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Perceptions and Practices on Postharvest Management Investment for  Resilient Livelihoods in Uporoto Highlands of Tanzania

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Corresponding author:  
Brown Gwambene 
Postharvest loss 
Food security 
Smallholder farmer’s  
Production process 
Resilient livelihoods 
Received: 17.05,2923 
Received in revised form: 22.05.2023 
Sub-Saharan Africa experiences seasonal loss of millions of tons of food  and produces due to low postharvest infrastructure investment.  Postharvest loss impedes the achievement of SDG 2 of Zero Hunger, which  aims to end hunger, achieve food security and nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030. This study employed a survey method to  assess postharvest management for reducing food loss and waste among  smallholder farmers, using questionnaire surveys, key informant interviews, and field observations. The data collected were analyzed  thematically, and trend analysis for qualitative data and SPSS and  Microsoft Excel for quantitative data. Results revealed that a lack of investment in postharvest management is responsible for about 90% of  crop loss, food shortage, and loss of income. Challenges highlighted during the study included poor storage, production systems, processing knowledge, cultural aspects, storage infrastructure, seasonal markets,  and a need for more supportive environments. Packing in bags (71%) and  the roof of the house (ceiling board) 97% were common postharvest  preservation and storage methods, with negative repercussions on  postharvest management. The study recommends promoting investment  in postharvest management, improving knowledge, infrastructure,  production, processing, storage, and distribution systems to reduce food  loss and waste.


Strengthening postharvest management is crucial to  address smallholder farmers’ challenges and  modernize agricultural production. Postharvest losses  in developing countries exacerbate food insecurity  and result in significant welfare loss for farming  households (Tesfaye and Tirivayi, 2018). Cereal grains  are particularly vulnerable to postharvest losses, with losses as high as 30 to 50 percent reported in the  literature (Befikadu, 2018).

These losses can affect the  quality and quantity of the produced crops, leading to  lost income and value. Therefore, reducing  postharvest losses has become a primary concern for achieving food security and increasing productivity through modern agricultural production (Ridolfi et al.2018). 

Postharvest losses include food losses along the  supply chain and food wastage at the consumer level  (Parmar et al. 2018; Braun et al., 2019). Several factors  responsible for postharvest losses include climate  change and variability, incidents of insect, pest, and  fungal infestation, inadequate storage strategies and  poor infrastructures. Santeramo (2021) and Yimer  (2022) indicated that cereal crops are more affected  by postharvest loss from insect, pest, and fungal  infestation and inadequate storage and crop  management systems. Braun et al. (2019) identified  

the underlying factors and consumers’ food waste  behavior resulting from conflicting goals, such as  convenience, taste, and saving. It was noted that food  waste highlights the inequity of the food system at the  household level. 

While postharvest losses are primarily initiated at the  farm level in developing countries, the problem can  persist across the value chain (Ridolfi et al. 2018;  Befikadu, 2018). Contributing factors to postharvest  losses include outdated harvest techniques, limited  postharvest handling and infrastructure, and a lack of  suitable agro-climates for generating technology that  minimizes losses (Befikadu, 2018).

In addition,  postharvest infrastructure, particularly food storage  and marketing, contributes to crop production  challenges (Bendinelli et al. 2020). The challenges  were increased by outdated harvest techniques,  limited postharvest handling and storage, and  marketing infrastructure. To address these issues,  multiple suitable agro-climates with a great effort on  generating technology that minimizes loss need to  focus on cost-effective options and increase  investment in storage technologies. 

Reducing postharvest losses is critical for improving  food security and safety, reducing unnecessary  resource use, and increasing food supply chain actors’  profits (Bendinelli et al. 2020). It is especially crucial in  sub-Saharan Africa, where low investment in  postharvest infrastructure has resulted in a seasonal  loss of millions of tons of food and produce. 

Moreover, postharvest loss reduction is essential to  achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 of  Zero Hunger, which targets ending hunger, achieving  food security and improved nutrition, and promoting  sustainable agriculture by 2030. In addition, the  availability of cost-effective storage options has  increased farmers’ willingness to invest in safe storage  technologies, such as various hermetic technologies  (Njoroge et al. 2019). 

Building awareness of improved storage technologies,  finding solutions for pest infestations in the field and  after harvest, and investing in postharvest  infrastructure is vital for reducing postharvest losses.  Postharvest losses do not include food waste in retail  markets or after reaching consumers, which is  generally related to retailers’ and consumers’  behaviour (Bendinelli et al. 2020).

Despite the  importance of postharvest management investment,  perceptions, practices, and knowledge, less  investment is animated, especially in low-income countries. Therefore, this work aims to study  postharvest management practices to identify  practical measures to address the challenges and  increase resilience among smallholder farmers. 

2.0 Materials and Methods 

2.1 Study area 

The study was conducted in the Isongole ward in  Uporoto Highlands, Southern Highland of Tanzania.  The Highlands extend into three districts Mbeya Rural  and Rungwe (Mbeya Region), and Makete (Njombe  Region). The area is characterized by high volcanic  mountains (Sokoni and Tilumanywa, 2021) with  steeply dissected escarpments ranging from Tembela  ward in the Mbeya rural district and covering about  10% of the total area of the Rungwe district with an  altitude ranging between 2000 – 2865 masl meters  above the sea level. The climate is usually relatively  cool (50c – 180c), with reliable rainfall ranging from  1500 mm to 2700 mm (Gwambene, 2020) that favour  the production of maize, round potatoes, cabbages,  peas, fruits pyrethrum, and wheat in the northern  part. Farmers in the area primarily produce to meet  their basic food requirements, with the booming  round potato production as a cash crop. The area was  selected due to its economic importance. It is  strategically located in the highland region and  interconnected with a good tarmac road network  from Mbeya City to Rungwe, Kyela, and Malawi  (Gwambene, 2022). It has many natural resources,  including natural forests and fertile volcanic soils with  a booming round potato production (Sokoni and  Tilumanywa, 2021). However, the area is also  constrained by heavy rainfall, fog, frost, crop pests,  and diseases, essential in the postharvest loss. 

2.2 Data Source and Methods  

The study employed desk review and a survey method  to investigate postharvest losses among smallholder  farmers. It assesses postharvest management for  reducing food loss and waste among smallholder  farmers. The techniques used included a  questionnaire survey (QS), Key informant interview  (KII), and Field Observation (FO) data collection  techniques. 

Household questionnaire 

Data were collected from randomly selected  households using a structured questionnaire. The  information was gathered through interviews with the  head of households. Where the head of the household  was unavailable for any reason, a close relative  familiar with household activities, income, and  expenditure was interviewed instead. The  questionnaire gathered information on socio economic, general household characteristics, post harvesting management practices, challenges faced,  and opine on sustainability and improving food  security.  

Focus group discussions: Focus group discussions  comprise village Government, men and women:  youth, elderly, preeminent farmers, and participants  with different social and economic characteristics. The  FGD was arranged to involve all other groups based on  socio-economic factors (age, gender, education,  socio-economic status, and spatial representation) in  the selected area. The objective was to have their  expressed needs and the constraints they face and  gather their perception on postharvest management,  challenges, and options for sustainability. 

Key informant interviews 

The guiding checklist was prepared for gathering  information on postharvest management and  coordination issues. The targeted respondent groups  included expertise from the agricultural sector,  Natural resources, land, environment sectors, local  government at districts, wards, and village levels, and  knowledgeable elders in the community. The  interviews were conducted with key respondents  guided by a checklist administered to target groups at  their places or area of convenience.  

Field observations: the technique includes visiting the different locations and households in the study to verify some of the infrastructure and methods used. It involved taking photos and jotting notes and other information in the study area. The technique used to validate and complement the information gathered through other methods. 

2.3 Data Organisation and Analysis  

Thematic and trend analysis was used for the  qualitative data analysis, and SPSS Version 20 and  Microsoft Excel software was used for the quantitative  data. The analyzed data through SPSS and Microsoft  Excel soft wares were presented in percentages,  

Tables, Figures, and inferential forms. Besides, the  qualitative data were presented in narrative text,  tables, and conceptual statements. The study  assessed the postharvest management challenges  ranging from pre and post-harvesting activities,  management practices, and coordination to sustain  and improve food security and income of farming  households. 

3.0 Results 

3.1 The production system and postharvest practices 

The production system differs among the farms  depending on the available resources and constraints,  geographical location and climatic conditions,  government policy, socio-economic and political  pressures, and the farmer’s philosophy. The socio economic factors are affected by household priorities  and resource endowments. The study indicates that  most crops are affected by harvesting operations, on 

farm storage, transport operation, preliminary  processing, packaging, sorting, and bagging. Such  factors pose tremendous losses on adversity and  reduce crop production profitability. Smallholder  farmers, over time, develop methods to reduce pre  and postharvest loss. Figure 1 indicates the past used  postharvest methods; some are still in use. 

The past postharvest preservation methods include  the roof of the house (ceiling), warehouse, pesticides,  use of herbs and spices, and smoking. The cause of postharvest loss is poor production, poor harvesting  techniques, limited access to inputs, poor linkage to  traders and brokers, and incorrect harvesting. In  addition, low-cost and cost-effective postharvest  technology adoption is affected by a lack of  knowledge and information about such technologies,  financial constraints, and farmers’ prioritization of  consumption over future income. 

3.2 Food storage and storage facilities 

The results indicate poor food storage and storage  facility in the area. The situation resulted from the  inferior technology and management strategies of the  producers. Postharvest preservation methods include  packing in bags 71% and storing on the house roofs  (Ceiling) 97% (especially for maize). Figure 2 indicates  the postharvest methods used for main food crops. 

Figure 2 indicates the most used post-harvesting  method among smallholder farmers in the southern highlands. Depending on the nature of the crops  produced, smallholder farmers apply methods that  include storing on the roof of the house (especially for  maize and regimes), on-farm consumption (some  crops utilized directly from the farm), packing in bags,  drying and packaging, and local processing.

The most  used post-harvesting preservation and storage  methods for maize are packing in bags and roof of the  house. Round potatoes are primarily packed in bags  for business purposes. The preservation and storage methods used have repercussions on postharvest  management.

Among the challenges of postharvest  management are the seasonal market and the need  for access to appropriate processing equipment. The  seasonal market depends on the harvesting season,  which usually has its peak. Changes in timing,  weather, and sociocultural and political situation can  increase seasonal demands, processing, and storage  challenges. 

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Figure 1 Past used postharvest preservation methods 

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Perceptions and Practices on Postharvest Management Investment for  Resilient Livelihoods in Uporoto Highlands of Tanzania 17

Figure 2 The commonly used post-harvesting method

3.3 Postharvest handling practices and management  challenges  

The practices of handling harvest from farms and  commodities from the purchasing point up to their  marketplace increased challenges in postharvest  management. The study noted the practices which  promote and that reduce postharvest losses.

The results indicate that a lack of investment in  postharvest management causes about 90% of crop  loss, food shortage, and loss of income among  smallholder farmers. The situation is augmented by  poor handling practices, limited access to on-farm  storage, and inadequate transportation.

The persisting and pressing postharvest management  challenges highlighted during the study included poor  storage, production system, lack of processing  knowledge and packaging facilities, cultural aspects,  poor storage infrastructure, seasonal market,  supportive environment, and institutional support  (Figure 3).

The seasonal market is conducted during  harvesting, and the cultural aspects involve  community consumption and preferences. The study  by Chebanga et al. (2018) noted changes in food  consumption habits that affect the postharvest chain. 

Thus, promoting postharvest management investment is needed by improving knowledge,  infrastructure, production process, processing, and storage facilities lead to higher postharvest harvest  losses. Therefore, farmers are encouraged to improve  their production by improving product quality and  reducing harvesting, processing, packaging,  transportation, marketing, and storage challenges. 

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Figure 3. The postharvest management challenges  among smallholders farmers 

Table 1. The description of challenges across the  supply chains 

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Perceptions and Practices on Postharvest Management Investment for  Resilient Livelihoods in Uporoto Highlands of Tanzania 18

The revealed challenges in postharvest management  are instigated by harvesting operations, on-farm In addition, poor  handling practice, weather condition, inadequate  transportation, and lack of access to appropriate processing equipment affects the pre and post harvesting processes (Table 1). Ridolfi et al. (2018)  noted similar results indicating challenges in adopting  low-cost and cost-effective postharvest technology. 

The adoption is affected by a need for knowledge and  information about such technologies, financial  constraints, and farmers’ prioritization of  consumption over future income. 

The postharvest losses in poor storage,  transportation, and poor packaging significantly affect  farmers’ production benefits. For example, Chebanga  et al. (2018) indicated poor transportation methods, a  considerable distance from the market, and outdated storage, transport operation, preliminary processing,  packaging, sorting, and bagging. Poor production,  harvesting techniques, linkage to traders and brokers,  limited access to inputs, and incorrect harvesting  increased management challenges.

3.4 Cause of postharvest losses  

The causes of the postharvest losses experienced  across the value chain have multiple and complex  forms. Some of the reasons that have resulted in  postharvest losses include poor storage,  transportation, processing and packaging, and insect pests’ damages (Table 2).

The loss experienced at the  farm level to the traders at the marketplace. Losses  were also experienced during handling harvests, poor  packaging, and transportation, including harvesting  immature crops and inadequate carriage facilities.  Chebanga et al. (2018) noted similar results from the  experience of informal and formal traders. The  climatic condition also contributed to the pre, during,  and postharvest. 

Table 2 Cause of postharvest loss across the process 

image 79
Perceptions and Practices on Postharvest Management Investment for  Resilient Livelihoods in Uporoto Highlands of Tanzania 19

In the postharvest value chain, loss occurs from  production to consumption, whereby, at the  production point, part of the crop is lost due to  rodents, pests, and diseases. Similarly, a lack of  effective harvesting, transport, and storage facilities  leads to losses at the farm level. Mndeme (2016)  noted that food losses result in lost income for  smallholder farmers and higher prices for poor  consumers during harvest and storage. Thus, it  recommended undertaking a research programme on  building resilience through postharvest processing  and value addition (FANRPAN, 2016). 

3.5 Measures to minimize postharvest loss 

Postharvest loss challenges are observed through the  value chain at different stages; thus, such challenges are better addressed along the value chain (Table 3).  The technique, innovations, and technologies to  reduce postharvest losses include developing varieties  with longer shelf-lives while maintaining nutritional  properties, taste, and texture, capacity development,  and training on specific value chains among farmers  and key actors in the value chain. During harvesting,  carefully handling harvests and harvesting during a  proper time to reduce losses. Crop losses occur  before, during, and after harvesting due to inadequate  drying, inefficient storage facilities, and lack of  appropriate technologies. First, drying in the field and  at home, then stored near the house using different  containers and technologies. 

image 78
Perceptions and Practices on Postharvest Management Investment for  Resilient Livelihoods in Uporoto Highlands of Tanzania 20

The smallness of the operational activities and  harvests among smallholder farmers affects the  postharvest chain and its management. The study  noted that aggregating produce from smallholder  farmers is critical in improving postharvest  management by allowing farmers to access technologies (storage, packaging) and transportation  facilities. In addition, smallholders need to have the ability to meet specific quantity, quality, and safety standards to access high market value and preserve of  quality of produce (Omotilewa, 2018; Sibanda and  Workneh, 2020). Meeting quantity, quality, and  product safety standards are critical in accessing high value markets for smallholder farmers.

Thus, linking smallholder producers in the value chain through  increasing awareness, access to technology, and  coordination is crucial for improving postharvest  management, food security, and household income.  In addition, capacity building, learning, and applying  practical methods to reduce losses across the  postharvest value chain are equally important in  improving food security and livelihood income. 

4.0 Discussions 

The study indicates that most crops are affected by  postharvest practices such as harvesting operations,  on-farm storage, transport operation, preliminary  processing, packaging, sorting, and bagging. Such  factors pose tremendous losses on adversity and  reduce crop production profitability. Storage facilities  in the study area could be better, primarily resulting  from the producers’ inferior technology and  management strategies.

Postharvest preservation  methods commonly used among smallholder farmers  include packing in bags and storing on the house’s roof  (Ceiling) for maize. Round potatoes are primarily  packed in bags for business purposes. Outdated  harvesting techniques, limited postharvest handling  and storage, and marketing infrastructure have  contributed to the problem (Bendinelli et al., 2020).  The lack of suitable agro-climates for generating  technology that minimizes losses also exacerbates the  situation (Befikadu, 2018). 

The highlighted significant impact of postharvest  practices affects crop production and profitability.  Various stages of the postharvest process, including  harvesting operations, on-farm storage, transport,  preliminary processing, packaging, sorting, and  bagging, contribute to substantial losses and reduced  crop production profitability. The results align with  Santeramo (2021), who noted that inappropriate  collection, transport, storage, and pest control  systems account for approximately 30 to 50 percent  of postharvest losses. In addition, postharvest losses  encompass food losses along the supply chain,  including food wastage at the consumer level (Braun  

et al. 2019). Several factors contribute to postharvest  losses, including climate change and variability, insect,  pest, and fungal infestation incidents, inadequate  storage strategies, and poor infrastructure. Cereal  crops, in particular, are more susceptible to  postharvest losses due to insect, pest, and fungal  infestation and inadequate storage and crop  management systems (Santeramo, 2021; Yimer,  2022). 

Reducing postharvest losses is crucial for achieving  food security, ensuring food safety, optimizing  resource utilization, and increasing profitability within  the food supply chain (Bendinelli et al. 2020).  Smallholder farmers have developed methods to  mitigate pre and postharvest losses, such as utilizing  the roof of their houses, warehouses, pesticides,  herbs, and spices, and smoking for preservation. 

These findings are consistent with previous studies  emphasizing critical technologies and services for  reducing food loss (Díaz-Valderrama et al. 2020;  Balana et al. 2021). However, adopting low-cost and  cost-effective postharvest technologies faces  challenges due to limited knowledge and information,  financial constraints, and farmers prioritizing  immediate consumption over future income.

These findings align with a study by Parmar et al. (2018) and  Braun et al. (2019) that identified factors influencing  the adoption of postharvest technologies and  consumers’ food waste behavior resulting from  conflicting goals, convenience, taste, and saving. The  issue of food waste further highlights the inequity in  the food system at the household level. 

According to the literature, a sustainable food system  improves food availability and income within the  supply chain and reduces food waste (Braun et al.  2019; Balana et al. 2021; Afzal et al. 2019). Enhancing  the value chain improves the storability and  transportability of produce, ensures product quality,  reduces postharvest losses, and enhances food access  and price stabilization. Additionally, it improves food  utilization by promoting diversification, reducing  environmental impact, and implementing postharvest  innovations. Reducing postharvest losses also  minimizes food contamination and spoilage,  significantly contributing to high postharvest losses. 

Applying appropriate techniques, utilizing improved  inputs such as high-quality seeds or planting  materials, and ensuring efficient logistics and  marketing improved agricultural production (Yimer,  2022; Balana et al. 2021; Abdullahi and Dandago,2021).

Investing in improved technology leads to  increased production yield in smallholder farms and  contributes to the overall food supply, job creation,  and enhanced livelihoods. However, for an adequate  food supply system, equal attention should be given  to production and the postharvest supply chain, as  they are interconnected elements (Yimer, 2022;  Balana et al. 2021; Abdullahi and Dandago, 2021).

It noted the increased application of the proper  techniques, improved inputs (like seeds), and  appropriate logistics levels and marketing. Investing in  improved technology leads to higher production  yields in smallholder farms (Yimer, 2022; Balana et al.  2021; Abdullahi and Dandago, 2021).

A higher food  supply system improves the total available food  volume, creates jobs, and improves livelihoods.  Nevertheless, to realize an adequate food supply  system, the focus should be on production and the  postharvest supply chain as an indissoluble link that  creates effective food supply systems (Yimer, 2022;  Balana et al. 2021; Abdullahi and Dandago, 2021). 

Reducing postharvest losses is vital to achieving food  security, safety, and sustainable agriculture.  Therefore, investment in storage technologies,  building awareness of improved storage technologies,  finding solutions for pest infestations in the field and  after harvest, and investing in postharvest  infrastructure are essential. Braun et al. (2019)  discussed the interventions to reduce food waste  across supply chains and households.

Postharvest  management is vital to achieving the Sustainable  Development Goal (SDG) 2 of Zero Hunger, which  targets ending hunger, achieving food security, and  promoting sustainable agriculture by 2030. Thus,  interventions that focus on generating technology  that minimizes losses and increases investment in  storage technologies are needed. Besides,  smallholder farmers should adopt low-cost and cost effective postharvest technologies, access knowledge  and information on technologies, and address  production challenges. 

5.0 Conclusion and Recommendation 

Understanding and improving farmers’ pre and  postharvest management practices are crucial for  enhancing farming households’ food security and  income. Adequate measures must be implemented to  identify the most cost-effective and efficient ways to  address postharvest loss among smallholder farmers.  Aggregating produce from smallholder farmers can  

allow farmers to access technologies for processing,  packaging, preserving, and storing their products, as  well as transportation facilities and reliable markets. 

Postharvest losses occur mainly during harvesting,  transportation, storage, and marketing, and the mode  of transport and transport distance can significantly  influence the magnitude of these losses. Therefore, it  is essential to create an enabling environment for all  key stakeholders, including the private sector, non profit organizations, and the public sector, to invest in  postharvest management to address postharvest loss. Public and non-profit actors should coordinate across  value chains where the private sector needs more  capacity or incentives for investment in postharvest  loss reduction. The activities may involve training and  capacity building for smallholder farmers and linking  them in the value chain through increased awareness  and access to grading, sorting, storage, proper  packing, and coordination technology. By  implementing these measures, we can reduce  postharvest losses and improve the livelihoods of  smallholder farmers. 

Declaration of competing interest 

The Author declares that the manuscript adheres to  the competing interest policy and discloses that all  relevant sources, including financial and non-financial  interests and relationships, have been acknowledged. 


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