Post-harvest losses in agriculture — from adverse weather, pest and disease, inadequate harvesting practices, insufficient storage or rough handling and transport — can reduce marketable yields and net returns. They are not a petty matter to any farmer, but it can be devastating to smallholder farmers whose food security and livelihoods are precarious at best. Yet donors and governments have not agreed on how to define and measure post-harvest loss, and then to invest in improvements at critical steps in the supply chain.
On May 13-14, Abt Principal Associate John Lamb convened a noteworthy workshop at Abt’s Bethesda office to address these crucial obstacles. The event was co-sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss. “Post-harvest Loss Metrics, Measurement and Mitigation: Resolving the Unmet Needs,” drew 35 leading public, private and philanthropic leaders in agriculture, statistics, agribusiness, and development to discuss the fundamental challenges of evidence in post-harvest loss, which is often overlooked in the push for more on-farm productivity. Reducing post-harvest loss is becoming more urgent as water and land scarcity take their toll on developing countries—a situation often exacerbated by climate change.
The workshop aimed to achieve consensus around key issues such as defining food loss, prioritizing commodities and geographies, targeting intervention points and selecting mitigation measures, revitalizing the global community of practice, and last but not least building political will and associated funding allocations. Actionable field research undertaken by the Abt Post-Harvest Loss Team for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as well as AGRA (Rockefeller Foundation) informed the dialogue. Abt will present synthesis reports to these clients to help shape their long-term approaches to this burgeoning field.