Postharvest Loss Alliance for Nutrition
In the U.S., consumers waste 40% of all food produced. In the developing world those losses take place before consumption and most remarkably, post farmgate between production and consumption. While loss is most often translated to tonnage of primarily staple foods wasted and lost, postharvest loss and waste most dramatically impacts the perishable nutritious foods, which when lost translate to poor quality diets.
At the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), we see postharvest losses as “nutrient losses” and are investigating the hidden impacts not captured in food loss statistics. We are examining questions such as: how do food losses impact the affordability and availability of nutritious foods for low income consumers? And, how does PHL/W translate into potential nutrients lost and how does it impact dietary diversity or hidden hunger?
We set out to answer these and other issues through the Postharvest Loss Alliance for Nutrition (PLAN). PLAN assembles the multitude of public and private actors to collectively reduce loss and waste of nutritious food while stimulating actors in the food system to modify their practices and upgrade their systems to reduce the perishability of nutritious foods from farm gate to consumption.
What is PLAN?
PLAN acts as a global nucleus for coordination, programming, research, knowledge exchange and investment on postharvest food loss as well as a national hub for business to business engagement in emerging markets.
The project has two main components. The first is the National and Global Alliances group, made up of partners in agribusiness, finance, policy and advocacy, food safety, research and knowledge. The Alliances organize activities that marry individual sector objectives with PLAN’s overarching goal of reducing postharvest loss and waste of nutritious foods. The second component is PLAN’s Business to Business Engine (B2BE), which sits at the center of the Alliances and matches industry leaders and technical experts with local enterprises around the world to increase access to knowledge, technology and the financial services. Through the B2BE, selected businesses within the cooling/cold chain, packaging, crating, and processing sectors engage with PLAN’s expert task force, who complete a full diagnostic of the company’s operations and identify challenges or possible opportunities to improve efficiency and scale operations. The B2BE’s financial mechanism is made possible through GAIN’s partnership with financial institutions that work with local businesses to finance their innovative solutions. These innovations could include building cooling units closer to farm aggregation points, or helping logistic companies build cooling rail cars.
From Design to Diagnostic
The PLAN B2BE diagnostic task force recently spent two weeks in three major growing and consumption areas in Nigeria, working with companies interested in improving their refrigerated logistical (transport) needs to move perishable nutritious produce from production areas to consumer markets. The diagnostic task force was made up of GAIN staff, representatives from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), and the Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA).
The task force conducted a full diagnostic on the operations of fourteen companies to identify challenges and possible opportunities to improve efficiencies in cold logistics and logistics operations. They placed a food safety and financial needs lens on perishable value chains, and began the process of understanding the business plans of these crucial industries that support the preservation of nutritious foods post farm gate. The full diagnostic review will culminate in the selection of certain companies to participate in the PLAN B2BE support service mechanism where they will receive training and skill development from industry leaders, and be linked to a risk sharing lending mechanisms to upgrade their facilities and services.
Throughout the process, the diagnostic team recognized several major issues and areas for improvement that will lead to a reduction in loss and waste that takes place within their supply chain. PLAN will work with business to address these issues, some of which include the need to:
- Increase investment in efficient communication throughout the value chain to improve timely delivery of raw and perishable commodities.
- Encourage and incentivize banks to consider cold chain logistic investments to improve capacity and availability of cooling, storage, and refrigerated transport facilities for perishable produce.
- Support compliance and better communication of government food safety guidelines and standards that are not well understood by private sector and need to be published and made accessible free of charge.
- Facilitate the Nigerian Government working with farmer and trucking associations that run the major food markets to create mutually beneficial strategies in sanitation, food safety, and storage of perishable produce for farmers, buyers, and consumers of fresh nutritious foods.
- Urge the Nigerian Government to divert more state funds for rehabilitation and construction of farm-to-market roads and to major processing centers. Poor infrastructure is responsible for costly equipment failure and drives up trucking companies transaction costs thereby creating disincentive to scale up operations that could link fresh fruit and vegetable production to aggregation sites, and onward to peri-urban and urban centers.
Looking at Next Steps
Thanks to a generous investment from the United States Agency of International Development’s (USAID) Feed the Future Program and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Yieldwise initiative, PLAN has transitioned from design into implementation. Moving forward, PLAN will continue to work closely with its core partners and Alliance members to build a service knowledge center for its members and to implement the B2BE. PLAN will collaborate with NIRSAL to provide technical assistance in transport logistics management, equipment, logistical operations and proper techniques in refrigerated transport. Additionally, PLAN is working with Alliance members to tackle the next challenge for PHL/W, that being the need for durable packaging and crating to protect produce as it moves from farm gate to market. In early 2017, GAIN will host two global expert consultations on best practices for lending, leasing or owning crates as a means to reduce PHL/W and on drying practices for nutritious vegetables that will include a nutritional retention study for dried vegetables using various packaging methods.
Looking to the future, PLAN’s industry partners and other investors have expressed interest in establishing additional alliances and B2BE’s in countries like Indonesia, Ethiopia and Kenya. As PLAN’s activities gear up, we look forward to bringing this inclusive, scalable model to new regions and nutritious food supply chains.
Photo: Flickr 2008