Reducing post-harvest losses

Improving the efficiency and sustainability of supply chains

11/10/2019 - 

Global food systems produce enough food to feed everyone, but nearly one third of food produced in the world for human consumption is lost or wasted every year. The cost of this food loss and waste amounts to roughly USD 310 billion in developing countries (FAO, 2011).



In collaboration with: The Rockefeller Foundation, a science-driven philanthropic organization based in the United States of America with a mission to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. The foundation is active in the areas of global health, environment, public policy, and innovative finance.

Timeframe: 2016-2019

Benefitting: National and African Union (AU) Departments of Rural Economy & Agriculture; AU Member States, and stakeholders along the food supply chain

Geographic coverage: AU member countries, with pilots in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe

Contributing to: 





In Africa, the vast majority of food loss occurs at early stages of the food value chain, mainly due to financial, managerial and technical constraints in harvesting and handling techniques as well as storage and cooling facilities. FAO estimates indicate that postharvest losses (PHL) can reach up to 20 percent for cereals, 30 percent for dairy and fish, and 40 percent for fruit and vegetables.

The rapid evolution of global agri-food systems requires new strategies and approaches to reduce food losses as well as to address a variety of inter-related drivers, such as global market integration, urbanization, lengthening of food supply chains from rural to urban areas and policies that affect post-harvest operations. In view of these changes, intervention strategies need to focus on systematic improvements to the efficiency and sustainability of the entire supply chains, with clear roles for both the public and private sectors.



To this end, in 2016, FAO and the Rockefeller Foundation partenered with the overall aim to strengthen linkages in the food value chain, improve markets and infrastructure and support governments in providing enabling policies and investments. The partnership contributes to the ongoing post-harvest loss programmes under the Rockefeller Foundation’s food loss initiative, YieldWise, and FAO’s global initiative on food losses and waste, SAVE FOOD.



The project had a two-tiered implementation approach, with separate activities implemented at the African Union level and at the country level. Project activities ultimately aimed to contribute to food and nutrition security by supporting both the African Union and a selected number of countries (Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania) in their efforts to reduce current levels of post-harvest losses by 50 percent by the year 2025, as indicated in the Malabo Strategic Action Area 1 and Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 food loss reduction goals.

At the African Union level, project activities focused on developing institutional capacity to coordinate and monitor progress by member states in achieving their food loss reduction goals. At country level, the partnership supported the four target countries in implementing mechanisms to coordinate and monitor progress in reducing post-harvest losses along staple crop value chains. Joint activities included forming a national post-harvest technical working group with the mandate to coordinate and oversee all issues related to achieving the country’s food loss reduction goals, conducting a loss assessment study and training stakeholders on food loss assessment.

Additionally, the project has enabled agricultural tertiary training colleges to adopt FAO loss assessment methodology into their training curriculum. FAO, the African Union and the Rockefeller Foundation held a high-level regional workshop in Nairobi in July 2018, which included working sessions that reviewed and validated project results and findings on regional and country-specific PHL policies and strategies.



At the regional level, the partnership has contributed to the creation of a platform for key stakeholders from African countries to share experiences and lessons learned and to harmonize initiatives for food loss reduction in the region. The support provided by FAO and the Rockefeller Foundation has led to the development of a monitoring and evaluation framework to track progress against the 2025 post-harvest loss reduction goal, the development of the AU regional post-harvest management strategy, mapping of PHL activities and the development of postharvest national investment guidelines/checklist.

At the country level, main results include the development of a national post-harvest strategy for all four countries, the development of country level postharvest loss indicators for five priority commodities, and the development of post-harvest policy briefs. The project has trained over 100 stakeholders and technical staff in post-harvest management, and in Tanzania, the FAO Food Loss Analysis Methodology has been incorporated into tertiary training programmes. The project piloted simple, practical solutions 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.



Capacity building activities are the key to sustaining the benefits of this project. The successful implementation of the project will result in increased capacity building at regional and national institutional levels that will remain after project closure. Tools and systems developed by the project will remain within the relevant national agricultural institutions, with the Rockefeller Foundation providing funding for this process. At country level, the adoption by agricultural tertiary training colleges of the FAO loss assessment methodology will ensure that agricultural graduates leaving college have the capacity to develop solutions to address post-harvest losses.


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