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PARTNERSHIPS FOR ENHANCED ENGAGEMENT IN RESEARCH (PEER)
Cycle 8 (2019 Deadline)


Enhancing postharvest technologies and food safety innovations in fresh tomato value chain

PI: Yasinta Muzanila (muzanila@sua.ac.tz), Sokoine University of Agriculture
U.S. Partner: Yaguang Luo, United States Department of Agriculture/ Agricultural Research Service
Project Dates:  November 2019 - October 2021

Project Overview:

8-81 Lab Work
The team analyzes samples in the lab (photo courtesy of Dr. Muzanila).
Although tomato is the dominant vegetable crop produced in Tanzania, it exhibits amongst the highest postharvest losses in the horticulture sector, ranging between 30% and 60%. Various initiatives have shown limited success and no marked effect on postharvest loss reduction in Tanzania. Most of these initiatives are based on a single component of postharvest loss solutions. While past studies suggest the use of a holistic model for postharvest loss reduction, the impact of this model has not been tested in the tomato value chain. By working with partners across the public and private sectors, this PEER project model integrates the building of local capacities through innovative training; the uptake of innovative, small-scale, appropriate postharvest technologies; and research into intersectoral collaboration. The goal of the study is to contribute to improving the productivity of smallholder farmers and reducing postharvest losses through capacity building and uptake of innovative postharvest technologies. The key activities of the project include (1) assessing farmers’ knowledge and behavior regarding postharvest technologies in the tomato value chain; (2) developing a postharvest technology plan in the tomato supply chain; (3) evaluating food safety improvements and quality changes of the postharvest technology plan; and (4) providing training on suitable postharvest handling practices.

The project will leverage the resources and technical support of the U.S. partner Dr. Luo in developing cost-effective postharvest technologies and sanitizers to ensure the quality and microbial safety of tomato. Dr. Luo will participate in the preparation of tailor-made food safety extension materials for capacity building to farmers, extension staffs, and postharvest handlers. The project will integrate its activities into the mainstream of the Tanzania Horticultural Association and local government authorities to operate most efficiently. The project beneficiaries are smallholder farmers, including women and youth, who will be specifically targeted for participation. It is expected that by the end of the project at least 150 smallholder farmers and traders will try out new or improved postharvest handling practices to ensure produce safety, quality, and quantity.

Summary of Recent Activities

In this reporting period ending June 2020, the PI and her team had planned to carry out the following activities: consultation with communities and stakeholders to map information needs and assess existing partnerships; community sensitization and farmers groups formation; and lastly, assessment of farmers’ knowledge and behavior on postharvest technologies and the current postharvest losses in the fresh tomato value chain. However, many of the project activities did not take place following the restrictions associated with the containment of COVID-19 in the country. Instead, the PI reports that they assessed and compiled relevant literature on the level of the postharvest losses and the costs of conventional postharvest technologies in the tomato value chain in the project area and Tanzania in general. Additionally, they assessed and assembled information on the available postharvest technologies in the project area.

The project activities were reinstated on June 29, 2020, following the easing of movement restrictions by the government of Tanzania. The researchers consulted local government authorities and agricultural departments to carry out stakeholder analysis and landscaping. They discussed with Iringa regional and Kilolo district authorities the challenges and opportunities associated with the productivity of tomato sub-sector with particular focus on postharvest losses.

In the next quarter, the project team plans to convene a stakeholder meeting to build a clear roadmap and discuss the desired outcomes for the project together. This will be followed by community sensitization and mobilization of farmer groups to utilize the services of their project. Field data collection work and analysis will also be carried out at 11 selected villages. By the end of September 2020, they plan to convene a stakeholder meeting to communicate the results and define key elements of the postharvest loss reduction strategies. In the same period, they will coordinate the procurement of the postharvest tool to be demonstrated to the stakeholders.


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