The Postharvest Education Foundation (PEF) is a non-profit organization aiming to motivate and empower people to reduce food loss and waste. Their Postharvest Toolkit supplies small and medium scale farmers with technologies to achieve this goal.
PEF shares the best practices for the handling, processing, storage, distribution, and consumption of food. They train Postharvest Specialists who assist smallholder farmers, traders, processors, and marketers in cutting food loss and waste. Through their Specialists, PEF can reach rural communities and overcome local language barriers. Currently, PEF has 175 graduates from 34 countries around the world.
PEF also offers the Postharvest Toolkit containing materials to help cut food loss and waste. Materials include a CD Training Course, digital temperature probes, and pH test strips. PEF sells toolkits at a reduced cost to agricultural extension officers and small scale farmers in developing countries.
The Toolkit offers technologies that help farmers receive the highest value from their harvests. For example, the toolkit’s refractometer measures the brix—the sugar content—of fruits, helping farmers determine when fruits are mature and ready to harvest. The toolkit’s fruit sizing rings help farmers identify larger, higher-value fruits and sell them at a better price.
“By supplying these tools, partners are able to carry out projects pertaining to postharvest losses,” Fanny Ipinge, a Co-Founder and Consultant of the Postharvest Toolkit, tells Food Tank.
Ipinge says that the Toolkit is developed to help address accessibility barriers. In low-income countries, many cannot afford these technologies and rely on donations and government assistance. By supplying Toolkits at a reduced cost, small scale farmers are better able to access tools to cut food loss and waste.
PEF is also part of Friends of Champions 12.3, a network of organizations and companies leading progress to achieve the third target of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12. SDG 12.3 states, “by 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.”
PEF trains specialists to address both food loss and food waste, which are separate issues requiring different solutions. According to PEF, postharvest food loss occurs during and immediately after the harvesting phase. Postharvest food losses tend to be more prevalent in low-resource settings, where the appropriate technologies to properly handle and store foods may be lacking.
PEF identifies key drivers of food loss, including delays in transport without proper storage and poor-quality packaging. According to the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), In Sub-Saharan Africa, postharvest food loss amounts to US$4 billion per year—enough to feed 48 million people.
Specialists are able to determine the prevalence of food loss and food waste in communities and work with the local food system to address underlying drivers. Through offering mentorship and resources, PEF also connects rural partners with technologies and innovation.
“Innovation plays the most important role in mitigating food loss and waste,” Ipinge tells Food Tank. PEF partners innovate the packaging, cold storage, marketing, processing, and storage of food and share best practices with PEF’s network.
Some of these innovations include a low-cost and zero-energy cooling chamber constructed of clay bricks, as well as an insulated shipping container to extend the shelf life of produce and ensure shipments reach local markets fresh. And while innovations are important to reduce food loss and waste, Ipinge emphasizes that climate change solutions are critical to prevent long-term effects on the food supply chain.
Looking ahead, PEF hopes to expand its network, continue supporting its partners’ innovations, develop new training courses on food storage, and manage future horticulture projects.
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Photo Courtesy of Marek Studzinski, Unsplash