Reducing postharvest losses requires the adoption of better postharvest practices such as the diligent application of existing approaches to postharvest handling (e.g. ensuring basic hygiene, monitoring, storage practices, etc.) and the introduction of new technologies. The main hurdle to overcome with smallholders is to achieve adoption of these improvements.
Achieving adoption of better postharvest practices is a serious challenge
Smallholders who are deficit producers normally lack commercial opportunities. They may need direct financial subsidy before they can adopt improved postharvest methods to reduce losses and improve their food security.
Smallholders who are surplus producers and who reduce losses can improve their commercial opportunities. These smallholders can make their own investment in better practices and technologies by using new marketing arrangements, such as collective marketing and by seeking credit.
For surplus producers access to credit from financial institutions (left) or local savings schemes (right)
is important to help adoption. For deficit producers there may have to be some financial subsidy.
For surplus producers, the process leading to adoption of better technology requires preconditions such as markets offering sufficient rewards for better quality crops; transport infrastructure giving reliable linkage to a market; and, the knowledge and skills to produce good quality crops in a commercial context.
Farmers often find that it is not worthwhile investing in the production of good quality crops because the financial rewards are insufficient. Such an investment is not necessarily confined to the costs of better technology but also requires a change in farmers’ priorities and a willingness to take risks. Critically, a suitable incentive is needed to encourage postharvest loss reduction and the financial benefits may have to be several multiples of the financial costs before a change in behaviour is possible. But when adopted the improvements will lead to better quality crops that can be sold in more lucrative markets.
The ultimate incentive is better prices for better quality crops
The menu on the left offers access to some ‘Technology Options’ that contribute to loss reduction and ‘Choosing the right grain store’ (this is coming soon) that will help practitioners choose from a wide range of grain store ones that meet the needs of of smallholders and farmer groups.
For a review of the possible returns from investment in reducing postharvest food losses see the recent paper by staff of the International Food Policy Research Institute.