Nonprofit Fellowships

Developing A Strategic Plan For Post-harvest Farming Technologies In Zambia

Tom Garvey spent four months in Africa working with Technoserve on a plan to aid local farming

TechnoServe is a nonprofit organization that promotes market-based solutions to poverty and through its Fellows Volunteer Program connects professionals to development projects across Latin America and Africa. In collaboration with the UN World Food Programme and Musika, a leading nonprofit that aims to stimulate and support private investment in the Zambian agricultural market, I spent 4 months between August and November in 2018 working for the TechnoServe project team tasked with developing an industry strategic plan for post-harvest technologies in Zambia.

In 2011 the WorldBank wrote that the Food and Agriculture Organization estimated 37% of all crop produced in Sub-Saharan Africa was lost between the points of harvest and human consumption, with the majority of this loss concentrated in the storage and drying processes before leaving the farm. Storage-focused post-harvest technologies including hermetically sealed grain bags and plastic grain silos, can significantly reduce crop losses by improving the efficiency of on-farm storage. The growth of the Zambian post-harvest technology industry therefore represents a hugely exciting opportunity with wide-ranging potential impacts for smallholder farmer incomes, household and national-level food security, as well as improved health outcomes relating to reduced use of crop insecticides.

Our Lusaka-based team prepared a diagnostic of the key barriers to widespread adoption of these technologies after conducting interviews and focus groups with stakeholders across the public, private, and development sectors. The information collected was also supported by quantitative analysis to then assess the relative benefits of investing in specific types of storage.  The team identified three barriers to be:

  1. A significant ‘last mile’ distribution gap between agro-dealers (who stock and sell post-harvest technologies) and rural-based farmers who have limited access to points of sale

  2. Prohibitive price points, combined with a lack of financing options, have created a significant latent demand for certain technologies

  3. Generic marketing efforts have failed to effectively communicate the potential benefits of post-harvest technologies (financial or otherwise) to farmers and other potential users

I helped lead a workshop for technology manufacturers from across Southern Africa, to deliver our findings as well as a plan of intervention activities designed to overcome the adoption barriers. We succeeded in signing up five technology manufacturers to the implementation phase of the program. They will each receive ongoing support from the local TechnoServe Zambia team, focused on developing their in-house capabilities in marketing and distribution.

My Nonprofit Fellowship was a wonderful, utterly unique experience. A chance to live and work in a new environment, with people who were overwhelmingly warm, open, and hospitable. Both professionally and personally, I learned an incredible amount that I will continue to apply to my career going forward.