When it rains, and farmers are prepared, there is a bumper harvest, a thing that should be celebrated. While many farmers are happy for the bulk harvests, their joy is short-lived as they have to think fast on how to store or sell off their produce to profit from it.
With such huge returns, food prices at the market fall tremendously. Farmers have the option of storing the crop to sell at a later date or transport it to far markets. The latter is challenging owing to poor transport network which comes with high costs. Many small-scale farmers lack adequate and quality storing equipment, making it difficult to store food. While the food is spoiling due to poor storage facilities as well as the high cost of transport to other markets, people who need it the most lack money to buy it.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, about one-third of the food produced in the world goes to waste contributing to the creation of greenhouse gas emissions, and a waste of land, water, labor and energy resources.
But one thing- value addition- could be a solution to some of the challenges experienced by farmers.
Ripe bananas are highly perishable and often get spoiled during transport from farms to the market. Value addition can help to reduce bulk, increase shelf life and incomes earned by farmers and other players in the value chain.
Banana, one of the major and widely grown crops, in Uganda is often fed to animals by farmers due to overproduction. But that does not have to be the case anymore.
A women group in Uganda are making huge returns by turning bananas into wine, a relatively new product that is slowly being adopted in Uganda’s main market.
Elizabeth Nsimadala is a 36-year-old mother of two from a small village in Southern Uganda. Together with her group members, venturing into wine making business transformed their lives for better. They are now able to feed and pay school fees for their kids.
After losing most of their crop due to overproduction, the group was trained in banana wine production. “We started on a small scale, but for any new innovation that comes, it takes some time for people to embrace it. But later on, our mindset kept on changing,” Nsimadala noted in an interview. “When I do a comparison between the prices, it’s actually more than a hundred percent. A bunch that can go for $10, once processed, you can make a net profit of $200 (USD), which is unbelievable to many. To me, it’s a reality because I am doing it. We are doing it and we are getting the results.”
Sam Turyatunga ventured into the business of making banana juice in order raise school fees. What started as a small business about three years ago, is now a thriving enterprise employing 10 people.
Turyatunga, the former Food Science and Technology student of Kyambogo University, shared his idea with his lecturer who not only assisted him with equipment but also requested the university management to allow him to use its food laboratory as a production unit.
“I started by producing just five liters a day but I am now making up to 500 liters,” he told the Nation.
Other than juice, and wine, banana can be used to make edibles, and ornaments according to Kimani Muturi, a lecturer at Kyambogo University.
“You can also put on shoes made from banana stems while banana fiber is used to make biodegradable bags and mats. Besides, briquettes made from banana waste are now being used for cooking,” said Muturi, who also is the director of AfriBanana Products Limited, which help small-scale entrepreneurs to increase their earnings through value addition.
Food waste has become a big concern that needs urgent solutions in order to feed the continent. Up to $4 billion (USD) equivalent of food is lost every year in Africa due to a lack of infrastructure, affordable transportation, and harvesting techniques, Nana Osei-Bonsu, CEO of Private Enterprise Federation, Ghana notes.
To reduce this wastage, Bonsu advises farmers to harvest earlier to leave ample time for the food to be transported and sold. She calls on African governments to set up agencies to buy and store food in peak season, for eventual redistribution during lean periods.
In 50 years, the Africa’s population is expected to double. To ensure that people are well fed from now on, there is a need to double the production, and avoid the loss and waste of food already produced.
Image credit: bioversity international