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Affordable metal silos enable farmers to store their crops safely, rather than lose them to pests or being forced to sell them off cheaply straight after harvest (when prices are at their lowest). Photo credit: W.Ojanji/CIMMYT

Reproduced from the CGIAR site http://www.cgiar.org/consortium-news/postharvest-loss-reduction-a-significant-focus-of-cgiar-research/

Improving food security is not just a question of increasing production. It is also a matter of ensuring that the food that is produced is used to the best effect. Figures, (such as those presented earlier this year by the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, set up by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)) make somber reading. While nearly one billion people in the world are undernourished — and millions suffer from chronic disease due to excess food consumption — roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. That translates into 1.3 billion tonnes each year, worth nearly one trillion US dollars.

Tackling food loss and waste could make a significant contribution to combating hunger, and the issue now plays a prominent role in the debate about feeding the world’s growing population. The Food and Agriculture Organization, together with the United Nations Environment Program and partners, run the Think, Eat, Save campaign, an initiative that aims to halt the massive quantities of food being needlessly squandered in both North and South. A study by FAO’s Save Food program reveals that just one-quarter of the food lost annually would be enough to feed the world’s hungry.

At CGIAR, vigorous efforts are under way to provide concrete solutions to the problem of food waste for farmers in poor countries. Food spoilage and waste account for annual losses of US$310 billion in developing countries, where nearly 65% of lost food occurs at the production, processing and postharvest stages. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, up to 150kgs of food produced is lost per person every year. Depending on the crop, between 15 and 35% of food may be lost before it even leaves the field. Pests and diseases can devastate a farmer’s output once it has been harvested and is stored for sale or consumption.

One solution producing tangible results is CGIAR Research Program (CRP) MAIZE and CIMMYT’s Effective Grain Storage Project (EGSP), which is helping African maize farmers to protect their source of food and income. Maize is one of the most important staple food crops in Sub-Saharan Africa, providing food and income to more than 300 million resource-poor smallholders in eastern and southern Africa, but farmers suffer heavy post-harvest losses estimated at 20-30%, due to inadequate storage techniques.