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Food Security

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 361–392 | Cite as

Postharvest agriculture in changing climates: its importance to African smallholder farmers

  • Tanya Stathers
  • Richard Lamboll
  • Brighton M. Mvumi
Original Paper

Abstract

Climate change and variability affect not only the field stages and yields of crops, but also what happens to them after harvest. There has been little discussion of the impacts of climate change on postharvest agriculture, and still less on these impacts in developing countries. Many studies have focused on potential crop yield and pre-harvest implications of different climatic projections, but have omitted an analysis of the need and ability to then protect this increasingly valuable harvest as a vital aspect of food security. Postharvest systems will be affected by changes in temperature, rainfall, humidity, extreme events and the natural and human responses to climate change and variability. This study describes typical grain postharvest systems in east and southern Africa and discusses the likely impacts of different climate change trends on postharvest activities, assets and human well-being outcomes. Adaptation opportunities for creating more climate resilient postharvest agricultural systems and associated livelihoods are identified. Many of these adaptation opportunities are already known and understood by postharvest service providers, highlighting the significant challenge of getting postharvest knowledge into use at a larger scale. A discussion is presented on the factors influencing attempts to strengthen the adaptive capacity of postharvest systems, such as its invisibility, its omission from training curricula, innovation system challenges, the policy bias towards pre-harvest agricultural spending, limited understanding of gender and diversity aspects of postharvest roles, and the dominance of maize in the food system. The study recognises the crucial role of postharvest agriculture in helping communities adapt and cope with change.

Keywords

Postharvest agriculture Climate change effects Climate change adaptation East and southern Africa Smallholder farmers Food security 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This study was supported by the University of Greenwich, and builds on the authors’ experiences during numerous field projects funded by a range of donors including DFID, EU, IDRC, and UNDP. Any opinions and conclusions expressed or omissions are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Greenwich. We are grateful to Rick Hodges, John Morton, John Orchard and Pete Golob for comments on this study.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and International Society for Plant Pathology 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tanya Stathers
    • 1
  • Richard Lamboll
    • 1
  • Brighton M. Mvumi
    • 2
  1. 1.Natural Resources InstituteUniversity of GreenwichChatham MaritimeUK
  2. 2.Department of Soil Science and Agricultural EngineeringUniversity of ZimbabweHarareZimbabwe

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