Back to Home Page of CD3WD Project or Back to list of CD3WD Publications



Guidelines for the Analysis of Post-production Systems

A. Bell, F. Mazaud & O. Mück

A joint initiative of the
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH

Published by:

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Agro-Industries and Post-Harvest Management Service (AGSI)
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy


Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH
Integrated control of the larger grain borer - small farmers post-harvest systems

Albert Bell, Section 4541
P.O. Box 5180
D-65726 Eschborn, Germany

With inputs from:
Otto Mück, Post-harvest consultant
D-22885 Barsbüttel, Germany

Cover Design:
Common creation by: Carolin Bothe, FAO & Albert Bell, Gerlinde Quiter, GTZ

Elisa Martin, GTZ, OE 0120

ISBN 3-933984-38-6

(TZ /I/ /1199/0,8)

Copyright: FAO & GTZ 1999

Table of Contents

0 Executive Summary

1 Introduction

2 Guidelines for Using the Methodology

3 Lessons Learnt

4 Bibliography

5 Annexes

i Preface

Production and post-production operations in agriculture determine the living and working conditions in most developing countries more than any other economic activity. In rural areas job opportunities are rare apart from those in food production or post-production operations, including processing and distribution. At the same time, many people leave the rural environment because of the poor economic prospects. Therefore food production, processing and distribution systems must be highly efficient in order to provide ever more food for growing populations, especially in urban areas.

As far as export potential is concerned, agricultural products are also crucial to the national economies of nearly all developing countries. The globalisation of trade in agricultural products and the need to comply with ever higher quality standards require the further development of existing post-production systems. As a consequence, post-production systems have become an important issue for the development policies of the international donor community and many developing countries.

By the beginning of the nineties the technically oriented programmes and projects implemented hitherto no longer seemed appropriate to solving post-production problems. That is why a multi-disciplinary systems approach for the analysis and development of post-production systems was adopted by the major donors. The conceptual side of this approach was written down in a methodological framework commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) with the support of other development agencies, especially the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ). Following extensive field testing in three country studies in Ghana, Kenya and Zambia, the present publication has been compiled in order to present the systems approach, with special emphasis on the practical application of the methodology.

It is addressed to decision-makers in governments in the hope that it may help them to optimise their agricultural, food and post-production policies and strategies. At the same time, the book should enable planners and practitioners at all levels of post-production intervention to obtain a deeper understanding of the systems involved and develop them on a sustained basis.

The transfer of knowledge necessary to applying the methodological framework (objective 1 of the introduction to this book) is the core element of this publication. Chapters 2 and 3 deal with this aspect. Section 3.1 contains information on the second objective (creation of awareness). Objective 3 (background, rationale and development of the new approach) is dealt with in sections 1.2 and 2.1. The results achieved when applying the framework in the country studies are presented in section 2.3 and annexes II to IV.

Food and Agriculture Organisation
of the United Nations
Dr. John Monyo
Agricultural Support Systems

Deutsche Gesellschaft für
Technische Zusammenarbeit
(GTZ) GmbH

Günther Dresrüsse
Planning and Development

ii Acknoledgements

The authors would like to thank all those who contributed to the elaboration of the methodological framework for post-production systems analysis and especially to this publication. Many consultants, planners and practitioners in the field of post-production have made direct and indirect contributions, especially while preparing, executing and evaluating the three country studies in Ghana, Kenya and Zambia, as well as during the preparation of this manuscript and earlier versions of the framework. It is impossible to name everybody who contributed, especially because of the active participation of countless post-production actors in African countries. Therefore very warm thanks go to everybody who was involved in one way or another and contributed his or her opinion, comment or amendment.

The step-by-step development of the methodological framework in theory and practice involved a great many people and this text is an excellent example of the participatory approach used in applying that methodological framework.

iii Abbreviations and acronyms


Australian Centre for International Agricultural


Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research


Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical


Centro Internacional de la Papa


Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement


United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development


Deutsche Stiftung für internationale Entwicklung


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


Group for Assistance on Systems relating to Grain After-harvest


Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit


Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points


International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements


International Institute of Tropical Agriculture


Information Network on Post-harvest Operations


International Standards Organisation


Master of Science


Natural Resources Institute


Participatory Rural Appraisal


Research and development


Rapid Rural Appraisal


Terms of reference


United Nations Conference on Environment and Development


World Health Organization

iv Glossary

All the definitions in this glossary refer to the use of the terms in the context of post-production systems.


people or institutions who are involved in post-production operations. In the methodological framework, a distinction is made between main, indirect and supporting actors (for more details see section 2.1.3)


country studies

post-production systems studies carried out in Ghana, Kenya and Zambia with the object of testing and further developing the methodological framework



relating to the integrity (or all aspects) of the post-production system



measure such as a study, project or programme


institutional landscape

visual representation (diagram) of the organisational set-up showing the institutions involved and their relations


methodological framework

the FAO concept for post-production systems analysis described in this publication



involving different natural and human sciences and team work



an approach towards development that includes the beneficiaries in the planning, implementation and evaluation of interventions


Participatory Rural Appraisal

a rather informal and quick approach to surveying using a particular set of methods


post-production system

the chain of operations from harvesting to consumption including the respective actors and all influencing factors and framework conditions (often referred to as post-harvest system)


people or institutions representing main or indirect actors participating in planning, executing and evaluating post-production systems interventions (this term is frequently used in the Kenya country study)



long-term impact of interventions


systems approach

conceptual approach in the field of post-production in which every step or fact is seen as part of an entire system (see also · holistic)


target group

people towards whom interventions or activities are directed. They may be beneficiaries or multiplicators



methods of post-production systems analysis, mainly taken from the PRA tool-box

0 Executive Summary

0.1 Introduction

0.1.1 Objectives of these Guidelines

This publication contains guidelines for the analysis and promotion of post-production systems according to the methodological framework jointly developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the German development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH. This methodological framework is a response to the economic and political changes of recent years and the challenges of the future. It reflects the lessons learnt from earlier post-roduction interventions.

The present publication has the following objectives:

  1. to enable post-production planners, decision-makers and practitioners to apply the methodological framework developed to assist in the
    - collection, selection and use of relevant information
    - identification of impacts on actors and problems
    - prioritisation of problems and assessment of opportunities for improvement
  2. to create awareness of the need for and difficulties of this approach
  3. to describe the background, rationale and development of the framework
  4. to report on the results of applying it in country studies

Because of the complexities of the systems approach (steps, actors, levels and country- or region-specific variations), this book cannot be taken as a step-by-step guide to carrying out a post-production systems analysis. The methods and checklists presented are meant to serve only as an orientation. Hence, the framework should be considered more a self-help guide than a complete reference handbook.

0.1.2 Background of the Methodological Framework

Many donors and development institutions have been involved in supporting post-production interventions in the past, the focus having been on staple foods. Subsistence farmers were the main target group. Storage was given high priority because losses were perceived to be substantial. Viable technical solutions were found for many of the existing problems. Some of these programmes were fully successful. However, other experience with the transfer of post-production innovations to farmers was rather disappointing. The flow of information was often rather poor due to inefficient extension networks.

Since the eighties, Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) surveys and farming systems research have shown that technical improvements are often not enough to solve the problems of the target groups. The actors in the post-production system decide according to economic or socio-cultural criteria that have often been neglected. In many countries, unfavourable framework conditions have frustrated well-intentioned initiatives. Furthermore, the ever increasing globalisation of trade in agricultural products has made it necessary to review the objectives of agricultural development.

In 1995, the members of GASGA (Group for Assistance on Systems relating to Grain After-harvest) decided to modify their approach towards post-production interventions in the light of these insights. This decision entailed a change of focus from technical specialisation towards a holistic view of post-production issues that places more emphasis on actors and framework conditions.

The systems approach reflects current principles of development policy implemented by most development partners and influenced by international conventions like Agenda 21 and the Montreal Protocol. The complex cross-sectional topics that have arisen from these conventions can only be managed within a holistic systems approach.

Target-group-oriented post-production work requires a broad knowledge of relevant facts and framework conditions. In order to make existing knowledge accessible, FAO started the Information Network on Post-harvest Operations (INPhO). Its main component is a comprehensive database accessible through the Internet.

0.1.3 Development of the Framework

The development of the methodological framework was a time-consuming process. In-depth country studies were included in the design of the prototype framework as practical tests. These country studies had the twin objective of developing the methodology further and of demonstrating its practicability. FAO commissioned a study with partners in Zambia, and GTZ commissioned a study in Ghana and one in Kenya. During a workshop organised by GTZ, the results of the three studies were assessed and further methodological improvements were proposed.

0.2 Guidelines for Using the Methodology

0.2.1 The Framework

Post-production activities are an integral part of the food production system from the producer through to the consumer. They involve farm management systems, tool and equipment manufacturing, agro-industries, as well as marketing. These activities add value to the commodities and create income for families in rural and urban communities.

The conceptual framework combines several types of systems analysis (commodity, farmers, agro-ecological system, marketing, global policies). It is an instrument to examine the existing situation with a view to increasing the efficiency of the food production system. Linking the system of on-farm activities to other operations in the chain and then placing that chain in a wider socio-economic and political context requires a consistently logical approach and a sound analytical method. The FAO/GTZ initiative to produce a conceptual framework should be seen against this background.

The consumer plays the leading role in this system and influences post-production operations through demand and preferences. Of the main actors, emphasis is on smallholder producers and small- to medium-scale entrepreneurs. Three categories of actors are distinguished within the post-production sector:

The actors operate at different levels, on farm or off farm. They can be female or male. It is important to check which gender predominates for each operation.

The methodology for analysing post-production systems consists of the following five steps:

  1. country analysis and role of food production
  2. economic and institutional analysis of the post-production and marketing chain
  3. actor analysis and social context
  4. analysis of constraints and bottlenecks
  5. checklist of appropriateness of technical interventions

These steps are necessary to obtain systematic access to the information that is required to prepare a comprehensive study.

Indicators are required for the analysis of post-production systems and the evaluation of interventions. Meaningful indicators should be in line with international efforts like the indicator programme developed by the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD). Indicators should be substantial, plausible and independent and should provide precise information on quantities, quality, time and region.

If the framework is used in its totality, it will provide an overview of general constraints, specific bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement. Opportunities for improvement will be at the national, regional or village levels and at on/off-farm levels. Prescriptions may be given for policy changes, legislation, formulation of measures, programmes or projects.

The methodological framework contains several participatory steps. Meetings with partner institutions and discussions of work plans are imperative. The in-field studies should be carried out using PRA methods. The participatory approach creates a strong feeling of ownership amongst the people involved and thus may have a positive impact on the sustainability of interventions . The multi-disciplinary study teams should represent a well-balanced selection of sciences.

0.2.2 The Tool-box

The framework methodology is designed to analyse post-production systems from different perspectives simultaneously. A wide set of methods may be combined in a flexible way to describe the post-production chains of commodities as well as the actors and their interests and roles. These methods include:

The planning and scheduling of a post-production systems study may be based on the following flow-chart:

1. Request for a post-production systems analysis by
a local institution

2. Funding of the study
3. Design of the scope, etc. in a pre-study

4. Selection of the study team
5. Awareness-raising, team building and training
(including workshop)

6. Secondary data collection and field surveying
7. Review of the findings and methodology (workshop)
8. Drafting of the report
9. Presentation of the results in a workshop
10. Recommendations and development of action plans, elaboration of programme and project proposals (workshop)

There is no fixed sequence for single activities. Their selection and sequence depend on the specific requirements of every study. The duration of a post-production systems study may vary, but generally about three months should be sufficient.

0.2.3 Case Studies

The FAO methodological framework has been tested in three country studies and one preparatory study for a new project. However, there were major differences in the way the studies were organised and the available set of tools applied.

The GTZ commissioned the first of these studies, carried out in Kenya. A preliminary mission comprised collection of secondary data and interviews with key informants, creation of awareness among stakeholders, a participatory workshop for selection of the product group, determination of the scope of the study and selection of team members. The main mission con-sisted of building a multi-disciplinary study team, sensitising stakeholders, training team members in systems analysis and participatory appraisal techniques, involving Kenyan organisations in the study, identifying survey hypotheses, elaborating interview guidelines, conducting a workshop on the expectations of the stakeholders, reviewing the survey methodology, collecting secondary data, appraising the post-production chain and the marketing structure, analysing the collected data and holding a workshop on the survey results. The approach included a second post-study workshop held one year later, where recommendations on the improvement of the framework methodology and on the action plan were made.

The Kenya study focused on economic issues relating to the potato and sweet potato post-production chains, with special emphasis on marketing. The post-production systems seem to function rather well, with the excep-tion of certain constraints on the infrastructure and framework conditions.

The first phase of the study on maize and cassava in Zambia executed by FAO consisted of a baseline study (literature review and first field visits) carried out by three national consultants. The main mission started with the review of their reports and the study of selected published and grey litera-ture by the three international consultants who joined them. Meetings were held with key officials from public and private sector organisations in the capital. The field survey visits included discussions with state officials on different levels, representatives of co-operatives, project personnel, farmers, traders and millers. The focus was on data collection using PRA methods.

The Zambia study gives a good overview of post-production operations for maize and, to some extent, for cassava in rural areas. Urban areas have not been included in the focus of the analysis. The consequences of market liberalisation in the absence of support to farmers and other actors are described.

The country study on yams and tomatoes in Ghana was a collaborative effort of two GTZ-supported projects. The study was compiled by several authors who contributed individual chapters. Their work was based on independent PRA studies conducted in recent years. The procedure included the selection of crops for analysis by an expert panel, commissioning of individual chapters from different authors, editing of the report by two editors supported by the expert panel, documentation of the results in a study report and designing of intervention programmes during a workshop.

The Ghana study presents information about the yams and tomato post-production chains collected in recent years. Innovative proposals are made for the development of post-production and marketing systems through the establishment of post-harvest secretariats or working groups at national and local level.

Apart from the three country studies conducted to test and further develop the framework methodology, GTZ has used the systems approach to prepare a new project promoting sustainable post-production systems in Chad.

Application of the framework methodology enables planners, decision-makers and development practitioners to obtain reliable information on relevant post-production systems. However, the experience of the three country studies shows that constraints in post-production systems remain difficult to analyse. These constraints may be due to a variety of reasons depending on local circumstances.

Comparative analysis of the country studies proves that the framework methodology is useful for collecting information on the whole post-production chain. It may also raise local awareness and indicate possible areas of research and intervention. A local promoter is essential to the success of the exercise.

0.3 Lessons Learnt

0.3.1 Shortcomings of the Framework and Problems during the Studies

Experience has shown that many people cannot easily understand and accept the need for post-production systems analysis. Therefore, it is essential to convince all actors involved of its usefulness through timely information, creating awareness and getting them to participate in special workshops.

Care should be taken to ensure that stakeholders develop a strong feeling of ownership. They should commit themselves to precisely defined action plans containing a timeframe and a clear description of personal responsibilities. The process of preparing, executing and monitoring a post-production systems analysis should be led by a local promoter .

The design of a country study depends on many factors and therefore no fixed model can be given. In most cases, changes are still necessary during execution of the analysis. This is why PRA's methodological tools are strongly recommended for the field surveys. The appropriateness of the tools must be continually assessed during fieldwork. If necessary, they should be adapted to the purpose or changed.

0.3.2 Future Perspectives of the Systems Approach

The methodological framework should be seen not only as an approach to improving existing post-production systems but also as a chance to open up completely new perspectives. The framework may be used to assess the impact on existing post-production systems of world-wide developments like globalisation of trade, quality trends in the food industry, political changes such as deregulation, or environmental concerns such as the protection of natural resources. In a next step, the framework may assist in decision-making on the policy level. Quarantine issues, quality standards, liberalisation of trade and the phase-out of methyl bromide are of special importance in this context.

0.3.3 Integration of Post-production Work into the Overall Strategy of Sustainable Economic Development

The establishment of post-harvest secretariats or working groups, as proposed in the Ghana study, goes far beyond the promotion of the post-production sub-sector. In fact, the proposal provides a promising perspective for target-group-oriented development policy in general. A similar approach to other areas of development and some networking may lead to changes in the current practice of desktop policy planning.

Donors can contribute to the promotion of the systems approach at several levels. The first is to utilise the framework methodology for pre-feasibility studies. Proposals have been made for linking technical and financial cooperation within post-production systems which are also relevant to other systems and approaches in the context of sustainable development. The logical consequence of this is an overall holistic strategy of sustainable economic development, as outlined in Agenda 21.