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A new programme to develop low-cost technologies to reduce post-harvest losses will be launched in Ethiopia this year.

The six-year programme will run at Jimma University College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine (JUCAVM) in Ethiopia, with US$3 million funding from the Canadian International Development Agency.

Post-harvest losses include the rotting of produce and damage during the storage, packaging and transportation of goods that leads to consumer rejection.

"Post-harvest crop losses can range from 30–70 per cent depending on the crop," says Tessema Astatkie, director of Canada's Post-Harvest Management to Improve Livelihoods Project, which is a partner of the programme.

Solomon Demeke, director of JUCAVM, says the largest post-harvest losses are for plants such as flowers, though significant losses are also made in the vegetable and fruit markets.

According to Astatkie, the programme centres around Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Master of Science (MSc) degrees in post-harvest management to be run by a newly-established department at Jimma University.

The postgraduate students, through research, will be expected to develop ideas and disseminate them through demonstration sites to farmers in the regions around Jimma. Such projects will look to develop advances in technologies, such as prolonging the lives of perishable goods in storage with cooling systems.

Astatkie says the technologies developed will be designed to be low-cost and use locally available equipment and materials.

The programme will also include training in aspects of organisational management, and look to improve other areas, such as processing methods and packaging.

"We will initially focus on products currently experiencing higher losses," says Demeke. These include fruits such as avocado, mango, banana and papaya, as well as leafy vegetables. "We will then look at [reducing losses in] other agricultural products involving both crop and animal production."

The university will begin preparing the curriculum and facilities for the programmes in June. Demeke says the BSc programme will begin in late 2009 and the MSc programme in 2011.

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