African post-harvest managers learn from Australian experience
9 June 2012
A delegation of African post-harvest managers have visited farms, research institutes and industry organisations in the Murray Irrigation Area of NSW over three days to learn about management of maize and rice, under a University of Sydney program funded by the Australian Government.
The group of ten African mid-career professionals working in the agricultural industry are visiting the University of Sydney for four weeks to complete a course in post-harvest management of maize, rice and legumes. Associate Professor Robyn McConchie, from the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, is leading the training funded by AusAID as part of the Australia Awards in Africa initiative.
Associate Professor McConchie's professional development program has attracted $1.2 million over two years from AusAID, with the program due to run four times over the next two years and train up to 80 African mid- to senior-level post-harvest managers from government and private sector organisations. Components of the course are being delivered in Africa with partners in Stellenbosch, South Africa and Kumasi, Ghana.
"Looking after grains and legumes after they have been harvested is a hugely important step in this agricultural sector. When being stored, the quality of grains and legumes is subject to all sorts of storage conditions, such as moisture and temperature, and the threat of insect and vertebrate pests or fungi," explained Associate Professor McConchie.
"The biggest issue for maintaining post-harvest quality in Africa is control of mycotoxins and control of storage pests."
"Our seven week program not only equips participants with a detailed understanding and applied knowledge of modern post-harvest issues, but it also facilitates the building of networks within Africa among participants, as well as developing cross Africa-Australia linkages in this area."
Coming from nine African countries - Burundi, Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Malawi, Togo and Uganda- the ten participants in this first cohort of the program work for a variety of organisations, including government departments of agriculture, universities and agricultural research centres.
"The program examines post-harvest management and handling of grains in both Australia and Africa, and actively allows participants to apply this knowledge to their own workplaces. We want to strengthen their management, planning, problem solving, communication and outreach skills, making our participants real agents of change in their home countries," said Associate Professor McConchie.
Particularly focusing on storage and pest/disease control, the Australian segment of the courseincludes many field visits, including the University of Sydney's Plant Breeding Institute in Cobbitty, CSIRO Food and Nutritional Sciences, along with the Ricegrowers' Association in Leeton and Maize Australia in Griffith.
The group will spend four days in Queensland touring Warwick and Toowoomba to examine maize and legume quality and post-harvest handling.
"We've designed the program with a combination of lectures and site visits so participants can learn about key technologies in post-harvest management that can be applied to the African context," said Associate Professor McConchie.
"One of the farmers who we visited showed us a small mill on their farm that was created to add value to maize grain. In addition to marketing non-GMO maize to Europe and Asia, he also produced flour and grits for local food processors. The visit to Leeton and Griffith was invaluable for showing participants the importance of tailoring post-harvest activities to a specific market in order to increase revenue," Associate Professor McConchie said.
"We're really keen for participants to make a genuine difference in their home countries after this course, so we're emphasising the development of knowledge and skills around change-management, communication and leadership, so that the technical knowledge they gain is effectively transferred to their workplaces and disseminated amongst colleagues," explained Associate Professor McConchie.
"With new knowledge and leadership skills, the participants will be able to create more effective practice in Africa's public and private grain management environment."
Contact: Associate Professor Robyn McConchie
Phone: 02 8627 1045