Crops that grow and mature within three months can bring quick yields and returns on investments and employment, an expert has revealed. In a recent study, agricultural researcher, Adella Ng’atigwa, revealed that horticulture, the growing of these short season crops, can be very profitable with certain provisions and techniques.
The study, conducted in Tanzania, was funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) under the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)-led Enhancing Capacity to Apply Research Evidence in Policy for Youth Engagement in Agribusiness and Rural Economic Activities in Africa (CARE Project).
According to a CARE Project statement, “horticulture offers employment throughout each crop cycle, an aspect that is advantageous to youth employment, yet this field of agriculture records high rate of losses”. It quotes research studies as saying that about 50 to 70% of horticultural output is lost during harvesting, handling, packaging, transport and marketing, hence, post-harvest management is critical to success in the horticulture sector.
In her study on ways to empower youth to reduce horticulture post-harvest losses in Tanzania, Ng’atigwa, who is an awardee of the CARE Project, showed that reducing post-harvest loss rates for fresh produce would raise returns to young agripreneurs as well as increase food security in Tanzania. According to the study, higher returns will create an enabling environment for reduced post-harvest losses which will lead to a cycle of employment, sustainable income and rural growth.
Ng’atigwa’s research now recommends staggered planting and harvest periods, timely harvesting, ripening while warehoused, cold storage, solar drying, improved agronomic practices, more market places and improved transport facility as part of ways to manage post-harvest losses, raise returns and attract more youths to the horticulture industry in Tanzania.
It also recommends that the Tanzanian government can further undertake fiscal reforms and implement recommendations on Tanzania’s blue print of regulatory reforms to attract private sector investment in areas such as storage, transport and packaging.
Ng’atigwa added that there is the need to create incentives for the small and medium financial institution and micro credits financial institutions in Njombe to provide credits with an interest rate that is affordable by youths. Such a youth-friendly credit scheme will help them to access farm inputs and post-harvest management (PHM) innovations.
The study was conducted in three of the six districts in the Njombe region of the southern highlands of Tanzania amongst youths. It revealed stages at which losses occur and some of the causes for crop losses include poor storage facilities, poor transport system, inadequate market location, poor handling and poor packaging materials.
Along with inadequate market location being a major cause for post-harvest losses in the Njombe region of Tanzania, price fluctuations were cited as the most often problem that confronts young horticultural producers.
The CARE Project states that with African countries including Nigeria driving towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and “Zero Hunger”, investing in horticulture which generates more than USD 354 million per annum, will help address the problem of unemployment, poverty and agricultural losses.