Principle 4: Protect harvests
In many of the poorest countries, 20-40% of crop yields are lost because of inadequate pre- and post-harvest support. Likewise, vast quantities of food are squandered during production and consumption phases.
• Build local storage facilities and transportation mechanisms, including cold chain storage for food preservation
• Localise the application of agronomic knowledge, pest-identification and meteorological information
• Educate the public on sustainable consumption and production needs and behaviours
• Provide risk management tools to support farmers in case of weather and market variations
Drought insurance programmes reduce farmer risk (Malawi)
An innovative programme launched in 2005 for groundnut farmers in Malawi helps farmers to obtain certified seeds, which produce increased yields and revenues as well as greater resistance to disease. The National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi, in conjunction with the Insurance Association of Malawi and with technical assistance from the World Bank and Opportunity International Network, financed by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, designed the index-based weather insurance contract. If a drought leads to insufficient groundnut production, the bank pays the loans of insured farmers directly. If there is no drought, the farmers benefit from selling the higher-value production. This is the first time that such index-based weather insurance policies have been sold to smallholder farmers in Africa. A similar pilot in India in 2003 has been expanded to more than 250,000 farmer
Changing crop cycles (India)
Sometimes simple solutions looking at the issue of timing and planting cycles can provide effective solutions. For example, in India, mustard seeds were planted in September and harvested in late December/January. But often, up to 30% of the harvest was often lost to frost. In response, breeders worked on a seed with a shorter duration period, which enabled farmers to harvest in early December, avoiding the issue of frost. These farmers not only avoided loosing part of their harvest, they also benefited from better prices as they were able to bring their seeds to the market before the usual glut occurred in January. Finally, a shorter cycle allowed farmers to plant wheat in December/January.
Improve yields (Zambia)
In many countries where soil has been degraded or where farmers face difficult conditions, conservation agriculture has also been shown to improve yields through improved soil quality – for example in Zambia in areas where land had been degraded, a sample of 125 hand-hoe farmers using conservation farming was found to produce 1.5 tonnes more maize and 460 kg more cotton per hectare than did farmers practicing conventional ox-plough tillage
Protecting against unexpected weather (Bangladesh)
Losses can also come from excess water rather than drought or pest. In areas prone to flooding, the development of ‘waterproof rice’ could make a dramatic difference. Scientist at IRRI have identified a gene which allows rice plants to withstand be submerged for two weeks without damage. The gene has already been transferred to a rice variety used in Bangladesh and is showing positive results.
Need better storage techniques
A study by the Inter-American Development Bank (ADB) in Vietnam and Cambodia recognized that farmers in the two countries could require two or three times as much rice grain as they consume to meet their food needs because of spoilage from poor storage techniques