About the Project

The project aims to improve food security (increased food self-sufficiency and incomes) of smallholder farmers in SSA through reduction of postharvest losses of food crops (grains and pulses) by addressing major constraining factors of technology dissemination and adoption, knowledge and information sharing, rural advisory services (RAS) and policies related to PHM. Interventions focus at two levels: i) validation and promotion of PHM practices and systems at rural household and communities level through use of innovative RAS and private sector linkages, ii) linking national and regional level through active promotion of sharing and learning, capacity-building, and advocacy and policy dialogue related to PHM.

Background of the project

For most countries in Africa and notably the low-income/food-deficit countries, PHL are often a forgotten yet important factor that exacerbates food insecurity. A recent study (FAO, 2011) calculated food losses of 120-170 kg per capita and year for SSA with 40% of the losses occurring at post-harvest and processing stage. PHL could represent around 15-20 million tons of cereals every year in SSA (estimating PHL at 15%, FAO). For cereal grains alone, the value of post-harvest losses in Africa is estimated at more than 4 billion US$ annually or almost 15% of the total production value (AfDB, 2010).

In low-income countries the causes of food losses and waste are connected to financial, managerial and technical limitations in harvesting techniques, storage and cooling facilities in unfavourable climatic conditions, infrastructure, packaging and marketing systems. As the recent WB/NRI/FAO 2011 study1 mentions, food losses contribute to high food prices by removing part of the food supply from the market. Smallholder farmers and in particular women are most affected by losses since they have restricted access to resources and assets, a fact that deprives them from dealing with postharvest challenges properly.

On the other hand, it is widely acknowledged that reduction of postharvest losses (PHL) along food chains can provide a more cost-effective means of promoting food and nutrition security than investments focussing on increasing production. Thus, post-harvest interventions can be considered to be one of the most effective measure to increase food security in regions like Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) where PHL are very high (see next chapter).

Post-harvest management (PHM) has increasingly received attention in the last years, be it at the international level in food security related initiatives or at continental level in Africa, for example in policies of the African Union (AU) such as the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) of NEPAD, programmes of the AU Commission, AfDB, WB as well as FAO. However, despite the importance of PHL, there are hardly any well established mechanisms at international or SSA level for tackling PHL2. Studies and surveys point out the need for more “ground” interventions, to tackle postharvest issues from a market perspective and not only perceive it as a pure technology challenge, and to better learn from existing initiatives by linking practitioners and experts across Africa and beyond.

This initiative is one of three projects3 that are part of an umbrella programme of the Global Programme Food Security (GPFS) of SDC and that follow a common goal which is “to increase food security of smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa through reduced postharvest losses at farm and community level”, and common outcomes which are outlined in chapter 3. This project is coordinated by HELVETAS Swiss Inter-cooperation (HSI) and implemented in a consortium with FANRPAN (Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network), with AFAAS (African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services) and Agridea as further partners. Benin and Mozambique were selected as pilot countries for the first phase. The second project of the umbrella programme has also a regional focus and is jointly implemented by the three Rome-based agencies Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP), and finally, a FAO initiative implements a project with a national focus in Ethiopia.


  1. Improved handling and storage options within the grains and pulses value chains are benefiting smallholder farmers in pilot countries.
  2. Good practice options for reducing postharvest losses are compiled, disseminated and scaled up.
  3. Appropriate regulatory frameworks on reducing post-harvest losses in food supply chains are introduced and implemented at national and regional levels and financing is secured.


1.1 Major constraints related to markets and community & household storage strategies in selected food crops value chains have been analysed
1.2 Promising PHM practices and systems have been identified, validated and further developed.
1.3 PHM practices and systems have been disseminated and adopted.
2.1 Good PHM practices and systems have been documented & used in networks
2.2 Innovative RAS, suitable for effective dissemination and scaling-up of PHM practices have identified and (further) developed.
2.3 Relevant actors (RAS agents, farmer org., private sector, government officials, and policy makers) have been capacitated on PHM practices and systems.
3.1 Relevant policy briefs on PHM have been elaborated and made available.
3.2. PHM has been included in the agendas of local, national and regional policy dialogue platforms.
3.3 Frameworks for food standards and norms have integrated PHM aspects.