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


3 Lessons learnt

3.1 Shortcomings of the Framework and Problems during the Studies

3.1.1 Convincing the People Involved of the Usefulness of the Analysis

Experience from the three country studies shows that many people cannot easily understand and accept the need for such a complex and time-consuming exercise as a post-production systems analysis according to the methodological framework. They may be convinced because of their professional experience or their day-to-day contact with the subject that they have a good understanding of the existing problems anyway. Current analytical procedures still often reflect a rather narrow specialist attitude that is a consequence of their education and training. Therefore, it is essential to convince all the actors involved in post-production systems analysis of the usefulness and advantages of this approach. Otherwise the following problems may arise:

The only way to convince the interested parties is to inform them in time, create awareness and get them to participate in the design and execution of the study. The experience in Kenya has shown that workshops are an ideal way of combining these two aspects. Workshops should be organised at different stages of a country study. In this connection, the following stages are of particular importance:

Most of these workshops may be held in a brief and informal way. A target-oriented approach, participation, visualisation and documentation are the guiding principles.

Care should be taken to ensure that the stakeholders develop a strong feeling of ownership. They should commit themselves to precisely defined action plans that contain a timeframe and a clear description of personal responsibilities. A simple follow-up schedule should be set up in order to monitor their activities and the further development of the post-production system.

The process of preparing, executing and monitoring a post-production country analysis should be led by a local promoter. This promoter need not necessarily be a single person (e.g. a government advisor, a post-production operator or a scientist) but may be a post-harvest secretariat or working group, a panel of experts or a leading institution involved in post-production operations.

3.1.2 Adaptation of the Framework to Local Conditions and Needs

During the country studies, difficulties arose adapting the framework to the circumstances of a specific country. A flow-chart for the overall approach towards a country study has been presented in section 2.2.5 as a rough guide. As already stated, the design of such a study depends on many factors and therefore no fixed model can be given here. In most cases, changes are still required during the execution of the analysis. This is why the methodological tools of PRA are strongly recommended for the field surveys.
Adaptation of the framework to local conditions and needs starts during the first workshop in the pre-study phase and continues throughout the field work following the classic iterative RRA approach represented in the following flow-chart:

1. Define objectives
2. Make a checklist
3. Conduct fieldwork
4. Analyse findings
5. Identify problems and opportunities
6. Assess key problems and opportunities
7. Action = more fieldwork/research/dialogue (back to step 3)
or formulation of policy, project or programme
implementation, etc.

During fieldwork the appropriateness of the tools must be continually assessed. If necessary, the tools should be adapted to the purpose of the particular case or changed. More information on the flexible use of methods can be found in the PRA literature. This flexibility depends largely on the experience of the team members. It is strongly recommended that special attention is given to sound working experience of PRA techniques when recruiting the team, especially the team leader.

The Ghana country study is an interesting example of the adaptation of the FAO approach to local conditions because it follows the principles of the framework (holistic approach, actor orientation, etc.) but - owing to budgetary constraints - makes almost exclusive use of previously collected information. Instead of conducting their own surveys the editors compiled a multi-author report based on previous surveys documented in existing studies.

The checklists for major areas of concern must be constantly amended in the light of experience gained during field testing in order to obtain full information on the post-production system in a given country, including the deficit areas listed in section 3.1.3.

3.1.3 Deficits Concerning the Information Collected in the Country Studies

The study conducted in Kenya was prepared with the maximum participation of actors and and stakeholders. Nevertheless, the choice of commodities and scope seem somewhat arbitrary because of a lack of information on general economic and institutional aspects. There is, for example, not much mention made of export crops. Another problem that the authors themselves mention is that the study suffered from a lack of high quality data.

The study conducted in Ghana did not concentrate on the further development of the FAO methodological framework. The information required for the analysis of bottlenecks in the chosen post-production systems was compiled using existing studies. This approach raises the question of the extent to which the FAO methodological framework must be applied in order to achieve a competent analysis of post-production systems.

The country study from Zambia had a strong focus on technical operations relating to the maize and cassava chains in rural areas (e.g. storage and processing). As a consequence, analysis of the economic aspects, such as market structure, market conduct and market performance, was insufficient. The producer is at the centre of the study. The technical approach neglects other actors, especially in the urban environment as well as the socio-economic implications of post-production operations. The institutional part of the post-production system should also be further analysed. The difficulties of market liberalisation require deeper analysis of aspects such as the production and post-production problems of hybrid maize, lack of extension services and information on market prices.

During a follow-up workshop organised by GTZ in March 1998, the matrix presented in annex VI was used to compile a synopsis of the deficits of the three country studies. The recommendations that were made on this occasion for improving the framework proved very useful in better covering these aspects in the text of the present publication.

3.2 Future Perspectives of the Systems Approach

The methodological framework is a guide to the collection of relevant information, problem identification, problem prioritisation and assessment of opportunities for improving post-production operations and systems. So the framework should not only be seen as an approach to improving existing systems but also as chance to open up completely new perspectives.

As a consequence, the framework may be used to assess the impact of fairly recent global developments like globalisation of trade, quality trends in the food industry, political changes such as deregulation and environmental concerns such as the protection of natural resources on existing post-production systems. In a next step, the framework may assist in decision-making at the policy level. The issues dealt with in the following sections are of special importance in this context.

3.2.1 Quarantine Regulations

Many countries have sophisticated regulations for plant quarantine. The developing countries are familiar with the standard procedures and techniques applying to their classic export crops, such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, tea, timber, etc. But new approaches may exclude them from certain markets because they lack the technical and management know-how or the financial means to fulfil the requirements. One example is the introduction of 'certification assurance'. This approach includes a quality assurance system implemented by the exporting industry and audited by the quarantine authorities of the country of origin. It may be too expensive for developing countries because it involves considerable qualified manpower and analytical capacity.

Different quarantine regulations in individual importing countries complicate the development of new export crops (e.g. exotic fruits and spices). The purpose of some of these regulations may even be to protect certain markets and to make importation more difficult. Easily accessible information systems using new media (Internet and CD-ROM) are needed to overcome these barriers to free trade. The FAO INPhO is one of the systems that have been created to help in the sharing of relevant information.

3.2.2 Quality Standards

Quality has become a major concern in all industrialised countries during recent years. This has lead to the development of a series of management practices (e.g. Total Quality Management) and standards (especially ISO 9000 ff.) relating to quality. In the food business, the situation is even more delicate than in other industries, as a lack of quality may easily lead to serious health hazards.

The HACCP approach (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) has been developed to increase food safety and reduce food-borne diseases by controlling biological, chemical and physical hazards in foods. Germs and residues (pesticides, mycotoxins, etc.) are of particular importance in this concept. HACCP is already currently practised in industrialised countries whereas in many developing countries it is still widely unknown or the expertise to put it into practice is lacking. A company applying HACCP cannot accept raw products that do not conform to those quality standards. This means that producers who are not able to provide the requisite quality will be excluded from the market.

Eco-farming with its own quality standards is another example of potential market niches that can only be explored by those who have access to the relevant know-how, particularly the standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) and other institutions.

Local consumers also want more attention to be paid to quality and health issues. This fact is often neglected because the current unsatisfactory situation regarding food quality and standards is taken for granted in many developing countries. Consumers accept comparatively low standards because of a lack of awareness or purchasing power. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that food-borne diseases remain one of the most widespread public health problems and that HACCP is the most cost-effective approach for ensuring the safety of food. The HACCP system can be applied throughout the food chain, from the producer to the consumer. HACCP is a multi-disciplinary approach - a striking parallel to the systems approach for the analysis of post-production operations.

It would be of advantage if at least regional standards could be set and adhered to for food trade within economic communities such as the ones in West, East and southern Africa. The countries here generally have fairly comparable conditions as far as consumption patterns, varietal preferences and other criteria are concerned, so this task does not pose major difficulties.

The post-production systems approach has an important future role in facilitating access to the world market for developing countries and in implementing adequate quality standards for agricultural commodities, whether produced for local consumption or exportation.

3.2.3 Deregulation and Other Political Changes

Deregulation has become a global trend in recent years. It is no longer considered to be a task of government to interfere directly in such matters as agricultural production or marketing. The big food stocks that were created for food security purposes in the seventies (e.g. in Sahel countries) have been reduced to a minimum and the grain boards or similar parastatals that managed them have either been closed or their influence has become fairly insignificant. In the long term, these changes have definite positive effects on the national economy, but farmers may suffer from the fact that well established marketing structures have disappeared while the new market-oriented economy does not yet function properly. In many cases the private sector has failed as yet to fill the gap. This is true of countries that once belonged to the Soviet Union, but also of many African countries. The Zambia country study highlights this problem.

Another relevant fact is that government-fixed prices for staple food have been abolished in most countries. In reality, official prices were rarely adhered to in local markets, but parastatals used to buy substantial quantities of produce at fixed prices from farmers who had no other outlets. This was rarely advantageous for the farmers. On the other hand, farmers often lose out in free market economies too where there are no regulatory mechanisms like subsidies at all. Seasonal price fluctuations, which generally only benefit the traders, are a well known example.

3.2.4 Phase-out of Methyl Bromide

The phase-out of methyl bromide is the most important environmental issue in agriculture and post-production operations. The phase-out schedules for the use of methyl bromide in agriculture agreed upon by the parties to the Montreal Protocol differ for the industrialised and the developing countries. While the developing countries may continue to use this ozone-depleting pesticide until 2015, industrialised countries have decided to ban most of its uses by the year 2005. Many consumers and big companies in import countries, however, have already started to go for products that are produced without methyl bromide. As a consequence, producers in developing countries who are still using methyl bromide may have to change their agricultural practices in order to stay competitive on the world market. These changes will entail considerable investments and know-how. It is a big challenge for developing countries to manage this change. However, donor support is available in the form of funding and know-how transfer.

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

A proposal was made in the Ghana study (establishment of post-harvest secretariats or working groups) that goes far beyond the promotion of the post-production sub-sector. Actually, this 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. This approach is fundamentally democratic and in line with the stipulations of Agenda 21 relating to the participation and empowering of farmers, women and other disadvantaged groups in society. In Ghana, the Government is making an effort to implement a post-harvest secretariat at the regional level with the support of a local project assisted by GTZ.

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. GTZ has done so successfully with the study for a requested bilateral post-production project in Chad. Workshops and interviews with key informants in the capital and a participatory survey in the south of the country indicated that most of the post-production constraints are caused by political and economic framework conditions and by socio-cultural factors. It was therefore concluded that a project on the prevention of post-production food losses would not make a significant contribution to solving the problems of the farmers and their families. Instead, a broader approach promoting rural food security has been envisaged that includes production and post-production aspects, as well as work at the political level.

In annex 10 of the Kenya country study, proposals are made for linking technical and financial cooperation within the framework of post-production systems (von der Ohe & von der Ohe, undated). The advantages of such a linkage include:

    • more efficient programme design on the donor side

    • improved in-country cooperation and coordination

    • closer integration of projects into a wider programme frame

    • better cooperation of individual projects

Following the country study, a multi-disciplinary working group was established in the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture which is continuing to pursue this approach. The working group co-ordinates stakeholders from different spheres such as agriculture, marketing and road construction.

The ideas set out in the paper by von der Ohe & von der Ohe are very valuable not only for the specific case of post-production but also for the general integration of different systems of, and approaches to sustainable development. The logical consequence of this point of view is a holistic overall strategy of sustainable economic development as outlined in Agenda 21.

This approach requires the integration of the following systems in a single entity:

Large management capacities are necessary to put this approach into practice. However, the stakeholders involved should not make the mistake of trying to control the development of these systems centrally. These systems manage themselves most efficiently in a bottom-up set-up. Well established democratic structures, a free market and free access to the necessary know-how for all the actors are the prerequisites of this model. The methodological framework has been designed to contribute to this approach by fostering an understanding of the functioning of post-production systems, by identifying the bottlenecks and determining focal intervention points for developing these systems in the spirit of Agenda 21.