Postharvest problems and practices in rural Mexico: Summary of diagnostic surveys with smallholder farmers
In Mexico, the estimated 2.8 million farmers who produce maize (Zea mays) do so under a great diversity of environmental and economic situations (Eakin et al., 2014). Many of these farmers are considered smallholders, who operate on less than 20 hectares, and in rural areas without adequate access to land tenure, capital, credit, and other inputs that may contribute to adequate maize yields (Eakin et al., 2015). Under such production constraints, these smallholder farmers may not produce enough maize to satisfy their consumption needs in the home (which may include feeding livestock), or to sell in order to recuperate some of the costs of production (Appendini and Quijada, 2016; Hellin et al., 2009). Additionally, maize is subject to losses due to poor handling and pests throughout the production system. After harvest and during storage, postharvest losses have been estimated as high as 25% in parts of Mexico (Arahon Hernandez and Carballo Carballo, 2014; García-Lara and Bergvinson, 2007). Such losses not only limit the quantity of food available for home use, but can also result in quality losses, reducing opportunities for farmers to sell their grain when prices are high, or even rendering the grain unsafe for human consumption (Affognon et al., 2015; Jones and Alexander, 2014). Adequate postharvest practices—all practices conducted during and after harvest, including drying and storing—can help prevent these losses, while also helping farmers maintain the desired quality of their grain for its end use.