The walk towards low carbon food value chain development in the Global South

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By Ashiraf Migadde

In the midst of pursuing what I have developed a burning desire for, post my latest consultancy, I took time to re-trace the origin of the value chain to identify what has and not been done in the walk towards low carbon food value chains. The concept, as defined by Porter (1985), is the full range of activities, through which a product undergoes conception, production, distribution to consumers, and final disposal. It is from this definition that the term spread across various industries and disciplines including agriculture which consequently led to the dawn of the food value chain concept. Zamora (2016), extrapolated the need for value chain analysis as a tracking tool that analyzes the contribution of the different chain actors, their relationships, and the factors that influence how well or how badly the chain works. More to this, are the service providers and the (dis)enabling environment in form of critical factors such as infrastructure, policies, and regulations, as well as institutions and processes that shape the market ecosystem. As international trade spurs, the more complex food value chains become with different sustainability, safety, quality, regulatory intricacies for the actors and stakeholders involved.

The growing concerns for feeding the skyrocketing world population puts agriculture and food value chains in a very worrying spotlight which consequently threatens biodiversity and natural resources amidst the climate change threat. Agricultural systems have consequently become so resource-intensive of which approximately 87% of the land is dedicated to food production (Poore and Nemecek, 2018). Despite the fact that food value chains are estimated to account for directly and/or indirectly 20-30% of global greenhouse gas emissions (Smith et al., 2014), the processes behind emissions from food production are more complex than those from the energy sector. Generally, today’s food value chains are responsible for close to 14 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2eq) (Poore and Nemecek, 2018). In particular, the input and production functions of food value chains are responsible for more than half of the life-cycle emissions (Murphy-Bokern and Kleemann, 2014) more precisely 61% of food’s GHG emissions (81% including deforestation), 79% of acidification, and 95% of eutrophication (Poore and Nemecek, 2018).

While GHG emission performance assessment and management in food value chains is quite complicated due to variances in farming systems, scale and diversity (Keller, 2015), there have been considerable efforts to establish carbon footprint accounting models and methodologies that could abate in measuring and tracking food value chain emissions. Carbon footprint assessment in food value chain products is undoubtedly a recent trend for corporations with emission reduction targets (regulatory or voluntary) mostly in developed economies compared to developing economies. In so doing, such corporations attain carbon labels to attest for emission reductions for a particular product in particular value chains as steps to low carbon transitions in their respective economies.

While different countries have their own Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), National Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs), and Green Growth Strategies (GGS) towards mainstreaming low carbon development across a multitude of sectors, much is still desired towards achieving the Paris Agreement 1.50C ambition in the Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use sector. Agriculture strategy versus implementation through climate change mitigation and adaptation is still largely inevitable.

Various scholarly studies have been conducted in low carbon agricultural development has been done although the extent, depth, coverage, and contexts of low carbon food value chain development research need unraveling. I, therefore, sought the need to explore the current state of works and gaps in regards to low carbon development with a specific inclination to agricultural food value chains as the biggest potential for GHG mitigation and adaptation. In my review, I not only focus on the core food value chain functions (input, production, processing, wholesale/export, retail, and consumption) and stakeholder relationships (value chain governance) but also the (dis)enabling environment to inform of institutions, processes and the factors that influence how well or how badly the chain works and chain service providers.  In this review, I extract the current works and gaps in knowledge towards achieving low carbon food value chains.

Original article can be found here

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