Containing food loss and waste— the pathway to a hunger-free Ghana

BY: G.D. Zaney

Despite an explosion in the growth of urban slums over the last decade, 76 per cent of the developing world’s 1.4 billion extremely poor people still live in rural areas, most of whom are smallholder farmers who depend on agriculture to make a living and feed their families, the 2013 Annual Report of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has indicated.

Agriculture’s positive contribution to development and poverty reduction has, therefore, been widely acknowledged, with growth in the agriculture sector having been found, on average, to be, at least twice, as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors.

Yet, 805 million people in the world— 200 million of them, children under five years— do not have enough to eat while one in every nine people on earth goes to bed hungry each night, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO’s) State of Food Insecurity in the World Report of 2014.

The same Report also reveals that Hunger kills more people each year than Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), malaria and tuberculosis combined.

The Report further indicates that in sub-Saharan Africa, more than one in four people remain chronically undernourished, while Asia, the world’s most populous region, is also home to the majority (526 million people) of the world’s hungry population.

FAO defines hunger as being synonymous with chronic undernourishment—where undernourishment means that a person is not able to acquire enough food to meet the daily minimum dietary energy requirements, over a period of one year.

And, available information indicates that the potential exists for the number of the world’s hungry population to swell as a result of several factors including drought, food losses and waste, and hikes in prices for fuel and fertilizer, coupled with the growth in population by a third, to 9 billion, by the year 2050, according to Malthusian projections.

Food loss is explained as the quantitative loss in available edible food mass for human consumption as well as the deterioration in its quality, which leads to a loss in economic and nutritional value.

On the other hand, food waste refers to losses that occur as a result of discarding food that still has value.

A study commissioned by FAO in 2011 revealed that globally, about one-third of food produced for human consumption (1.3 billion tons annually) is lost or wasted.

FAO estimates (2012) indicate that annual global quantitative food losses and waste amount to 30 per cent for cereals; 40-50 per cent for root crops, fruits and vegetables; 20 per cent for oilseeds, meat and dairy; and 30 per cent for fish.

Without doubt, a hunger crisis looms, as the trend—the resources of the planet diminishing against increased human demand— continues, with Africa, for example, requiring an estimated US $ 11 billion in investments by 2050 to address the crisis, according to Handshake, the quarterly journal of the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Mrs Hillary Rodham Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State, has noted that hunger crisis is a complex problem involving infrastructure, governance, markets and education, the solution to which requires private sector capital, skills and technology.

In Ghana, the highest proportion of food insecure households is in the Upper East region, where 27 per cent of households are at risk of hunger, with the three northern regions, as a whole, continuing to experience food insecurity and malnutrition.

Averting hunger, therefore, means productivity must be increased and losses, and waste reduced within the food supply chain.

And to increase productivity, farming techniques must be improved by the development of new seed varieties, the introduction of agro-chemicals and improved methods of irrigation.

Other important factors for increased productivity are capital or finance, access to relevant and prompt information, and the capacity to manage risks.

Finding solutions to food losses, therefore, requires interventions such as Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in providing infrastructure for harvesting, cooling in difficult climatic conditions and the development of modern packaging, storage, marketing, and distribution systems.

Handshake indicates that food losses, due to rot, theft and misuse can be reduced by 20 per cent, if surplus grain, for example, is stored in vertical silos rather than in warehouses or open platforms.

Food loss and waste reduction also require an effective and efficient transportation system. And again, PPP interventions are essential in making critical investments in road, rail and port infrastructure to link urban and rural areas to facilitate the sale of farm produce.

To complement road infrastructure and efficient transportation systems, and logistics management, effective communication systems should be developed and adequate electricity supplies to storage infrastructure facilitated, while an efficient post-harvest handling mechanism —involving drying, cleaning, grading, parking or, otherwise, the conditioning of the products to be stored —should be developed.

Answers to decreased food production, food loss and waste reduction can also be found in the intensification of research, leading to the development of drought-resistant and flood-tolerant seeds, as well as farmer training in reducing post-harvest losses, food packaging and horticultural supply chain management.

One can hardly discuss the question of food loss and waste without satisfying the need for food regulations and policies that guide sufficient purchase planning and the failure to use

In finding solutions to the problem of low yields, food loss and waste reduction, and to reduce risks associated with weather uncertainties and other mishaps that undermine the efforts of farmers, leading to their impoverishment, the role of financial products such as insurance policies and other farmer finance mechanisms should be accorded their proper places.

Certainly, MOFA, the lead agency and focal point of the Government of Ghana, responsible for developing and executing policies and strategies for the agriculture sector, is aware of the solutions required to address the challenges to increased food production and food loss, and waste in Ghana.

And, indeed, Ghana has an agenda for increased agricultural development which is captured in the policy document of the Ministry of Agriculture’s (MoFA’s) Medium-Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan METASIP.

METASIP is a sector-wide investment plan to implement the Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP) which has been revised to become FSADEP II—the current policy document for the development of the agricultural sector in Ghana and for helping Ghana meet its national development goals in the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy II (GPRS II).

METASIP comprises 6 programmes corresponding to the 6 policy objectives of FASDEP II, the overall goals for the medium term (2011-2015) of which are the achievement of at least 6 per cent annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth and 10 per cent government national expenditure allocation; increasing yields by an average of at least 50 per cent by 2015; increasing the productivity of all operators along the value chain; enhancing access to markets; promoting value chain development of selected commodities for food security and growth in incomes.

The implementation period of METASIP, however, is about to end without any or little evidence of having attained the set goals.

The challenge, no doubt, appears to be one of resource constraints and inability to institute effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, hence the intervention of the Feed the Future Agriculture Policy Support Project (APSP) of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Ghana, with approximately US $225 Million up to 2017 to implement METASIP.

The five-year Project —December 2013 to September 2018 —is being implemented by Chemonics International Incorporated with Iowa State University (ISU), Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA) Ghana and the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, with the Government of Ghana (GoG), public and private academic and research organizations and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) as its key counterparts.

The project is expected to strengthen the capacity of policy-makers to identify and implement agriculture policies, based on evidence and analysis, strengthen local research capacities to contribute to the policy process and support the efforts of CSOs in their policy advocacy activities.

Under Policy Formulation and Implementation, the project is expected to improve the policy process of evidence-based decision-making in food security by providing technical assistance to the executive and the legislative branches of government, with the aim of improving their organizational effectiveness, policy and data analysis, and statistical skills.

The second component of the project, involving Policy Research, will be executed through a small-grants fund (Research Funds) which will be allocated to finance studies as per the METASIP Steering Committee priorities. The funds will be used to strengthen the capacity of local public and private academic and research institutions to increase the availability of rigorous policy analysis for evidence-based policy-making.

And, through Policy Advocacy, the third component of the project, ASPS will ensure that technical and organizational support, including small capacity-building grants, will be provided and competitively allocated to eligible organizations to amplify their voices in the public policy process.

Again, through Policy Advocacy, ASPS will also promote public-private dialogue on agriculture issues to enhance mutual accountability in the implementation of sector policies.

By 2017, the program is expected to see Ghana meet more internal demand for targeted staple crops, improved maternal and child nutrition, and to make Ghana a food provider to the West Africa region.

Successfully implemented, ASPS will also result in a high-impact transformation of staple food value chain systems, while Agriculture will become Agri-business, with improved government capacity and policies, significant increases in private sector investment in agriculture and improved access and consumption of nutritious foods.

Meanwhile, MoFA and the Development Partners (DPs) had reached a consensus in September 2013 to develop a more focused programme to implement METASIP, building on initial programme designed by IFAD.

This was the Ghana Agriculture Sector Investment Programme (GASIP) under the Ghana Agricultural Transformation Programme (GATP) 2016-2018.

GASIP is a nation-wide investment programme to attract funding from the GoG national budget and donors (Official Development Aid) in the form of loans and grants, while leveraging financing from the private sector.

The first 3-year cycle (2015-17) of GASIP implementation aims to operationalize METASIP using GASIP framework, approaches and instruments and building on other existing programs, improve sector governance and management and mobilize more resources for investment.

Meanwhile METASIP II is being developed as the implementation period of METASIP I draws to an end.

The writer is an officer of the Information Services Department.
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