Food Losses & Waste – unjustifiable pressure on land resources
How to assess Food Loss hot-spots?
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO estimates, that roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. This inevitably also means that huge amounts of the resources used in food production are used in vain, and that the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the production of food, which is lost or wasted, are emissions in vain.
Food Losses & Waste- or FLW therefore represent a waste of resources used in production such as land, water, energy and agricultural inputs, like seed, fertilizer and others. Land suitable for agriculture is not abundant, and there is a growing debate on how best to utilize this land in light of growing demands of an economy that shifts from a fossil raw material base into a bio economy demanding more and more raw material produced from land and aquatic resources. An area of 1.4 billion ha produces products that become food losses and waste, covering 28% of land used by agriculture on a global scale. If this land would be a nation of its own, it would constitute the second largest nation on this globe, next only to Russia.
In addition, about half of this lost and wasted production utilizes land areas that are already degraded or under serious thread of being degraded. Freeing such land in an already fragile state from the pressure of delivering food products may help to design a more sustainable future agriculture. Reducing FLW can contribute to this goal and help to create space for land rehabilitation and improved land management practices being more widely applied.
FLW are not an issue of agricultural production or even a land management issue alone. Since FLW occur at various and different points along many food value chains they occur in primary transport and marketing, at processing facilities, in the wholesale distribution system, and at retailers up to the consumer levels. Yet, do we know enough for targeted and concise action at the most promising loss points along these chains? When the debate about FLW started to get serious a few years ago the clear answer to this question was a simple “no”.
A number of international initiatives addressed the lack of information on FLW along food value chains and started various projects to improve the situation. An existing Initiative, the “African Postharvest Losses Information System - APHLIS” is currently being upgraded to APHLIS+. APHLIS provides an online tool for the estimation of post-harvest losses based on data input by the user and an algorithm that models a “future scenario” based on existing data.
FAO has committed to develop the Global Food Loss Index – GFLI to be able to provide progress measurement for the SDG 12.3 based on statistics and modeling exercises. In simple terms, GFLI provides an estimate of FLW. GFLI will not cover retail and consumer levels. Once the Index is in use, report on its development will be part of the respective Food Balance Sheet.
The Food Loss and Waste Protocol – a Multi Stakeholder Partnership – published the Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard in 2016. The modular nature of the standard makes it suitable to use for governments on different levels (city, district, regional and national administrations), enterprises and other entities. The voluntary standard helps to create a loss inventory, giving an idea where and when losses occur.
A number of national debates on national reporting of progress towards the SDG’s will most likely result in a number of methodologies and indicators in order to measure progress made on the SDG 12.3. There is considerable effort to harmonize such developments e.g. within the EU and other regional unions.
Why another methodology?
Feedback from implementing projects and programs with targeted interventions in food value chains concluded, that:
- Science based methodologies are often too time consuming and expensive.
- Most methodologies produce results on meta level with questionable usefulness for targeted action on local level
This lead to the development of “rapid assessment methodologies” by FAO and by GIZ, the “Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH”. The FAO “Food Loss Analysis: Causes & Solutions” aims at building up a robust body of case studies that point out not only loss concentrations along particular commodity value chains, but also discuss potentially viable solutions for the reduction of such food losses. The GIZ’s “Rapid Loss Appraisal Tool” aims at informing project and program managers about loss hotspots along value chains, which may justify interventions.
The Rapid Loss Appraisal Tool or RLAT intends:
- To determine quickly and with fair accuracy the most effective points for action along food value chains.
- To identify further knowledge gaps / prevailing uncertainties that need clarification through more targeted in depth studies.
- To assist locally or sub nationally active development practitioners rather than macro economically focused policymaking.
Rapid Loss Appraisal Tool
The Rapid Loss Appraisal Tool supports the design of concrete interventions with the primary aim of improving food security at the subsistence level, either on farms or in communities, and the secondary aim of upgrading specific value chains. Supporting literature consists of two publications: the RLAT User Guide and RLAT Toolbox. Together they provide information on the requirements and use of RLAT as well as ready-to-use instruments and materials for the implementation of the rapid assessment.
RLAT takes a holistic view on food losses, both for food security purposes and for checking the viability of strategies for upgrading VCs that form part of rural economic development. The RLAT tool is particularly useful for development projects that have a focus on reducing food loss and food waste along a given food value chain and for professionals / stakeholders working in this domain. The use of RLAT does not require scientists; technicians can quite easily manage the appraisal.
RLAT does however require technicians or moderators with knowledge of and experience in participatory methods and tools. To be able to learn from and with local people and other value chain stakeholders in this way requires the field-research phase to be systematically and solidly prepared. It also requires the facilitators to maintain a self-critical awareness of their behaviors, attitudes and responsibilities. Participatory approaches ensure that the analysis builds on the local knowledge and hands-on experience of value chain actors, and on other stakeholders’ familiarity with operations along the value chain. Expertise of key specialists from relevant disciplines may challenge or confirm results from such exercises. One of the RLAT’s core principles is that participants become active agents in the investigation process.
The RLAT user guide is not a static manual. Users are free to design the exercise and take the responsibility to implement the process in a flexible, site-specific and appropriate manner. While the process steps are generic and applicable to any food value chain, the participatory instruments and toolbox (checklists, data collection and evaluation sheets, etc.) must be adapted to specific commodities and contexts (e.g. agro-ecological zones or framework conditions). The adaptation of the RLAT requires excellent knowledge of the value chain in question.
RLAT’s development and first implementation focused on maize. However, the tool’s process structure and supporting material also supports analysis of other crop and livestock value chains. The Rapid Loss Appraisal Tool guide aims to show the reader how to approach food losses using participatory methods and biophysical measurements. It enables users to quickly and systematically collect information and triangulate the findings using fast track multiple evaluation methods that make it possible to confirm the results without undertaking representative sample surveys.
Autors: Karl Moosmann, Martina Alrutz
Rapid Loss Appraisal Tool (RLAT)
Rapid Loss Appraisal Tool (RLAT) for Agribusiness Value Chains
 FAO, 2011. Global Food Losses and Food Waste. Extent, Causes and Prevention.
 FAO, 2013. Food wastage footprint. Impacts on natural resources (Summary Report).
 FAO LADA. 2011. Global Land Degradation Information System (GLADIS) version 1.0. An Information Database for Land Degradation Assessment at Global Level. LADA Technical Report n. 17
 Sustainable Development Goals, (SGD) target 12.3: “by 2030, halve the per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level, and reduce food losses along production and supply chains including post-harvest losses”.