According to the 2017 Postharvest Loss Assessment, it was found that in Rwanda rough handling, transport and lack of temperature management resulted in high produce losses. Moreover, there were a lack of places where growers or traders could pay a small fee for services such as having their produce packed in improved containers and then cooled and stored for a few days before marketing.
Given the current market situation, postharvest solutions that increase the quality and life of vegetables, through handling, storage and better packaging can greatly enhance farmers’ income. The Horticulture Innovation Lab "Reducing Postharvest Losses in Rwanda" project is working to address issues in the country’s horticulture value chain. Implemented by Agribusiness Associates Inc., the project aims to increase food security in Rwanda, by understanding and identifying the most efficient ways to reduce postharvest losses.
The project team has established three Postharvest Training and Services Centers (PTSC) in Rwanda. These PTSCs are providing training, demonstrations and services on postharvest handling, improved management, and appropriate technologies. A ‘fee for service’ model is instituted for activities such as grading, packing, pre-cooling and cold storage.
“I was impressed by the staff’s compassion, the way they regularly assist me with technical advice and a warm welcome in general," said Dan Muzungo, a french bean exporter who has utilized the PTSC.
Before he was exposed to the centers, Muzungo was facing challenges in his business due to lack of adequate working space, information and linkages to other farmers. Another major issue was proper postharvest storage of vegetables to ensure a quality product.
“The cold-room at PTSC keeps the harvest fresh and is the best place to store vegetables before exporting," Muzungo said. "This facility has helped me in increasing my profits substantially.”
Since he has started using the PTSC packhouse and cold-room, the exporter has been getting positive feedback on the quality of the produce. With the positive experience he has so far, he is willing to pay to use a cold room in the future.
PTSC staff are continuously working with him and providing him with any guidance or knowledge needed on using cold room successfully. During a training on using the cold room, Muzungo learned to keep the cold room closed, ensure cleanliness and avoid putting anything else except the produce ready for shipment in the cold room. Muzungo feels that once current strategies are followed adequately, they will be perfect for increasing the quality of the cold room service.
When asked if there is anything else that he wanted to share, he said: "just a vote of thanks."
This story was shared during the Rwanda Postharvest Conference in Kigali, Rwanda on June 6, 2019.