Linkages Make Huge Difference

By: Kyle Poorman

Iowa State University Consortium for Innovation in Post-Harvest Loss and Food Waste Reduction

An initial assessment of the Rockefeller YieldWise intervention in Tanzania indicates that the initiative’s multicomponent approach provided important lessons learned, particularly as to the importance of establishing linkages in the maize supply chain. In Tanzania, where maize is a major human staple food, that approach targeted several dimensions of the maize supply chain. These relate to factors such as fostering progress in training and adoption of effective loss reducing technologies, acceleration of efforts to expand aggregation capabilities, creation of supply chain linkages, and heightened awareness of the priority need for post-harvest loss (PHL) reduction.

In February 2020, Dr. Steve Sonka travelled to Tanzania to identify learnings arising from YieldWise activities in the maize value chain. During this field research, he conducted interviews with individuals from throughout the maize value chain, including farmers, aggregators, retailers, processors, and finance providers. This assessment is part of a larger effort being carried out by the Consortium and led by the University of Maryland’s Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets. The Center has already conducted two assessments of the YieldWise intervention in the Kenyan mango value chain. A more extensive assessment in Tanzania is planned for later in 2020.

Implementers of the YieldWise Initiative conducted training with small-holder farmers and farmer coops focused on 1) why PHL reducing technologies are needed, and 2) how they can be used effectively. In interviews with Dr. Sonka, participants indicated that the training was highly effective. Learning about why and how to use PHL-reducing techniques and technologies was cited as an important benefit. In addition the farmers and coop representatives cited the importance of having technology manufacturers and retailers participate during part of the training. This allowed the farmers and coops to establish direct linkages to order and make purchases. These linkages were not readily available before the training and were viewed as an important component of the training process.

Market linkages were not limited to those developed between farmers and technology providers. Important linkages and relationships were initiated among farmers, aggregators, and processors. Typically, the small-holder farmer’s access to markets to sell their grain is a challenge characterized by considerable uncertainty. Oftentimes, the “market” only exists when a grain buyer is physically at the farm. Generally, farmers have limited information as to the appropriate maize price, except for the price being offered by the buyer at that moment. Further, the farmer does not know if that buyer will return or if another buyer will emerge in the future. A component of the YieldWise Initiative focused on establishing aggregation capabilities which can reduce these uncertainties. In some cases, farmer coops providing better access to grain markets also are aligned with coops that provide seed, inputs, and technologies as well as finance. The Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Societies of Iringa Hope is one such example.

Aggregators and processors also highlighted the value of these linkages because they facilitated access to higher quality grain. Processors volunteered that an important benefit of the YieldWise effort was their increased ability to secure “clean, dry” maize. In addition, during interviews with processors and farmers, the heightened awareness of the detrimental effects of aflatoxin contamination and misuse of chemicals in storage was stressed. This awareness demonstrates the success of the YieldWise Initiative in educating value chain participants as to the relationship between post-harvest practices and potential health outcomes. This result is a step toward ensuring that safer grain handling and storage practices become a priority.

The assessment interviews documented the increased use of hermetic bag storage. However, this storage technology was almost exclusively being used to store grain for home consumption only. The cost of hermetic storage solutions meant that traditional storage and transport methods were still used for grain going into commercial channels. In addition, maize producers stated that they would have interest in utilizing metal silo technology as well. However, an effective commercial market for silos has not developed in Tanzania.

The increased awareness by farmers and processors regarding the dangers of aflatoxin contamination and the overuse of chemical pesticides is one dimension of the awareness raising impact of YieldWise. Assessment interviewees also cited the YieldWise work in raising public and government awareness of post-harvest loss as a societal issue. Those efforts contributed to development of the National Post-Harvest Management Strategy by the Ministry of Agriculture of Tanzania . That national strategy was released in the latter half of 2019.

In the near future, the Consortium will carry out another set of interviews in Tanzania to further study the efficacy of the YieldWise Initiative. Results from both rounds of interviews will be published in academic papers, blogs, and on the Consortium website.