Methodologies for Development of Post-Harvest Technologies (PHTs)
The starting point for development of PHTs is from the time of harvest to fork. Emphasis shall be on the use of technologies already available or those that can be improved upon within the lifespan of the project.
Special attention is being attached to biotechnology in the area of post-harvest processing because of the enormous quantity and monetary losses due to unavailability of proper infrastructure to handle large quantity of fresh produce. Recent advances in the use of microorganisms and their metabolites suggest that biotechnology can play a significant role in improving produce characteristics.
b. Food Technology and Packaging (Agro Processing)
This is a branch of food science which deals with the actual food production processes to improve the value and shelf life of food. Food packaging provides protection, tampering resistance and special physical and chemical or biological needs, all aimed at making food safe for the consumer. CEFTER shall collaborate with UAM Department of Food Science and Technology and NSPRI in the primary processing of cereals, roots and tubers.
c. Solar Drying
This method employs solar dryers that use solar energy to dry food substances. The heat from the sun coupled with the wind has been used to dry food crops for preservation for thousands of years. The project will employ low cost designs to produce solar dryers that are suitable for local environments. The project will develop post graduate programmes that will support the research in the area of preserving food crops through drying. The focus will be to identify suitable drying methods and to extend same to farmers. The project will use existing facilities and man power within the University. The University has a department of Vocation and Technical education which will support the developed programs in conjunction with the Department of Physics. Since electricity in the sub region is a challenge, integrating solar power modules in designs for electrically powered dryers will be a priority.
d. Chemical Preservation/ Pytochemical preservation
Chemical food preservation either inhibits the activity of bacteria or kills the bacteria. Preservatives are often added to food to prevent their spoilage or to retain their nutritional value and/or flavour for a longer period. The basic approach is to eliminate micro-organisms from the food to prevent their regrowth and extend the shelf life of food. There shall be an interaction with the farmers to understand the present chemical methods they are using, the quantities applied in order to assess the effectiveness and residual chemicals left and intervene on the best approach using expert knowledge of the chemicals.
e. Transport and Storage
Transport network is crucial, for perishable agricultural products, economic growth, and the conveyance of people. Much as there are technologies for the preservation of these perishable products, often with ominous side-effects (as highlighted in the main research proposal), much still needs to be done in curtailing post-harvest losses, both in quantity and quality. The need for development of infrastructure as it relates to the transportation of perishable products is glaring as the state and adequacy of transport network determines delivery of goods to the consumer market. Other effects of inadequate and bad roads on rural development initiatives include; community isolation from services and markets, high transport costs, spoilt crops, retarded development, deprivation and poverty. The project will develop a food transport strategy that will revolve round the existing road network within farm settlements. This will focus on time of harvest, storage time and package facilities. Food storage and collection centres and ports will be setup in conjunction with transporters and retailers. The project will collaborate with Dr Terzungwe Abu, WB consultant based in Scotland who has worked as a Project Leader on a World Bank sponsored Transportation Programme, at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology in Rwanda. He has indicated interest to work with the centre.
f. Socio-economic programme
The programme aims to enhance the relevance and impact of training, research and technologies in CEFTER strategy by ensuring that socio-economic factors are given proper consideration at all stages of the project cycle – identification/needs assessment, preparation, implementation and monitoring. The thrust is to make projects sensitive to the needs and characteristics of rural households and to the economic and institutional environment in which they are implemented. The programme will contribute to project success by applying socio-economic expertise to agriculture and the issue of harvest and post-harvest handling. CEFTER social scientists will also play a leading role in the monitoring and evaluation of project success and impact.
Training will be a key element of the programme. There will be need to strengthen local capacity to identify needs and potential solutions. This may encompass both academic training and research. The Centre will also organise short term courses for farmers and government and industry staff to be taught by CEFTER staff which draw on their professional skills and wealth of experience to ensure that beneficiaries of such courses gain maximum benefits.
g. Food Analysis
This is a branch of analytical Chemistry that is concerned with qualitative and quantitative determination of food composition using standard and fully documented methods.
It is required for all food products as part of quality assurance programme throughout the development process (including raw ingredients), through production to the market.