Policies and strategies to reduce postharvest losses in sub-Saharan Africa: progress and challenges

18 March 2022

The need for more rigorous efforts to reduce postharvest losses is widely recognized. However, policy formulation and implementation are still very slow. Understanding and addressing the reasons behind the slow pace of progress – which include the lack of comprehensive loss data – is key to enabling countries to develop and implement effective postharvest loss policies. APHLIS is assisting countries to access the information that they need to meet their national and international policy commitments on postharvest losses.

Wheat farmers, Ethiopia. Credit: Bioversity International. Some rights reserved: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

The 3rd All Africa Postharvest Loss Conference and Exhibition (AAPHCE, www.aaphce.com) featured important sessions on managing postharvest losses, including policy, measurement, causes and impacts of postharvest losses. Also discussed was the impact of COVID-19 on postharvest losses and lessons for future crises. The policy session – moderated by APHLIS staff – examined progress by countries and regional bodies in developing and implementing policies and strategies to support the postharvest loss reduction goals identified in the 2014 Malabo Declaration and the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Under the Malabo Declaration, African Union governments have committed to cutting postharvest losses in half by 2025. At the global level, the third target of Sustainable Development Goal 12 is “to halve per capita food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including postharvest losses, by 2030.

At the AAPHCE, presentations were made by representatives from Tanzania, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe on their postharvest loss reduction strategies. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional economic body, also made a presentation. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the University of Zimbabwe joined the session to address issues common to all countries and to examine the overall state of postharvest loss policy development on the continent.

The presentation by Zimbabwe focused on the role that policy can play to minimize its postharvest losses, which became more pronounced following an increase in crop production during the 2019/2020 season. A lack of data on the scale of postharvest losses continues to challenge decision-makers and impede the deployment of resources. The presentation indicated the need to align Zimbabwe’s postharvest loss strategy with the country’s recent National Agricultural Policy Framework (NAPF).

Tanzania developed its postharvest loss strategy in 2018. The implementation of the strategy is underway, with a pilot programme covering 13 regions and 56 districts. A technical platform links actors from the public and development sectors with the farming community and the private sector. As in Zimbabwe, the lack of data makes effective food loss and waste management exceedingly difficult. At the request of the Ministry of Agriculture, APHLIS is collaborating with Tanzania on data collection and capacity development.

Ethiopia presented its postharvest strategy, which focuses on improving postharvest management along grain value chains. The strategy, which is currently being piloted in four regions, calls for the establishment of a national postharvest technical working group with members drawn from the farming community, research institutions, development partners and the private sector. The lack of data on postharvest losses and its negative impact on monitoring and evaluation was highlighted by the speaker.

IGAD is the only regional body with a strategy to support national postharvest loss activities. The strategy focuses on high-level interventions and common needs. The lack of comprehensive data on postharvest losses – an issue that affects all African countries – is given prominence in the IGAD strategy.

FAO’s presentation focused on the new voluntary code of conduct (CoC) for food loss and waste reduction. The CoC provides internationally-recognized, customizable principles and standards for responsible food loss and waste reduction practices. The CoC is a valuable resource for developing national PHL strategies and policies.

A presentation by the University of Zimbabwe dealt with the status of postharvest policy development and implementation in sub-Saharan Africa generally. The presentation was based on a study carried out by the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), a pan-African network that provides independent evidence to inform policy processes at national and regional levels. The survey results show that clear postharvest loss policies are lacking in the region, and very few countries have postharvest management strategies. Data collection and postharvest loss measurement are significant challenges for many countries.

APHLIS helps countries in sub-Saharan Africa to find the comprehensive loss and impact data that they need to support effective postharvest loss policies and programmes. APHLIS provides estimates of postharvest losses for staple food crops at national and subnational levels across the continent, including percentage weight loss, loss in tonnes and the nutritional and financial impacts of such losses. This information can be used to strengthen value chains, improve food security and monitor the effectiveness of loss reduction exercises. For further information, visit www.aphlis.net or contact us at info@aphlis.net.

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