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How Can Reducing Post-Harvest Losses Support Food Security?

Ask Simon Costa, the Project Manager for a new WFP Special Operation aimed at reducing post-harvest losses in Uganda and Burkina Faso. With the right tools and donor support, he’s confident post-harvest losses can be greatly reduced in our lifetimes.

Undoubtedly, this is a big statement–and one that brings about different sentiments depending on who you talk to: hope, scepticism, determination.

Simon is optimistic and committed. He’s been to a number of countries where WFP operates, and has been struck by the debilitating effects post-harvest losses are having on smallholder farming families across Africa. Inadequate storage and poor farming techniques are largely to blame for global harvest losses that can amount around 20% every year.

So when Simon had the chance to work on a grassroots level WFP ‘action trial’ in August 2013, aimed at teaching tried and true farming practices and testing improved storage technology with some 400 farmers, he jumped at the opportunity. The results were stellar to say the least; all participating farmers achieved at least a 98% reduction in food losses when comparing the results of old and new storage technologies over a three-month period.

Since then, news of these results gained traction around WFP, bringing some strong support along the way: from the deep field all the way up to Headquarters in Rome. If we could only scale-up, Simon explained, we could change the lives of many more smallholder farmers. The potential was soon to be realised, and efforts made by teams in Logistics and Purchase for Progress started to bear fruits in early 2014 when a project providing for a large scale-up was approved.

maiz looking clearly different in the new hermetic storage unit than in the oldIn March 2014, a 14-month Special Operation was launched. The ultimate goal: to establish food security amongst participating farmers. To reach it, WFP and local farming organizations have teamed up to provide trainings in improved farming practices, and most importantly, will give metal storage silos to 41,000 farming families across Uganda and Burkina Faso. Three months down the road from the launch, the future is bright, but funding is urgently needed. With enough support, positive change will come.  

Last but not least, did we mention that Simon has already dedicated over two years of his time for free to this project? That’s how passionate he feels about reducing post-harvest food losses. As the former CEO of a global logistics and agricultural organisation, he has brought extensive private sector expertise and great energy to this critical initiative.

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