SC State researcher part of global leadership to ensure food security from post-harvest loss

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The need to feed an expanding population around the world has increased and many people are undernourished as a result of post-harvest losses, which can occur along the food production chain.

To help address the fight against global food hunger, researchers in the United States and abroad have teamed up to establish the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for the Reduction of Post-Harvest Losses.  SC State University Associate Professor of biological sciences and Entomologist Dr. Rizana Mahroof is part of this five-year, $8.5 million grant funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

This federal government initiative will assist developing countries in reducing post-harvest losses of durable staple commodities, and is initially targeting feed the future countries such as Ghana, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Guatemala. These countries suffer food losses as a result of ineffective drying techniques, improper storage methods, insects and mold damage on stored commodities and issues related to transportation.

Much of the work will be conducted by teams of researchers that aim to implement educational programs for farmers, establish extension programs and adopt promising technologies to minimize post-harvest losses. The program targets small-scale farmers, farm cooperative members, farm enterprises, agribusiness enterprises and professionals from universities and research organizations.

Mahroof is a member of the research team that will travel and work in Ethiopia and Guatemala. The team’s first trip to Ethiopia took place from April 25 – May 4. The in-country coordinating partner, Mekelle University, hosted the team and accompanied its members to various smallholder farmer sites and to research centers.

Golesha, South Tigray

Mahroof (fourth from right) and research team members visit a farmer’s site in Golesha, South Tigray (Ethiopia).
The team met with representatives from various agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture-Government of Ethiopia, Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research and Kulumsa Agricultural Research Center.

Additionally, the team had opportunities to interact with a few industry partners such as GrainPro Inc., NAS Foods P.L.C. and with the Feed the Future team leader in the USAID Mission office.

The trip helped the team better understand and appreciate post-harvest loss issues and existing strategies for mitigating losses. It also helped them to target and explore solutions that may provide pathways out of poverty for women in the country who may not fare as well as their male counterparts in agriculture and rural employment.

“In addition to the direct engagement efforts to minimize post-harvest losses in the agricultural settings, this project also aims in addressing some of the cross-cutting issues like gender, nutrition and environment.  One of the major approaches is to address the gender dimension of agricultural and post-harvest practices, with particular attention to women’s involvement,” stated Mahroof.

Farm stored sorghum damaged by mold and insects

Farm stored sorghum damaged by mold and insects.
The project is led by Kansas State University and is a collaborative effort with Oklahoma State University, the University of Illinois-Urbana, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Kentucky and SC State University.

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for the Reduction of Post-Harvest Loss is a strategic and applied research and education program aimed at providing global leadership in food security by reducing post-harvest losses and food wastes of durable staple crops like grains, oil seeds, legumes, root crops, and seeds, and their processed value-added products. 

“I am honored to represent the university. It shows that SC State has the expertise, commitment and the capability to work with this collaborative grant and with other universities. The project has a major impact on the university and offers our biology students the opportunity to be involved and trained in various aspects of the research,” stated Mahroof.

Mahroof’s expertise is in post-harvest entomology and her current research explores various sustainable techniques to control insects. Mahroof’s research is to study biology and ecology of stored product insects in several of the post-harvest systems and to implement techniques such as physical methods, semio-chemical-based management tactics and ecological-based methods to manage insects.

Mahroof’s research team plans to go on a second trip to Ethiopia in July this year.

For more information on Mahroof’s research projects, call (803) 536-8174 or visit our website at and search for the Department of Biological and Physical Sciences.