Government to partner varsities in tackling post-harvest losses

Source: Government to partner varsities in tackling post-harvest losses | Sunday News (Business)

Judith Phiri, Business Reporter

THE Ministry of Energy and Power Development has said it will be working with universities in the country to come up with innovative strategies and facilities to tackle post-harvest losses.

Farmers have had to throw away their produce or let crops rot in the fields as most cannot afford to harvest if there is no market or if they do not have proper storage facilities.

Statistics have shown that more than a third of the food grown by farmers never gets to the table and goes to food waste, with Africa said to be losing 30 to 50 percent of its food to post-harvest food losses.

In an interview, Energy and Power Development Permanent Secretary, Dr Gloria Magombo said utilising the potential of renewable energy, there was a need to innovate in food processing and preservation of harvests.

“We want to work with universities to ensure the uptake and the reduction in the cost of solar food driers. Farmers who are doing fruits and vegetables can dry their products and later sell them to avoid post-harvest losses.

“You will find that in areas like marketplaces, there is a lot of food waste, all that food can be reduced if we apply ourselves and use solar driers which can then preserve the food so that it is properly packaged and stored,” she said.

She said not only was drying key to the preservation of the harvests but the dried fruits and vegetables also tended to be a delicacy and sometimes expensive to buy.

The Permanent Secretary said the solar industry itself was an opportunity for entrepreneurs.

“People can sell small systems such as solar latent for charging systems which can be used to charge the phones which can be five watts, so there is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to set up shops within our townships to sell these technologies. But as the Government, our long-term wish is to ensure that all the critical minerals and materials like lithium we process them further locally to a point where the value addition will allow us to produce the storage systems that we need, not just for homes but also for the utility to us,” she said.

Dr Magombo said there was a need to bring more renewables into the energy sector.

She said certain minerals have been declared strategic minerals and coincidentally these are mainly critical materials for renewable energy.

“Apart from diamonds the Finance Act of 2024 which was done recently to implement the National Budget declared certain minerals as strategic minerals and these are coal, copper, nickel and lithium. Lithium is really a critical mineral for us to be able to do energy storage systems, we need to unlock value from the mineral,” she said.

Zimbabwe has the largest lithium reserves in Africa and the Government under the efforts of the Second Republic is positioning the country as a lithium hub.

As a base metal, lithium is used in the manufacturing of batteries and its demand has risen sharply due to the global demand in electric vehicles, particularly in developed countries that are forging ahead with plans to phase out fossil fuels like petrol and diesel in the coming years.