Research from the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield has investigated the reasons for post-harvest loss of crops produced in the Morogoro region of Tanzania.
The report, which was produced in collaboration with a team from the University of Dodoma led by Dr. Kalista Higini, assessed post-harvest loss at various stages of the food production cycle. Highlighting the different causes, the available technology and information and knowledge sources applied, and proposed recommendations to reduce crop losses.
The reported reasons for loss differed depending on the crop. For example, in the harvesting stage respondents attributed the crop loss in tomatoes to weather (77.27 percent), a delay in harvesting (56.82 percent), and damage when harvesting (55.27 percent).
The research illustrated how farmers are caught in a vicious cycle of continuous harvest and post-harvest loss, leading to poor profits and a subsequent inability to invest in innovations or improved techniques.
Despite the perceived advantages, the researchers acknowledged the financial barriers and lack of support many farmers would face in implementing these solutions.
The report also highlighted process-based solutions such as the introduction of farmers' cooperatives, regulating the role of middlemen and improving the transparency of negotiations for farmers. In addition to providing resources for farmers to meet, observe and transfer knowledge about successful farming techniques.
To successfully reduce crop losses, researchers say solutions need to include buy-in from farmers, ensure farmers are supported to transition from traditional subsistence methods to more commercialized ones, and be backed up by a plan to provide supporting institutions and infrastructures in the food system.
They also highlight the need to address structural inequalities that keep farmers in a persistent state of poverty, as well as the need for a movement towards balancing indigenous and "improved" practices in the farming community.