Dr. J. A. Ogejo
Biological Systems Engineering, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Open-air markets are outlets for most agri-food products. The markets provide convenience and competitive pricing for agricultural products, but more importantly, they play a role in ensuring food availability and accessibility. However, huge amounts of agricultural production and food waste generated at these open-air markets present a health risk to users and surrounding communities, if not managed properly. Proper management of the refuse needs no emphasis. Many examples abound in several localities where the typical open-air markets refuse management is dumping in heaps. The heaps' attract vermins and pests as they rot, and on occasion, grazing spots for livestock. This practice is untenable and undesirable, given the important role of these markets to the economies of their rural communities. Another separate but critical issue related to agricultural residues is their use as solid fuel in homes. Using unprocessed biomass such as wood, crop residues, and unprocessed organic waste as fuel for cooking creates household air pollution linked to several respiratory disorders and a major cause of morbidity and mortality globally in developing economies. These household air pollutants present a health risk to those responsible for preparing food (commonly, women and children). Despite efforts by several organizations to promote alternative energy-efficient stoves, the adoption of these technologies is still very low. This presentation explores innovations to (1) manage agricultural residuals to make value-added products, e.g., soil amendments and recycling to improve soil health to increase or improve yields of locally grown foods and (2) develop an agricultural air quality education program to increase awareness and knowledge about household air quality. Implemented simultaneously, providing education, and introducing technology increase the chance of adoption, resulting in improved human health. The presentation takes a systems-based approach that connects new scientific insights and engineering solutions with inputs (and feedback) from decision making organs and the public (users of technology or information) to develop holistic solutions to complex challenges. The ultimate goal is to meet the challenge of providing enough, safe, and accessible food to a growing population in an environmentally sustainable manner.