Post-harvest losses – a challenge for food security

Under- and malnutrition are major risk factors accounting for over 28 percent of all deaths in Africa, nearly three million people annually. It remains Africa’s most fundamental challenge for human welfare and economic growth.
Post-harvest losses (PHL) are a major factor in food shortages in Eastern Africa. Although the volume and impact of PHL are well-known, up to now little success has been achieved in reducing them. This failure is mainly due to the multitude of reasons for losses at all stages of complex food systems, with multiple actors involved. Moreover, these actors operate within social, political, economic and environmental contexts that are often insufficiently understood.

Reducing PHL may effectively and sustainably increase the volume and quality of available food. Moreover, adding value to existing agricultural and food value chains has a strong potential to create jobs and income opportunities, and thus counteract poverty and hunger in rural areas. RELOAD’s comprehensive approach to reduce PHL and improve rural livelihoods thus represents a shift from a paradigm of ever-increasing production, towards increasing resource-use efficiency by increasing sustainability and raising value within the existing food value chains. More
RELOAD’s specific structure aims to link commodity-based research activities with expertise concerning cross-cutting subjects, including gender issues, economic assessments, technology development and knowledge management. The scientific agenda has been developed from two perspectives:

  • Ensuring a comprehensive approach by treating the entire value chains for the most relevant commodities of the Eastern African region. The participating countries—Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda—are each characterized by specific dominating commodities: Meat and milk in Kenya, fruits and vegetables in Uganda, and cereals and tuber crops in Ethiopia. In each country, the practical work will focus on these commodities.
  • Ensuring impact by effectively transferring results into the regional scientific, economic and social sphere. RELOAD tries to address the known weaknesses of the standard procedures of knowledge transfer by actively integrating practitioners from the project design phase throughout its implementation. RELOAD aims at creating a high level of ownership and sustainability by linking the research activities on PHL reduction to the economic interests of the stakeholders.

In order to achieve these objectives, the network of African and German partners will research the technical, social and economic dimensions, as well as practical aspects like the creation of model plants and processing enterprises. Capacity building will play an important role at all times.