Date of release: Wednesday, September 28, 2016

NRI's APHLIS projectA project to combat hunger in some of the poorest parts of the world by accurately estimating postharvest food losses is being led by the University of Greenwich's Natural Resources Institute.

The scheme, a five-year initiative, will provide scientific and evidence-based estimates on postharvest cereal losses across 38 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

While 800 million people worldwide suffer from hunger, experts say that much of the food that is produced doesn't make it past the farm gate. It is thought that between ten and 23 per cent of total cereal production goes to waste in Africa at harvest time and afterwards.

Reasons for the losses include inadequate farm storage (resulting in consumption by rodents and insects, or mould infestation), and during transport to markets. Further damage to quality and value occurs due to poor market storage facilities.

In developing countries, reliable loss data is scarce, and consequently there is little indication of what impact losses have on smallholder productivity and welfare, and on food security.

The APHLIS+ (African Postharvest Losses Information System) project, which expands on the work of an earlier scheme, seeks to remedy this situation. By giving reliable estimates of losses to decision-makers at government and donor level, it will help them design interventions to improve the efficiency, yield and income of agricultural providers – at national and provincial level – in order to combat food poverty.

Dr Bruno Tran, of the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), says the project will make significant changes to the agricultural landscape. "Our original APHLIS model provided weight loss estimates for cereal crops. However, APHLIS+ will introduce estimates for new crop types: pulses, roots and tubers, plantain and bananas.

"Its added value means we will also be able to provide open data on the economic value and nutritional profile of crops lost, improve online and interactive tools to access loss data and, importantly, an expanded network of experts in Africa."

He adds: "We aim to be recognised as the industry standard for postharvest loss estimations in the near future."

The project launch took place this month in Accra, Ghana, attended by members of the APHLIS network, which includes food and harvest experts from 26 sub-Saharan African countries. Also present were representatives from FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) and from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is providing funding.

The latest project will run until December 2020.

Part of the university's Faculty of Engineering & Science, the Natural Resources Institute is an internationally recognised centre of expertise in research and development in agriculture, climate change, foods and markets, specialising in tropical and temperate regions. Its world-leading achievements were honoured with a prestigious Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2015.

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Picture: Damaged grain – at present, up to 23 per cent of total cereal production goes to waste in Africa.