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In 2014 the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) launched a programme in Uganda combining training & airtight storage to tackle high-levels of post-harvest loss caused by pests, diseases, poor handling, and ineffective storage. The major stakeholder of the initiative are small-scale farmers in all regions of Uganda, the private sector manufacturers and distributors of airtight storage, and increasingly, the Government of Uganda.
As a result, post-harvest loss was reduced from 40% to less than 2% among participating farmers. By the end of 2016, over 115,000 households chose to participate in training, then purchase airtight storage.
This effective, scalable, and replicable model continues to create demand from other frontier markets. In response, WFP has set up its Global Post Harvest Knowledge & Operations Centre (KNOC) in Uganda to facilitate South-South knowledge sharing and exchange. The Centre has already welcomed delegations from 18 countries for field visits that include meetings with participating farmers, sessions with Ugandan officials, training-of-trainers sessions, and knowledge sharing with hermetic silo manufacturers. Its activities are conducive to the South-South efforts of Uganda’s private sector to transfer innovative technology on silo management to other countries in the region (e.g. Zambia, Tanzania). Delegations include government officials, WFP implementing staff, and at times, metal artisans who bring back skills to their own countries. The next major convening in Kampala will be held in Q4 2017.
This is a very innovative initiative due to the combination of several success factors:
• Value chain approach: eliminating post-harvest losses is not a technical problem – it is a supply chain challenge, and cannot be effectively addressed in isolation.
• Focus on scaling of proven technologies: good answers to one of the biggest food security challenges already exist – but have not been scaled. Private sector involvement at earliest stage, with clear profit incentives has been a key success driver.
• Partnership and collaboration with government, NGOs, UN agencies and the private sector.
• Capacity development of farmers: through one-day training workshops.
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Post-harvest food losses:
Global food production has reached a record high in recent years. However, one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, equivalent to 1.3 billion tons. Post-harvest food loss is a leading cause of food insecurity for millions families across the world.
Achieving zero hunger by 2030 will require that no more food is lost or wasted. By preventing post-harvest losses in food systems, we can increase the availability of food worldwide without requiring additional resources or placing additional burden on the environment.
These losses are most significant in developing countries. Post-harvest losses have significant nutritional, health, and financial impacts for both consumers and farmers, disproportionately affecting women, who are largely responsible for managing post-harvest drying, cleaning, and storage. For rural families, many of whom already live on the edge of hunger, lost food means lost land, water, fertilizer and income for those who can least afford it.
Challenges of Preventing Food Losses:
As part of its efforts to support smallholder farmers and agricultural markets, WFP is strongly promoting a greater focus on reducing food losses throughout the value chain. Thanks to WFP’s deep field presence and supply chain expertise, we have learned that simple and affordable steps like improving storage infrastructure, and sharing storage best practices can drastically reduce food losses and increase the availability of food on local and regional markets. This also means improved food security and increased resilience to shocks for smallholder farmers.
Through WFP’s five-year Purchase for Progress (P4P) pilot programme, WFP and partners began working on post-harvest loss reduction at the community level with over 166,000 smallholder farmers and traders across 20 countries, 43 percent of whom are women1. This experience clearly identified post-harvest losses as one of the biggest challenges to food security for smallholder farmers and their families.
In response, in 2014 WFP launched an initiative in Uganda called “Zero Food Loss”, combining training & airtight storage to tackle high-levels of post-harvest loss.
Under the “Zero Food Loss” initiative, this effective, scalable, and replicable model tested in Uganda continues to create demand from other countries. 18 developing countries have already visited Uganda to learn about the “Uganda Model”, with nine beginning their own rollouts of post-harvest loss national programmes .
The Zero Food Loss Initiative builds on four stages:
· Stage 1: Capacity development (farmer education). One-day participatory training programmes are held in different regions throughout the country. Farmers receive training in post-harvest handling (harvesting, drying, threshing, on-farm storage).
· Stage 2: New technology for farming equipment. With heavy involvement of the private sector, a range of tested hermetic (airtight) storage equipment are made available for purchase, with over 90% of farmers choosing to purchase at the training workshops. The new equipment eliminates the need for chemical fumigants and enables storage until the next harvest (or beyond). Farmers pay for their storage, with subsidies used to bring initial price-points low enough to include all farmers – including refugees and farmers in WFP’s Safety Net programmes. Farmers choose to participate as consumers – they are not beneficiaries.
· Stage 3: Field support (refresher training). Refresher sessions are scheduled in sub-districts and villages of all the selected farming regions. Farmers with the same type of equipment gather to participate in on-farm demonstrations to ensure they have memorized the new techniques for post-harvest handling.
· Stage 4: Monitoring and evaluation. Surveys are carried out, with evaluation metrics developed in collaboration with MIT and Makarere University. The evaluation measures qualitative and quantitative post-harvest losses (outputs); however, the emphasis is on the outcomes and impacts on the smallholder farmer: food availability in the lean season, increase in income, and health and nutrition of the family. A key element of the evaluation is communication – not just to the donors or governments, but specifically to and for the smallholder farmer communities that will be next to participate.