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:
- 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.
- 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:
- Haitian entrepreneurs gain skills to build food businesses: Two-day workshop on the fundamentals of starting and running a successful food-processing business in Haiti.
- Haitian businesses learn space-age innovation to improve food handling: Two-day training on how to prevent contamination when handling meat, seafood, produce and other food products.
- Professionals aim to lower Haiti’s high level of crop losses: Two-day workshop on the causes of postharvest losses, best practices for harvesting, and the critical role played by storage, packaging and transportation.
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.
- Fact sheet: English | French
- Research: Haiti Perspectives, Winter 2017, L’a atoxine menace-t-elle la sécurité alimentaire en Haïti?_ Francaise