“FAO’s approach is clearly a sign of an open-minded culture” Says Kuehne Foundation Managing Director

20/07/2015 - 

20/07/2015 - Kuehne Foundation and FAO signed an agreement last year to cooperate in supporting rural livelihoods through improved logistics. The combined capacities of both organizations increase the impact of their respective efforts to reduce food losses and waste. Kuehne Foundation and FAO are working together to respond to the increasing amount of crises and emergencies to increase the resilience of livelihoods from disasters.

Martin Willhaus, Managing director from Kuehne Foundation reflects on the results of the partnership so far and the importance of boosting public-private partnerships as FAO is doing.

Why is enhancing logistics in the agro-food systems so important for growth and development?

Logistics structures are often and inefficient and not in a good shape in developing countries as they lack sufficient knowledge, infrastructure, and investment. This absence prevents farmers and producers to reach markets, sell their products, and procure at the right time, in the right quantity, and at the right price; thus restraining potential growth and long term development. Indeed, as agriculture and the agro-food industry are often the key contributors to a countries’ GDP and employment, logistics has recently become one of the top priorities to achieve stability and food security. As such, a smoothly functioning logistics is vital for any agro-food system. 

How can this partnership support FAO’s efforts to reduce food losses and waste?

Logistics always interacts with any other organizational discipline as cross-function in a complex system such as in the agro-food industry, for example. Strengthening the logistics capabilities of FAO by ingesting the expertise of the Kuehne Foundation and combining the newly gained knowledge with FAO’s existing processes, will eventually lead to a reduction in food losses and wastes. A key benefit of this partnership is the easy working approach which allows FAO to fully concentrate on its core competences, and at the same time benefits to the outmost of the logistics competences offered by the not-for-profit Kuehne Foundation. The reduction in food losses and waste will be achieved by implementing improved logistics procedures through consulting by Kuehne Foundation staff focusing particularly on better transportation, storage handling, and distribution planning.

The partners’ combined skills also improve the capacity to respond to the increasing amount of crises and emergencies. This lies at the heart of FAO’s objective to increase the resilience of livelihoods to disasters. What is the experience in this field so far?

Kuehne Foundation is already active on three continents with a strong focus on Africa and Asia, working hand in hand with multiple NGOs to increase resilience to disaster, and develop enhanced disaster management capabilities from a logistics’ point of view. We often see that preparedness, good organizational structures and contingency planning including logistics processes are key contributing factors to successfully cope with disaster situations and improve resilience of livelihood from disasters. As a result, we are able to translate our gained experiences from previous projects in Africa into customized support for FAO. The Kuehne Foundation, for example, collaborated with a NGO on a project in Tanzania in which the entire supply chain of Soya beans was improved to enable local producers better access to different markets. Specifically, we re-designed the logistics processes and determined a new warehouse location (centre of gravity position) to qualify for reliable supplies and for the ability to continuously distribute agro-products to the recipients.    

What is your view on the new FAO strategy for partnerships with the private sector?

FAO’s approach is clearly a sign of an open-minded culture and its willingness to integrate external knowledge for the benefit of millions of livelihoods. Today and in times of funding shortages, humanitarian organizations face similar challenges as private organizations; efficiency, accountability, performance measurement, transparency, to name only a few areas shareholders and stakeholders are interested in.

It is therefore reasonable to cooperate with the private sector to absorb some valuable business practices and knowledge while retaining the aims and processes of an UN NGO. In our cooperative case, many logistics principles can equally be applied to private and humanitarian organizations; they are simply the same, but in a different context.

As such, the private sector is a valuable source of information and know-how that can help FAO to improve agro-industry operations and eventually reduce hunger worldwide. We therefore understand FAO’s partnership idea with private organizations as a smart and necessary approach to conduct FAO’s mission more efficiently.        

How can public-private collaborations boost development?

Collaboration between the private and public sector combines the efficiency of the private sector and the effectiveness of the humanitarian world. The strong commitment and motivation of the public sector coupled with appropriate management techniques and competences from the private sector will support humanitarian organizations to run their programs longer, at fewer costs, and to reach out more beneficiaries.

By involving local organizations and businesses in humanitarian operations, and most importantly by transferring knowledge into the countries, humanitarian organisations not only help people in need, but also play an important role in the economic development of a region and a country. In order to achieve these two objectives, the donor and trustee of the foundation, Prof. Klaus-Michael Kuehne, decided not to support humanitarian organisations solely financially, but requires all foundation colleagues to work operationally and to train and consult NGO in logistics and supply chain management on-site.

We therefore understand ourselves not as “office guys”, but are active directly in the countries and work together with multiple local businesses and help them to improve their performance for an overall better economic development. Public-private collaborations can consequently boost further development, but clearly require a sustainable and long-term commitment to actually have an impact.     

What does it mean for Kuehne partnering with FAO to end hunger?

Unfortunately, hunger still remains one of the biggest challenges of the century. The Kuehne Foundation is therefore respectfully delighted to partner with FAO with the aim to strengthen the agro-food industry and to minimize or even end hunger. This greatest challenge requires our deepest respect for our partners who often work in a difficult and sometimes even unsafe environment to ensure food supplies to the beneficiaries. We are therefore committed to contribute with our resources and knowledge to help FAO fulfilling its mission, and to actually make a difference with our work. It is always very rewarding to see when our cooperative actions bear fruits and that all the efforts and time we have invested in this challenge are actually contributing to improve livelihood. What better reason to have to partner with FAO?