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Postharvest Loss Management and Food Safety Research Program

Food insecurity is a long-standing challenge in Haiti. While the country has made progress, Haiti’s agricultural sector has suffered from natural disasters, low farm productivity, a lack of resources and other challenges. Among these: a high rate of food loss after crops are harvested — between the field and the market.

Haiti’s smallholder farmers, who work farms that average just 1.5 hectares, face issues that include getting products to market before the food spoils, limited investment in mechanization, poor storage conditions and inefficient processing. 

AREA researchers are working to introduce new postharvest technologies and practices to reduce crop loss and improve marketability of food products. 

AREA’s program has two objectives:

  1. Identify ways for Haitians to more safely handle agricultural products and train farmers and small-scale food processors to decrease postharvest losses and to improve management practices and food-processing operations.
  2. Contribute to food safety research by examining aflatoxin contamination in crops in Haiti.

Postharvest crop losses

Haitian farmers suffer high postharvest crop losses: up to one-third for cereal crops and nearly 50 percent for fruits and vegetables. Additionally, foodborne illnesses are widespread because of inadequate agriculture practices and poor personal hygiene, which ultimately impact the marketability of food products as well as posing a risk to human health. 

AREA researchers and staff have held numerous training events to help decrease postharvest losses and improve food safety and the business operations of food companies. Some examples:

Aflatoxin study

 AREA lab technician Charles Bency Apollon (left) trains student intern Romial Louis how to use technologies — a DryCard and grain moisture hygrometer — to determine the moisture content of dry agricultural products.
Working closely with the State University of Haiti’s College of Agriculture (FAMV), AREA researchers are also studying storage conditions with the goal of reducing aflatoxin in crops that are important for food security and nutrition in Haiti such as corn, rice, sorghum and peanuts. Recent investigations have shown that these crops contain high levels of aflatoxin, a toxin produced by fungi that can contaminate food supplies and pose serious health hazards.

In addition to investigating the level of aflatoxin in products stored at public food markets, AREA aims to help strengthen the capabilities of FAMV’s mycotoxin research unit through this research project. 

Additional resources