Climate change is one of the most serious environmental threats facing mankind worldwide. Climate change is accelerating as a result of human activities, and may have an adverse effect on agricultural production in Africa (Zieruogel, et. al, 2006). This is evidenced in the tropics, particularly Nigeria, by the overall trend in the maximum and minimum temperatures increasing. It creates shifts in rainfall patterns leading to floods as well as droughts with poor and unpredictable yields. Pests and crop diseases migrate in response to climate variation and pose a potential threat to the agricultural system.
Much of the research on global climate change and the impact on food systems focuses on the effects of climate change on agricultural production—such as the impact on land use, pollution and biodiversity—at the expense of post-harvest value chain issues such as storage, processing and packaging. The effect of climate change on postharvest value chains cannot be ignored. For example, higher temperatures as a result of climate change will reduce shelf-life of stored products while lower temperatures will extend the shelf-life. This will have serious post-harvest implication on all crops, especially perishable foods which easily spoil with increases in temperature. Furthermore, the proliferation of pests and crop disease can increase due to temperature increases and pose a great threat to effective storage.
Based on the the above evidence, it's clear that there is a need to address the effects of climate change on storage, processing and packaging of agricultural products. We need a platform for interaction and an exchange of ideas and experience among—with input from climate change scientists—to articulate a way forward on climate change adaptation in relation to post-harvest management of food crops. This will enable us to further push research in the area of post-harvest management, especially in regard to issues of storage, preservation, processing and packaging. It will also educate stakeholders on the impact of climate on regional post-harvest value chains so that we can better identify major opportunities and challenges facing food security. We very much need to develop research hypotheses to test the bio-physical, entomological and chemical factors that affect food safety and storage.
There is a need for holistic approach to address the effects of climate change on agriculture, and we shouldn't treat these issues as separate. As a result, we need the engagement of multiple disciplines and researchers to fully understand the causes and drivers of climate (and other types of) vulnerability. There is also a great need for scientists involved in climate change studies to continue disseminating their findings to stakeholders, like government ministries, policy-makers, and extension agents, in order to improve adaptation and combat future challenges. This will assist various governments in the region, to prevent or reduce the impact of climate change on food security through appropriate responses to postharvest challenges.
This post was written by Folorunsho Olayemi of NSPRI, Ilorin, Nigeria.