$4-million project to address post-harvest losses launched

Efforts to provide reliable data to address post harvest losses in cereals and food crops production in Sub-Saharan Africa has received a boost with the launch of the African Postharvest Losses Information System (APHLIS+).

The $4-million project being funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is being implemented by the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) of the University of Greenwich in United Kingdom.

APHLIS, a five-year programme which started in December last year in 35 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, is meant to provide data on postharvest losses to enhance effective planning and decision making by policy makers to enable them to address the challenge.

Some of the beneficiary countries are Ghana, African Central Republic, Botswana, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Madagascar, Swaziland and Tanzania.

The World Bank estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa loses millions of dollars every year on postharvest losses, an amount which could be used to fund developmental projects.

Speaking at the launch in Accra, which was attended by APHLIS Network Partners from Sub-Saharan Africa, Dr Bruno Tran, Senior Research Scientists at the NRI of the University of Greenwich, said APHLIS uses an algorithm to calculate postharvest losses of cereals and food crops in Sub-Saharan Africa.

He explained that APHLIS was a resource that provides estimates of weight losses from the postharvest chains for cereals in Sub-Saharan Africa, saying the “losses are expressed as annual cumulative losses from production or the primary administrative units (provinces) of APHLIS member countries.”

“APHLIS draws on peer reviewed publications and data contributed by a network of local cereal grain experts to produce calculated estimates of postharvest loses of cereal across Sub-Saharan Africa,” he said.

He explained that APHLIS+ was a scale-up of APHLIS which was supported by the European Commission to provide postharvest losses data and disclosed that the project had been expanded to include new crops and cereals such as banana and plantain.

Dr Tran said the initial project provided postharvest losses estimates for wheat, maize, rice, sorghum, barley oats, millets, fonio and teff and added that the second phase of the project would provide climatic data and an early warning system on aflatoxins.

He said that APHLIS was developed in 2007 to come with credible data on postharvest losses, noting that prior to the APHLIS most of the postharvest figures churned out by the various Sub-Saharan countries were based on assumptions without any scientific basis.

That, he said, made it difficult for government to plan to address postharvest losses since information on the issue were not reliable.

Senior Programme Officer in Charge of Agriculture Development, Access and Markets, at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Charlene McKoin, said her outfit was proud to be associated with the project.

She said the project would help provide accurate data for to support evidence-based planning and decision making.

Ms McKoin said international donors demanded evidence-based information to inform their decision to or not to fund developmental projects, and expressed the hope that APHLIS would help to generate information which would be accepted by the international community.

By Kingsley Asare

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