Poor management of farm produce, the high prevalence of large grain borers, weevil infestation and mycotoxin contamination contribute significantly to food insecurity in Malawi. Large amounts of grain are destroyed or become unfit for human consumption. According to the Catholic Development Commission of Malawi (Cadecom), post-harvest loss is sometimes as high as 600,000 tones (Malawi Times, 2017). Molds and mycotoxins are estimated to contaminate about 25% of global food; cause cancer; is associated with stunting in children’s development; negative birth outcomes; immunosuppression; and contribute to food loss and waste (SDG 12.3). Fortunately, these challenges are addressable through good pre- and post-harvest practices.
It is from this backdrop, that Nascent collaborated with its technical partners, Kansas State University (KSU) and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), to develop innovative climate-smart agriculture interventions under the 2019 McGovern-Dole program, which promotes the uptake of farming and post-harvest practices, which reduce infestation, and the impact of mycotoxins on farm produce. One such innovation is the post-harvest loss reduction lab.
The $1 million Post-Harvest Lost Reduction Innovations Lab is a tailored, evidence-based nutrition-sensitive intervention, which aims at addressing the prevalence of mycotoxins and pesticide residues, pervasive food hazards that are detrimental to infant, child, and maternal health. This project component was realized thanks to the support and collaboration of the Malawi Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), the management and technical teams at KSU and LUANAR, as well as their students, who conducted preliminary studies to support the project, especially the analysis of the drivers pre- and post-harvest interventions and school garden policy and models for pupil-driven local food systems.