Reducing Losses in the Maize Value Chain

A glimpse at an intervention in South Africa’s Eastern Cape
Rod Waddington/Flickr, Dried Maize, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Rod Waddington/Flickr, Dried Maize, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Smallholder maize production in South Africa’s Eastern Cape is virtually static and the overall food security situation remains a persistent problem.

In response, GIZ supported the use of its Rapid Loss Appraisal Tool for Agricultural Value Chains in June 2018, implemented by South Africa’s Agricultural Research Council (ARC).

Applying the tool’s methodology revealed hot spots where critical losses occurred, such as delayed field preparation and poor storage facilities. Further analysis led to recommendations for more farmer control in managing positions before and after harvest, which are usually performed by external contractors.

About the Rapid Loss Appraisal Tool for Agricultural Value Chains

Losses and inefficiencies along agribusiness value chains are a major impediment to development, food security and sustainable growth and, hence, to rural transformation in developing countries.

The most common causes for food losses in developing countries are a generally weak economic infrastructure and largely inappropriate practices at all stages of the value chains — from input procurement, through farming and harvesting, to processing and trading.

Both quantitative and qualitative losses are a common result, which seriously affects people’s livelihoods and food security.

In addition, contamination with mycotoxins leads to losses and poses a threat to the health of consumers and livestock.

As lost food doesn’t become available for consumption, food losses in a wider sense imply the waste of scarce resources such as labour, land, financial means, water, energy and other inputs that had been invested in the production and handling of foodstuff. In that sense it is a lost opportunity for improving food security, increasing rural incomes and creating employment opportunities.

Identifying hotspots of loss enables stakeholders along the value chain to take action.

Reducing food losses can make more food available and reduce overall costs. It also contributes to making agricultural and rural development more sustainable given the impact of food losses on the three dimensions of sustainability:

  • Social equity, which refers to the likely positive impact on food security when food losses along agribusiness value chain are reduced
  • Economic viability, which refers to the opportunities for making agribusiness value chains more lucrative and competitive, as a result of reducing food losses
  • Environmental sustainability, which refers to reducing the waste of natural resources used for producing, trading and processing agrifood products.