Loss-free agriculture – science or an art?

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Pakistan has a very fertile land and a variety of soil. It has variation in its soil as well as in its climatic conditions, which is very favorable for the production of field crops, fruits and vegetables. Ranging from tropical to temperate climates, allows growing of various field crops, 40 different kinds of vegetables and 21 types of fruits. However, Pakistan contributes a huge percentage of post-harvest loses. Post-harvest produce losses are poor pre-harvest measures-adoption of poor production techniques and varieties with low shelf life, imbalance use of nutrients, insect pest and disease infestation and a biotic stresses; low tech harvesting procedures-non-application of pre-harvest recommended treatments/practices, harvesting at improper stage and improper and improper care at harvest; and post-harvest problems-non-removal of field heat, dumping produce, moisture condensation causing pathogen infestation, packaging in bulk without sorting and grading of produce, improper transportation and storage, and distant and time consuming market distribution. Moreover, Pakistani exporters are still facing a lot of problems to reach European markets. In Pakistan, there is both a science and an art to reduce postharvest losses.


THE SCIENCE – EFFECTIVE TECHNOLOGIES


Many know that insufficient use of effective technologies from harvesting to processing to storage is a major cause of post-harvest losses in Pakistan. Often we refer to these types of technology as hard infrastructure: mechanical harvesters, threshers, dryers, storage structures as well as roads and access to electricity. The design, construction, and operation of these technologies is where we think of the science being involved. Advancement and introduction of latest machinery and technology can reduce losses and increase farm income.


THE ART -APPROPRIATE SOFT INFRASTRUCTURE ENVIRONMENT


The art, then, involves how these technologies end up being used by real farmers, managers, and communities. This happens when the appropriate “soft infrastructure” environment is in place. Thesurrounding environment enabled farmers to be better able to evaluate and adopt innovations which led to enhanced efficiency, including those that reduced post-harvest loss.


A FEW KEY ELEMENTS OF SOFT INFRASTRUCTURE


The friendship between Turkey and Pakistan derives its strength from the bonds of brotherhood. This traditional, deep rooted brother-hood is the greatest asset of the two countries. The government of Turkey and Pakistan must take effective and courageous measures by introducing important reforms to transform both countries economies to be governed by free market economic principles and a loss-free agriculture. This support system is interesting because if one had driven down the road in rural areas of Pakistan, it would have been difficult to see or touch the elements of that system. This system formed soft infrastructure needed to support effective agricultural management – in contrast, to the visible nature of hard infrastructure. Womens self-help groups are an example of soft infrastructure. Some elements of this system are:


1) Local experience, with adaptation


As specified in the classic adoption literature, our community had its share of early adopters, who sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully, led the charge to improve their farming operations. However, adaptation to the local needs of farming in our region generally was required, even for innovations that had been “successfully” adopted elsewhere.


2) Multiple, credible, confirming sources of info


Adoption by the majority of farmers did not occur just because one early adopter reported a success. Instead, those farmers in the next cohorts of adoption (early majority and majority) sought out multiple sources of information to confirm the early adopter reports of success. The role of the extension agent and research reports were important; as well as the informed opinion of key agribusiness influencers. Not all the information needed to be uniformly positive; however, a reinforcing feedback system operated (informally) so that a consensus emerged.


3) Assurance of technical support


A key component of the feedback system related to resolution of problems. If a mechanical component of the innovation failed or if its expected performance wasnt achieved consistently, farmers needed to be confident that support would be available to respond to those issues. The extension/research system on the public side and private sector suppliers were essential to responding to those needs.


4) The capability for organizational innovation


In some instances, the economics of employing the innovation exceeded the scale of the typical farmer. However, if the innovation was employed among a number of farmers, the benefits could be provided as an economically attractive option. Therefore, in addition to changing the technology of farming, organizational innovation was required. These innovations took various forms (informal farmer groups, cooperatives, and adaptation of offerings of private firms).


According to some experts assert that reducing postharvest loss is not rocket science. This statement probably stems from the notion that creating appropriate technologies is nota particularly complex topic. Indeed, much of the technology we need already exists. It is important, however, to focus on how innovations are adopted – the art – for loss reduction and more broadly, for making supply chains more efficient and resilient overall.


The authors are from the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan, and Selcuk University, Konya, Turkey.


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Published in: Volume 07 Issue 09

Short Link: http://www.technologytimes.pk/?p=15340