Paddy rice production in sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) in 2014 was estimated at 22.2 million tones (IRRI, 2015) but this quantity does not reach the table of consumers due to physical grain loss (PGL) during inappropriate post-harvest processing. Furthermore, poor post-harvest processing causes grain quality loss (GQL) and ruins market values of the final products for consumers.
Although post-harvest technologies exist to protect harvests, these have not been adopted in SSA to reduce losses usually. The following reasons may help explain this trend:
1. Most actors in SSA do not know the magnitude of the losses and how it affects productivity (quantity and market value).
2. Many potential users of technologies are not aware of the technologies because of poor technology out-scaling systems in SSA. This may include cases where users do not understand economic gains produced by the adoption of the technologies.
3. Even if users do understand the adoption of technologies may produce better quality, they are not motivated to use without credit for more revenue with better quality products.
4. Users often do not understand how to use the technologies appropriately. This may be linked with the absence of spare parts after-sale services for most technologies because the manufacturer/supplier of the technologies are far (Europe, USA, America or Asia) from the end-user in SSA and cause abandoned post-harvest equipment which can be frequently observed in SSA.
5. Technologies themselves were developed without taking the socio-cultural context into account. For instance, little attention was given to the gender aspect of technologies though women are often major players in some post-harvest processes.
Technologies that have worked in reducing rice post-harvest losses in SSA have been those that were developed with the participation of end-users at all stages of development (problem identification, technology designing, testing, adaptation, validation) and out-scaling (dissemination and training). This allows the end-users to tailor the technology to suit their specific needs. In addition, the manufacturers/suppliers of these technologies were locally based increasing the chance for them to collect feedback from end-users and further improved on the technology as needed. The accounting operations of end-users demonstrating the financial benefits due to the adoption of these technologies in the innovation platform were critical in generating interest amongst value-chain actors to invest in the technology. An example of such a technology is the GEM parboiling technology developed by Africa Rice Center and partners, which may reduce quality losses such as grain breakage as well as add values to the products—more preferred taste by consumers in some areas.
There are some promising approaches and frameworks towards reducing rice postharvest losses in SSA. These include:
1. The identification of points of losses and quantification of these losses along the rice value-chain. This should not be a one-time activity but a continuous process to identify areas were progress has been made and those needing more attention.
2. Development of technologies that are economically rewarding and adapted to the socio-economic and cultural context of end-users in the region.
3. Fund the out-scaling of technologies at specific action sites to demonstrate to actors within the innovation platform the benefits (economic, health or social) of adopting the technology.
4. Set-up mechanisms for rice quality control at various stages of the value-chain or within the innovation platforms and at different levels of public governance.
5. Facilitate policies that reduce the chance of market failure for locally produced rice due to unfair competition from imported brands that are sometimes heavily subsidized in the countries of origin.
The following areas should be included in the roadmap towards reducing rice post-harvest losses by 2050
- Development of scenarios for technology development and dissemination based on losses evaluated; monitoring the situation of the losses regularly, 5 years interval, with the revision of the scenario.
- Continuous technologies development that reduce losses and add-value to rice and rice by-products.
- Improving market access to rice, rice-based and by-product.
- Policies that limit market failure of products.
- Technology out-scaling at specific sites by research or out-scaling partners to demonstrate business models that work.
- Education and training for extension agents and end-users.
The last 2015 PHL Congress was important in bringing to center stage the issue of post-harvest losses in the world. This congress increased interaction and networking between actors in different post-harvest value-chains. However, jointly funded project are needed to tackle post-harvest issue along different value-chains to strengthen the PHL Community of Practice.