Post-Harvest losses constitute the major factor contributing to food insecurity in Sub-Sahara Africa but are often overlooked. It is estimated that Africa losses food valued at US $4.0 billion yearly due to post-harvest losses. This serious shortfall leads to stunted development, malnutrition, diseases and death of millions of children. Post-harvest technologies currently in use are either too expensive or unsuitable for local environments. Chemicals which are widely used have often proved hazardous.
The WHO estimates that 3 million farmers in developing countries experience food poisoning from pesticides and about 18,000 deaths are recorded yearly. Contaminated food contributes to 1.5 billion cases of diarrhoea resulting in 3 million deaths of children yearly.
Benue State located in the middle belt of Nigeria and usually regarded as the food basket of the nation produces a wide range of crops ranging from grains, tubers, to fruits and vegetables. Huge quantities of these crops are lost due to lack of adequate post-harvest technologies.
Nigerian and indeed African teachers and researchers need to be equipped with adequate facilities to be able to utilize multidisciplinary approaches to embark on high capacity building through teaching, conduct of cutting edge research and promotion of active outreach programmes to address post-harvest food losses. Through the support of the World Bank, the Benue State University has established the Africa Centre of Excellence for Food Technology and Research (CEFTER) to address these challenges. The success of CEFTER will depend on the strong and long standing partnerships between academic, research and extension institutions in Nigeria and the sub region.
The mandate of CEFTER is to promote teaching, research and extension in post- harvest sciences, enhance agricultural productivity and industrial output for the socio-economic advancement of Nigeria and Africa.
The educational research and outreach goals of CEFTER are:
- To develop a critical mass of well-trained African students in control of post-harvest losses.
- To empower African Researchers to identify technologies that will reduce post-harvest losses.
- Development of Technologies through applied research for reducing post-harvest losses.
- Engage communities, farmers and industries in dissemination of technologies in post-harvest food losses.