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.
The formal unveiling and launch of the McGovern-Dole Post-Harvest Loss Reduction Innovations Lab on August 1, 2022, was officiated by Hon. Madalitso Kambauwa, Wirima, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture (MoA), supported by Dr. Agnes Mbachi Mwangwela, Vice Chancellor of LUANAR. Mr. Bruce Boyea, Senior International Program Specialist for McGovern-Dole Branch at United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Dr. Jagger Harvey from KSU, participated virtually.
The Deputy Minister of Agriculture thanked the Government of the United States, especially the two senators George McGovern and Robert Dole who championed the bill that made possible the McGovern-Dole Program.
In her speech, the Deputy Minister recognized that minimizing post-harvest losses is the only option to rapidly increase, per capita, food availability. She said, it is therefore, gratifying that Nascent Solutions, Kansas State University (KSU)’s USAID-sponsored Feed the Future Innovation Lab for the Reduction of Post-Harvest Loss (PHLIL) and LUANAR with the support from the USDA McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program, have stepped-up their research efforts to develop and scale innovations to reduce post-harvest losses in the country.
She said that what was more striking about the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program, is its sustainability strategy. Program participation requires that the sponsored activities, including provision of meals be assumed by the host government or local community after USDA support is phased out. Furthermore, she expressed the delight in learning that the Nascent-led post-harvest management component of the program, involving KSU and LUANAR, is specifically designed to achieve that exact objective. She reiterated that this snapshot of the McGovern-Dole program progress made to date, directly aligns with the priorities of the Government of Malawi, and that they look forward to continual support from the United States Department of Agriculture to support Home Grown School Meals program that promotes the use of diversified, locally produced foods which is paramount for, not just sustainability, but for meaningful nutrition outcomes.
Lastly, on behalf of the Government of Malawi, the Deputy Minister promised that her agency would collaborate with the LUANAR and the stakeholders to ensure that the equipment and services are available to farmers associations and cooperatives as well as researchers and students whose work will enhance and expand, the outcomes of the innovations.
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