There is need for research and advocacy on good agricultural practices geared towards sustainable agriculture. Pre-harvest conditions of food crops have direct impact on the nutritional and overall quality of harvested foods. Toxins accumulated in crops as a result of irrigation using water with high levels of salts like Chloride and Sodium manifest on leaves and fruits as burns and discolorations reducing expected yield and market value. Repeated irrigation results into leaching of minerals causing a pile up in the lower soils. With the increasing shortage of safe water for domestic use and agriculture globally coupled with the ever increasing urban population and poor sewage management especially in the developing countries, sewage water is being used for irrigation purposes Scott et al (2004). It is estimated by the IRC 2005 report “Wastewater irrigation: sewage waters a tenth of world’s crops“ that one tenth of world food is produced using sewage water. Heavy metals and bacteria absorbed by plants end up in plates with adverse health implications on the consumers.
Farmers in the rural should be sensitized on the need for using mild chemicals by hazard as classified by the World Health Organization, with shorter pre harvest intervals and persistence for pest and disease control. An integrated approach in pest and disease management involving biological, mechanical and chemicals as the very last resort has proved to be workable and cost effective.
Africa experiences huge postharvest losses caused by deterioration and rotting of fresh farm produces, which implies that the final product reaching the consumer is nutritionally flat. Temperature directly affects rate of respiration of the products and hence deterioration, rotting and reduced shelf life. In most developing countries it is difficult to talk about food nutrition before first addressing food shortage. A number of factors ranging from changing climatic variables, scarcity of resources and knowledge, insistence on traditional livelihoods to the expense of modern trends in agriculture among others factors have contributed to this phenomenon.
Awareness campaigns on hygienic handling of foods at all levels of production is key in ensuring global food safety.
Investment by stakeholders and governments in knowledge and infrastructure in cold chain management, waste water recycling, advocacy and adoption of resistant crop varieties to harsh climate, pests and diseases will guarantee food availability and enhanced nutrition at all times.
Scott, C. ; Faruqui, N.I. and Raschid, L. (eds) (2004). Wastewater use in irrigated agriculture: confronting the livelihood and environmental realities. Wallingford, UK: CAB International; Ottawa, Canada, IDRC; Colombo, Sri Lanka, IWMI. - 208 p. - ISBN 0851998232
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Related links and resources:
Synthesis of Guiding Principles on Agriculture Programming for Nutrition
FSN forum debate “Linking Agriculture, Food Systems, and Nutrition: What’s your perspective?”
FAO Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division