from a country which is constantly faced with starvation. However, most developing countries can’t seem to escape this narrative.
Finding sustainable storage solutions from farms to our homes could mean a significant improvement in food security globally. Think of the amount of food you throw out weekly because it has gone bad. It could probably feed you for two days or so. The primary storage facility in many modern homes is a refrigerator. Processed food is becoming popular due to busy lifestyles. People stack up on meat, milk and vegetables on the weekend and store these items in the freezer or refrigerator. Though this is a reliable method, without proper storage information, you still risk contaminating your food making it unfit for consumption.
Another key thing that consumers should pay attention to is the “use by” or “sell by” label. It’s important to check this date before buying any products so as to know whether to consume the product immediately or if it’s good for a couple of days. Dairy products, wheat-based foods, fruits and meat usually have a short shelf life. Therefore, these products should be consumed as soon as possible to avoid wastage.
One of the biggest challenges is that farmers still use traditional methods of storage. Many small and large scale farmers in developing countries use methods like sun drying, pesticides and smoking to preserve their harvest. Time and time, this has proved to be ineffective as the grains still end up getting attacked thus contributing to the loss and food insecurity. Additionally, the farmers are unable to embrace improved storage facilities as they are either too expensive or complicated. Since many farmers have a primary level of education, it’s harder for them to embrace more technological storage systems without proper training and credit facilities.
However, with proper training and education on these storage methods, the farmers are willing to try out new methods to promote food security and reduce their losses. Last year, potato farmers in Nyandarua underwent a 15-week training on new ways to make the most of their farming business. The agricultural industry will also see a huge shift once more young people enter the field since they are more technological savvy.
Since many farmers cannot afford to buy these modern storage facilities, the government should intervene on their behalf. They should set up well-governed facilities where farmers can store their grains, fruits or milk after harvesting. For instance, in Rwanda, the Rwanda Agricultural Board set up solar dryers and storage rooms which reduced postharvest loss by 10%. In Kenya, our storage facilities are in deplorable states while others are leased out to private businessmen.
Each of us has a vital role to play in ensuring food security through proper storage practices. Whether avoiding food wastage at home, educating farmers or having more government initiatives, we must do our part. What have you done towards food security?
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