Why focus on Loss and Waste of Nutritious Food?
Poor dietary diversity is largely driven by the low availability and affordability of nutritious foods. A key underlying cause of this low availability and affordability is food loss (spoilage) and waste (not fully utilized or discarded). According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), over 50 percent of fresh fruits and vegetables produced in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia are lost or wasted, with nearly half of these losses occurring during postharvest processes.
In 2016, following extensive consultations, GAIN and its partners saw a gap across postharvest loss interventions for nutritious foods and along off-farm segments of the supply chain. As a result, the Postharvest Loss Alliance for Nutrition (PLAN) was created to bring together a multitude of public and private sector actors addressing this issue to collectively reduce loss of nutritious foods throughout the supply chain.
Food loss is nutrition loss – An illustration
In Nigeria, 30 percent of children under 5 years of age are vitamin A deficient. Nigeria produces approximately 1.8 million metric tons of tomatoes and an estimated 50 percent is lost before reaching the consumer . With 41 micrograms of Vitamin A in every 100 grams of tomato, Nigeria’s food system is losing up to 104,000,000 micrograms of vitamin A every day. Just a 35 percent reduction in postharvest loss of tomatoes would result in an available supply of vitamin A for up to 1.1 million Nigerian children per day.
 Global Food Loss and Food Waste Report. FAO. (2011). http://www.fao.org/docrep/014/mb060e/mb060e00.pdf
How does PLAN work?
Through its National and Global Alliances and Business to Business Engine (B2BE), PLAN has been designed to make nutritious food more accessible for all, particularly for low income consumers. PLAN acts as a nucleus for programming, investment and coordination around reducing postharvest loss of nutritious foods as well as a service offering for businesses that work along perishable and nutritious food supply chains. It focuses primarily on three key issues: packaging and crating, cold chain storage/logistics and food processing.
Global PLAN operates as a central knowledge and partnership hub for nationally designed PLAN projects. It organizes activities for members around the world to participate in the dissemination of knowledge, stimulation of collaboration, and collectivize impact. In this alliance, GAIN works alongside the Global Cold Chain Alliance, the World Foods Logistics Organization, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Global Knowledge Initiative, each of which provided technical assistance and shared best practices in postharvest loss management. Global PLAN also works to raise awareness of the importance of nutrition within the global postharvest loss and waste community.
The Nigeria PLAN (N-PLAN) chapter was launched in 2016 as an interactive and complementary alliance to Global PLAN to exchange knowledge, technologies and coordinate activities to reduce postharvest loss of nutritious foods. N-PLAN was designed with a specific focus on tomatoes to complement the commitment and investment from the Nigerian government. N-PLAN has organized numerous trainings and workshops for Nigerian supply chain businesses to provide technical assistance, networking opportunities and access to global best practices. N- PLAN acts as a quasi-business association that has brought together a fragmented sector and provided a space for businesses to access information and connect with other like-minded businesses.
In 2017, Indonesia joined the PLAN vanguard countries with I-PLAN, which focuses on postharvest loss of sea fish for local consumption. Activities are now underway to build the I-PLAN Alliance and to launch a technology challenge to reduce the loss of fish for low income populations in the Surabaya region of East Java.
In 2018, PLAN adds Ethiopia, E-PLAN, to its country chapters. To build out E-PLAN’s design, GAIN will begin with a landscape review of postharvest loss in the country and then move to the selection of a commodity and section of the supply chains where loss is occurring most severely.
After just 18 months, PLAN in Nigeria has gained momentum with an active alliance of over 150 members. N-PLAN is collaborating with the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture on their sensitization activities held in several markets in Lagos to demonstrate the use and benefits of plastic crates over raffia baskets for handling fresh produce. As a result, PLAN members have purchased over 80,000 plastic crates. At 20kg on average per crate, this investment in an initial PLAN activity translates to 1,600,000 kgs of fresh tomatoes that have an increased chance of reaching the end consumer in a safe and undamaged state with the nutritional quality preserved.
Through their B2B Engine, N-PLAN selected seven businesses with the most potential to reduce postharvest losses to receive technical assistance from a Global PLAN expert. In conjunction with the technical assistance, businesses received small USAID grants to invest in solar cold technologies for transporting and storing fresh fruits and vegetables. As a result, PLAN’s B2B Engine increased cold storage capacity for fresh fruits and vegetables in Nigeria from six metric tons to over 99 metric tons for an increase of 1550 percent.
In early 2018, I-PLAN graduated from inception to implementation. I-PLAN is working with both the Ministries of Health and of Fisheries to create innovative partnership opportunities that will strengthen local entrepreneurs working along the fish supply chain to bring safe and affordable protein to low income and nutritionally vulnerable populations.
PLAN in Ethiopia is currently conducting landscape reviews of postharvest loss of nutritious foods in the country focusing on the state of technology, policy, and the technical and financial needs of supply chain businesses. From there, the partnership will select a priority commodity that addresses a clear nutritional burden in Ethiopia.