SE062 Reducing Post-Harvest Losses in Agriculture: A Ceres2030 perspective: Combining a cost model and evidence synthesis to determine effective interventions to reduce post-harvest losses.


  • International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
  • Cornell University
  • International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
  • Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany (BMZ)
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)

Reducing food waste and loss are long-standing challenges undermining efforts to end hunger, improve farmer incomes, and promote sustainable production and consumption. Understanding where and why losses occur along the food chain is essential to effective policy interventions. For instance, storage is an important element in food security stability but getting stockholding wrong exacerbates waste and undermines farmers' prices. Addressing storage-related challenges requires more than just an understanding of recent technological advances. It also requires better-informed policy. That's where Ceres2030 makes a contribution. Ceres2030: sustainable solutions to end hunger, is a joint initiative of Cornell University, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).

Ceres2030 weds an economic model that puts a cost on interventions with a series of evidence reviews that identify interventions that proven to be effective in tackling hunger. Using our work on post-harvest food losses to illustrate the approach, this side event will look at how economic models, machine learning, systematic reviews, and other research tools can help policymakers and donors assess financial costs and identify effective ways to reduce waste and food loss. We will invite both policy makers and practitioners to join us on the panel to discuss the research findings and its implications for public investments to realize SDG 2.

Key speakers/presenters

  • David Laborde, Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute
  • Brighton Mvumi, Lecturer, University of Zimbabwe
  • Maximo Torrero, Assistant Director General, Economic and Social Development Department, FAO
  • Esther Penunia, Secretary-General, Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development
  • Chair: Sophia Murphy, Senior Specialist, Agriculture and Trade, IISD

Main themes/issues discussed

Ceres2030 is a three-year joint initiative of Cornell University, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). The project is researching two questions: What is the most effective way to end hunger sustainably? And, what would it cost?

The side event focused on preliminary findings from the Ceres2030 research on post-harvest losses (or PHL), which is the work of one of eight research syntheses teams looking at the evidence on effective interventions to end hunger.

Two panellists from the project, Mvumi and Laborde, presented the evidence research and modelling issues related to PHL, followed by the two respondents: Torrero, who complemented the presentation with findings from the State of Food and Agriculture 2019 report, which included research on the same topic, and Penunia, who spoke about experiences with successful PHL interventions used by farm organizations in Asia. The panelists clarified definitions and reviewed the primary causes of PHL (they can be economic, if there is no easy market to sell the crop; physical, if there is no pest-proof storage; or related to infrastructure gaps, including all-season roads, energy to power a cold chain, or a communications grid that ensures prices are
widely known in the farming community.

Summary of key points

Public investment in PHL remains low, despite its proven effectiveness for food security, including supporting producer income, limiting environmental resource waste, and improving consumer access to food.

Although PHL is not a new problem, and although there are many technologies available, solving the problem is not simple. There are often complex reasons for losses, and the explanations vary in different contexts and with different crops. The Ceres2030 team weds a general equilibrium model for costing interventions with a series of evidence syntheses that allow a dynamic assessment of effective interventions to end hunger grounded in documented experience. For example, one of the potentially overlooked
dynamic effects of improved storage and the resulting improved market situation for crops that the model
can reveal is the risk of increasing the environmental footprint of production over time, as crops that were not very lucrative before may become more so as losses decline.

Using computer-assisted search tools to mine and organize the vast published knowledge on agricultural interventions to end hunger, the PHL team is building a more comprehensive picture of what interventions work, why, and where the biggest evidence gaps lie.

Key take away messages

There are many different available PHL interventions. Success requires that policy-makers develop a clear understanding of many factors, including: the market conditions, the supporting infrastructure that a PHL intervention might require, any natural resource constraints on production (especially if reduced losses might trigger an expansion in production), and the dynamics of the markets concerned (where is the crop expected to be sold and what are the prospects for growth in those markets?)

There are important research gaps in the assessment of PHL interventions, especially interventions intended for adoption by small-scale producers. Farmers have found it helpful to work with an intermediary structure that is accountable to them, such as a cooperative or a local government extension service, which can help manage the investment, as well as any debt repayment and ongoing maintenance. The scale of most PHL interventions make coordinated management important.

Smart interventions to reduce PHL will boost food system efficiency, which in turn will address several SDG 2 targets, including reducing hunger and increasing the income of small-scale food producers. Ceres2030 can help by providing the information decision-makers need on costs, the share needed from public funds, and evidence on which interventions work and in which contexts.


CFS 46 Side Event: SE062 Reducing Post Harvest Losses in Agriculture


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