Written by Mekong Institute  

The Mekong Institute was commissioned by the New Zealand Aid Programme (NZAP) to conduct a ten-day training course on “Improving Food Quality and Safety through Good Agricultural and Postharvest Practices in Fresh Produce” from 20 – 31 May 2013. Twenty-seven government officials and private sector staff from Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam participated in the training program. The course objective is to improve participants’ understanding of the importance of Good Agricultural (GAP) and Postharvest Practices in promoting product quality and safety of fruits, vegetables and meats. The course was held at the MI Residential Training Facility in Khon Kaen Province with four structured learning visits in Khon Kaen and Nakhon Pathom Provinces of Thailand.    

The training course was designed and delivered using modular training approach, of which, all participants went through three progressive stages: a) “Learn to do” – training on concepts, techniques and tools; b) “Do to learn” – participants are required to apply what they have learned in their work assignment with proper coaching from assigned advisors; and c) “Share to learn” – participants will have an opportunity to present their group works/findings and share their learning experiences and lessons learned.

Two Resource Persons, a) Mr. John Campbell, the Quality Systems Coordinator from Plant and Food Research, New Zealand, and 2) Ms. Maria Theresa S. Medialdia, the Program Manager of the Mekong Institute, contributed to the design and delivery of the lectures in the training course.

The training course was comprised of four interrelated modules. Module 1 on “Introduction to Product Quality and Safety” illustrated that assurance of good quality and safety of agricultural products was a big challenge and could spell the difference in the countries’ ability to penetrate foreign markets and in gaining the trust and confidence of consumers. Module 2 on “Good Agricultural Practices: Nature and Importance” introduced the importance of GAP in ensuring product quality and food safety of agricultural produce. The principles of GAP and its components were discussed and participants shared about the status of GAP development and application in CLMV countries and learn from the experiences of Thailand. Module 3 on “Postharvest Handling and Marketing for Food Safety and Produce Quality” introduced the participants to the importance of postharvest handling and management and gave an overview on the postharvest losses in developed and developing countries. The application of the agrochemical was also discussed during this module. Module 4 on “ASEAN GAP Inspection and Certification” described the importance of GAP certification and the associated procedures in establishing a national inspection and certification body.

Four structured learning visits were organized for the participants in this course; their understanding of the program’s contents was enhanced through different appreciation visits and interaction with enterprises at Sum Sung Safety and Chemical Free Cooperatives and Betagro Company in Khon Kaen Province and Huai Phra GlobalGAP Farm and SWIFT Company in Nakhon Pathom Province of Thailand.

The evaluations conducted throughout the course confirmed that the objectives were achieved and the learning program was successful. Most of the participants were very satisfied with the program as shown in the total average rating by participants on the usefulness of the learning program at 3.81 and the overall assessment at 3.89. Using a scale of 1 to 5, this indicated that participants found the training program “useful” and were “satisfied” with the program contents and overall training management. All participants appreciated the professionalism of the resource persons, organizing team, and supporting staff. They committed to complete their action plans before the Synthesis and Evaluation Workshop which will be held on 13-15 November 2013.

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