Horticulture is a field of agriculture that involves the growing of short growing season, averaging three months, offers quick yields and returns on investments despite the high rate of post-harvest losses. In Tanzania, with the Government putting forward a National Strategy for Youth Involvement in Agriculture (NYSIA) for 2016-2021 through the Ministry of Agriculture with the vision to empower youths to participate fully in agricultural development, contribute to economic growth and also address the challenge of unemployment, horticulture is one viable option that would give Tanzanian youths income within a short period.
Horticulture offers employment throughout each crop cycle, an aspect that is advantageous to youth employment, yet this field of agriculture records a high rate of losses. According to research, about 50 to 70% of horticultural output is lost during harvesting, handling, packaging, transport, and marketing, hence, post-harvest management is critical to success in the horticulture sector.
In a study carried out by Adella Ng’atigwa on ways to empower youth to reduce horticulture post-harvest losses in Tanzania, it is revealed that reducing post-harvest loss rates for fresh produce would raise returns to young agripreneurs as well as increase food security in Tanzania.
The study funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) under the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) conducted Enhancing Capacity to Apply Research Evidence (CARE) in Policy for Youth Engagement in Agribusiness and Rural Economic Activities in Africa project states that higher returns will create an enabling environment for reduced post-harvest losses which will lead to a cycle of employment, sustainable income and rural growth.
The study which was conducted in three of the six districts in the Njombe region of the southern highlands of Tanzania amongst youths revealed stages at which losses occur and some of the causes for crop losses include poor storage facilities, poor transport system, inadequate market location, poor handling, and poor packaging materials.
Along with inadequate market location being a major cause for post-harvest losses in the Njombe region of Tanzania, price fluctuations were cited as the most often problem that confronts young horticultural producers.
Following these, Ng’atigwa recommends staggered planting and harvest periods, timely harvesting, ripening while warehoused, cold storage, solar drying, improved agronomic practices, more market places, and improved transport facility as part of ways to manage post-harvest losses, raise returns and attract more youths to the horticulture industry in Tanzania.
The study under the CARE project also recommends that the Tanzanian government can further undertake fiscal reforms and implement recommendations on Tanzania’s blueprint of regulatory reforms to attract private sector investment in areas such as storage, transport, and packaging.
Ng’atigwa added that there is the need to create incentives for the small and medium financial institutions and micro credits financial institutions in Njombe to provide credits with an interest rate that is affordable by youths. Such a youth-friendly credit scheme will help them to access farm inputs and post-harvest management (PHM) innovations.
With Africa driving towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and zero hunger, and Tanzania’s move to improve horticulture, a sector that generates more than USD 354 million per annum, addressing the challenge of post-harvest losses would create a significant impact on the country’s economy and the livelihoods of youths investing their time and money in the sector.