Rome - Food that 'disappears' from the food chain after harvest owing to spoilage could feed an estimated 48 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa. A project by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the African Union and The Rockefeller Foundation aims to help countries drastically reduce these post-harvest losses by 2030 through strengthening policies and strategies.
"Our work with The Rockefeller Foundation and the African Union to make food supply chains more efficient will benefit the livelihoods of family farmers in Africa and mean less pressure on the environment, which both contribute to our vision of a Zero Hunger world," said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva.
Governments around the world have committed to halving food loss and waste by 2030 under the Sustainable Development Goals. Under the Malabo Declaration in 2014, African Union member countries set themselves the ambitious target of halving post-harvest losses by 2025.
"Much more progress remains ahead us if we are to achieve our ambitious goal of reaching zero hunger in just 12 years," said Rafael Flor, the Director of The Rockefeller Foundation's YieldWise initiative, a $130 million investment to reduce food loss and waste. "There is greater awareness today among governments and the private sector that reducing food lost and waste will lead to greater food security. Now we must translate that awareness to action among policymakers and agribusinesses," he said.
"Our objective is to support the African Union and its institutions to develop policy and to design strategic solutions to address food loss and waste with impact at all levels, from policy, capacity building, and research, and at the value chain level with farmers, producers and retailers," said Cephas Taruvinga, FAO's Chief Technical Advisor for the project.
Saving food after harvest
The 18-month project began in February 2017 and is focusing on post-harvest loss of staple crops in the pilot countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as policy support to the African Union Commission.
Post-harvest loss refers to a reduction in the quality and quantity of food - such as cereals, fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and milk - between the farm and the point of sale before it can be eaten.
In Africa, the vast majority of food loss happens between harvest and the point of sale - very little is wasted by consumers after purchase.
FAO estimates indicate that post-harvest losses can reach up to 20% for cereals, 30% for dairy and fish, and 40% for fruit and vegetables. Much of this loss happens because of a lack of technology, limited knowledge in supply chains, limited access to markets, poor infrastructure and inadequate financing.
Halving such losses across Africa requires a holistic, systemic approach which is why the project supports the strengthening of linkages in the food production value chain, improved markets and infrastructure, better technical solutions and supporting governments to provide enabling policies and investments.
"What we want to do is look at not only the technical interventions but also how do you build capacity within existing systems that we have in place. And that's why the collaboration with FAO and the African Union is very important," Flor said.
Partners for strategic solutions
Policy and strategic solutions are being developed and implemented at the African Union and in the pilot countries. Assessments of the extent of post-harvest losses for each country's priority crops are being carried out, including in the maize, milk and tomato supply chains, and technical working groups have been formed to develop national strategies and coordinate post-harvest activities in Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Through the project, over 100 stakeholders and technical staff have been trained in post-harvest management, and, in Tanzania, the FAO Food Loss Analysis Methodology has been incorporated into tertiary training programmes. A Monitoring & Evaluation framework has also been developed to track progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Malabo targets.
Simple, practical solutions are also being piloted such as hermetically-sealed bags that can store grain for longer, and re-useable crates to transport fresh fruits and vegetables to reduce damage during transport. Successful solutions and practices demonstrated through the project will be replicated throughout Africa.
FAO and The Rockefeller Foundation signed a partnership agreement in 2016 to support the food security and development of small-scale producers in sub-Saharan Africa through knowledge sharing and capacity building on food loss and waste reduction, value addition/processing, market linkages and impact measurement. These activities are also contributing to the ongoing post-harvest loss programmes under The Rockefeller Foundation's Food Loss Initiative and FAO's Global Initiative on Food Losses and Waste.
Source: Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations