African Leafy Vegetables Pre-harvest and Post-harvest constrains and Technologies for losses reduction along the field to consumer chain
Keywords:African leafy vegetable (AVLs), post-harvest losses, Sub Saharan Africa (SSA), physiology, technologies
African indigenous leafy vegetables (ALVs) play a significant role in food security in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA). Most of the ALVs are rich in vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, medicinal properties and can withstand both biotic and abiotic stress. Currently, post-harvest losses of AVLs in SSA are more than 50% due to various constrains along “the field to consumer” chain. The constrains influences leaf nutrient value, shelf life and marketability resulting to qualitative and quantitative losses of ALVs. The major pre-harvest factors that leads to losses include; poor production conditions such as unfertile soils, drought stress, unknown mature indices, pest and diseases and poor harvesting techniques. Additionally, post-harvest constrains such as rapid physiological deterioration and microbiological decay, poor infrastructure and poor storage conditions leads to massive losses of ALVs. Post-harvest physiological changes, such as increased respiration and transpiration as well as ethylene biosynthesis highly influences post-harvest quality of vegetables. Ethylene gas is physiologically active at low concentrations and causes significant losses in product shelf life. Despite the importance of ALVs, sufficient research is not yet done to incorporate use of modern strategies and techniques for post-harvest loss reduction of ALVs. However, small scale farmers practice few traditional techniques to preserve and prolong the shelf life of ALVS including, charcoal cooling, fermentation, blanching, solar drying, sun drying and minimum processing and packaging among others. Here we review the available information on pre-harvest and post-harvest constrains of ALVs, as well as strategies and technologies to reduce losses in sub Saharan Africa.
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