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Unravelling the missing pieces towards achieving low carbon food value chains in the global south

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  • Agynet Agribusiness Uganda
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Abstract

The growing need to feed and sustain the rising world's population continues to remain a threat to climate. Agriculture accounts for over 24 percent of the Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) and yet less are the strides taken to curb the rising emissions. This paper seeks to explore the knowns and unknowns about low carbon agricultural development in the global south. It employs a desk study and use of secondary data to discover what low carbon studies have been conducted using the value chain approach in agricultural production chains. It extrapolates a broader definition of the value chain inclusive of the chain functions, chain governance, chain environment and chain service provision. The paper concludes with a myriad of low carbon and transition knowledge gaps that require attention for the scientific and practice communities in the global south.
Unravelling the missing pieces towards achieving low carbon food value chains in the global
south.
Author:
Ashiraf Migadde1
Ashirafsiraj5@gmail.com
1Technical Specialist
Low Carbon Pineapple Project: Kangulumira Area Cooperative Enterprise; Kayunga Uganda
Abstract
The growing need to feed and sustain the rising worlds population continues to remain a threat to
climate. Agriculture accounts for over 24 percent of the Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) and yet less are the
strides taken to curb the rising emissions. This paper seeks to explore the knowns and unknowns about
low carbon agricultural development in the global south. It employs a desk study and use of secondary
data to discover what low carbon studies have been conducted using the value chain approach in
agricultural production chains. It extrapolates a broader definition of the value chain inclusive of the
chain functions, chain governance, chain environment and chain service provision. The paper concludes
with a myriad of low carbon and transition knowledge gaps that require attention for the scientific and
practice communities in the global south.
Introduction
The value chain concept as defined by Porter (1985) is the full range of activities, through which a product
undergoes from 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 food value chain concept. Zamora (2016), extrapolated the need for value
chain analysis as a track 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 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 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 rese arch
needs unraveling. The objective of this paper therefore is to explore the current state of works and gaps in
regards low carbon development with specific inclination to agricultural food value chains as the biggest
potential for GHG mitigation and adaptation. This synthesis focuses not only 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 inform of institutions,
processes and the factors that influence how well or how badly the chain works and chain service
providers.
Methods
This review was conducted with the use of google scholar search engine. The search parameters used were
[low carbon or green or sustain* or carbon neutral* certify* GHGs or low emissions or net zero and food or
agriculture* and value chain or supply chains or food systems and developing countries or emerging
economies]. The search yielded 4540 results within any time frame, 3760 results when the time frame was
reduced to between (2010 2020), 2400 results when the time frame was reduced to between (2015 2020)
and 976 results between (2019 2020).
Preliminary title search was conducted across the first 30 pages of 500 results of the Google search scholar
engine for the year 2020 and only 24 articles were included for potential in-depth review. Upon in-depth
review only 9 articles were selected as relevant for the study.
Preliminary title search was conducted across the first 30 pages of 477 results of the Google search scholar
engine for the period 2018 and 2019 and only 25 articles were included for potential in-depth review. Upon
in-depth review only 10 articles were selected as relevant for the study.
Preliminary title search was conducted across the first 30 pages of 477 results of the Google search scholar
engine for the period 2010 to 2017 and only 14 articles were included for potential in-depth review. Upon
in-depth review only 13 articles were selected as relevant for the study.
These 32 selected articles included one master thesis, two PhD dissertations, three reports and 26 peer
reviewed articles. In order to analyse their extent, depth, coverage and contexts, the articles were then
categorized into four value chain dimensions such as; core functions (actors), governance (relationships
and institutions), (dis)enabling environment and chain service provision.
Results
The first of the objective of this review was to investigate the current state of literature about achieving low
carbon food value chains as presented below;
Out of the 21 articles selected for the study, 20 articles were found to address GHG emission reductions
along the core value chain functions, 1 article addressing value chain governance, 4 articles addressing the
dis/enabling value chain environment and 2 articles addressing chain service provision (Table. 1)
Table.1: Overview of the low carbon food value chain literature
Chain functions
Governance
Dis/Enabling
Environment
Chain service
provision
1.
Alexia, 2020
Virah-Sawmy et al., 2019
Bockel & Schiettecatte
(2020)
Rosenstock et al.,
2020
2.
Birkenberg et al., 2020
Hilmi, 2020
Green, 2018
3.
Canavari & Coderoni, 2020
CMF, 2018
4.
Ivanova et al., 2020
Vermeulen et al 2012
5.
Ribeiro-Filho et al., 2020
6.
Birkenberg, 2019
7.
Mwongera et al., 2019
8.
Birkenberg & Birner, 2018
9.
Poore and Nemecek, 2018.
10.
USAID, 2018
11.
Birkenberg, 2017
12.
EEA, 2017
13.
Feucht & Zander, 2017
14.
Azofeifa, 2016
15.
Drichoutis, et al., 2016.
16.
Lim-Camacho et al., 2016
17.
Nassirou Ba, 2016
18.
Murphy-Bokern and Kleemann, 2014
19.
Vermeulen et al 2012
20.
Garnett, 2010
a) Value chain functions
While there is growing low carbon value chain literature, this review discovers some studies whose focus
was at farm/production (Keller, 2015 and Nassirou Ba, 2016) while some combined the input and
production functions (Ribeiro-Filho et al., 2020, Ivanova et al., 2020). Studies covering all value chain
functions from input to consumption involved climate risk analysis of chain actors (Mwongera et al., 2019),
value chain mitigation opportunities (Niles et al., 2018), low value chain energy use (USAID, 2018),
technological and managerial approaches to low carbon value chains (Garnett, 2010) and the role of
Corporate Social Responsibility in low carbon value chain development (Murphy-Bokern and Kleemann,
2014). Other studies were consumer-centric and investigated consumer preferences (Lim-Camacho et al.,
2016), Willingness to pay for low carbon food products (Drichoutis, et al., 2016, Feucht & Zander, 2017;
Canavari & Coderoni, 2020; Birkenberg et al., 2020). Poore and Nemecek, (2018)’s value chain GHG
accounting review only focussed on production, processing, packaging and retail while Rakajal et al., (2020)
study to model profit, carbon and water footprint was based on production, processing and transport.
Azofeifa, (2016) presented local food certifications for production, processing and marketing while the only
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) based value chain studies of Birkenberg, 2017, Birkenberg & Birner, 2018 and
Birkenberg 2019, involved a grounded study in Carbon certification from cradle to gate based on PAS 2050
(Table. 2)
Table 2: Low carbon literature summary across value chain functions
Crop
Study area
Source
Cocoa / Chocolate
(Deforestation free)
Peru
Ivanova et al., 2020
Dairy
Subtropics
(Southern Brazil,
Argentina, South
Africa, Uruguay,
Ribeiro-Filho et al.,
2020
New Zealand,
Australia)
Cocoa, Potatoes, Fruits and
vegetables
(GHG Management)
Global, Ghana,
Spain, Portugal, UK
Keller, 2015
Rice and maize
(GHG emissions)
West Africa (Ghana,
Senegal, Benin and
Cote D’Ivoire)
Nassirou Ba, 2016.
Dairy, poultry, peas and Irish
potato
(Climate risk analysis)
Kenya
Mwongera et al., 2019
Cereals, grains and staple crops
Horticultural crops
Livestock
(Review of mitigation
opportunities)
None
Niles et al., 2018
Dairy
(On Farm Energy Use)
Senegal and Kenya
USAID, 2018
Technological and managerial
approaches to
mitigation
None
Garnett, 2010
CSR role in Value chain emission
reductions
None
Murphy-Bokern and
Kleemann, 2014
Fresh mangoes, wine and potato
chips (crisps)
Preferences
Australia
Lim-Camacho et al.,
2016
Eggs and Olive oil
(Carbon Neutral Labels and
WTP)
Greece
Drichoutis, et al., 2016.
General
WTP for CF labels
France, Germany,
Italy, Norway, Spain
and United Kingdom
Feucht & Zander, 2017
Dairy
(Willingness To Pay (WTP for
Carbon Labelled food products)
Italy
Canavari & Coderoni,
2020)
Coffee
(Carbon Neutral Labels and
WTP)
Costa Rica
Germany
Birkenberg et al., 2020
Dairy
Review
Global
Poore and Nemecek,
2018.
Palm oil
(Profit, carbon and water
footprint)
None
Rajakal et al., 2020
Food Certification
Costa Rica
Azofeifa, 2016
Coffee
(Carbon Neutral certification)
Costa Rica and
Germany
Birkenberg, 2017
Coffee
(Carbon Neutral certification)
Costa Rica and
Germany
Birkenberg & Birner,
2018
Carbon neutral food value
chains
Costa Rica and
Germany
Birkenberg, 2019
Whereas significant works have been done and conducted focusing on the core value chain function, this
study reveals Virah-Sawmy et al., (2019)’s study which explores market governance, Rosenstock et al.,
(2020) which investigates potential climate smart business models for climate smart value creation, and
Green, (2018) which highlights the potential of blockchain technology in value chain environment
monitoring. Low carbon policy focused studies include; EEA, 2017, CMF, 2018; Hilmi, 2020; Bockel &
Schiettecatte (2020) while Vermeulen et al (2012) is one that explored low carbon value chains across wider
food system scopes.
Value chain governance (Chain actor relationships - institutions)
Scope
Crop
Study area
Source
Governance
Soy and Meat
Brazil
Virah-Sawmy et al., 2019
Service Provision (Production Business Development Transport/Logistics)
Scope
Crop
Study area
Source
Low carbon
business models
General
(Climate smart value)
None
Rosenstock et al., 2020
Block chain
None
None
Green, 2018
Dis/Enabling Environment
Scope
Crop
Study area
Source
Policies
Dairy
United Kingdom
CMF, 2018
Urban and Local
None
Hilmi, 2020
Policies
None
Global
Bockel & Schiettecatte (2020)
Interactions
None
Global
Vermeulen et al 2012
Policy interventions
None
Europe
EEA, 2017
Gaps
The second part of the objective that was to identify the knowledge gaps in towards achieving low carbon
food value chains. The extent, depth, coverage and contexts of the above review depicts a growing trend
in low carbon value chain academic research in the period (2018-2020). This study reveals that
comprehensive GHG mitigation and adaptation across the food value chain cycles is still demanding. While
emissions beyond the farm gate account for approximately half of food chain emissions, and are fairly
evenly distributed between the different stages in developed economies (Garnett, 2011), such estimations
are still missing in the developing world. Attempts to measure, reduce and manage GHGs for low carbon
food value chain development in the developing world is still lacking. As a result, additional work,
particularly in low-income countries and across multiple components of the food value chains is still
lacking (Niles et al., 2018).
At the production level, the value and myriad benefits of low carbon food value certification in emerging
economies deserves grounded exploration as well as detailed economic analyses for chain actors involved
(Birkenberg, 2017). More to this, Birkenberg & Birner, (2018) suggest that offsetting food value chain
emissions and economic feasibility and simulations for different types of economic actors and financial
situations need attention. The potential of mainstreaming low carbon strategies into business competitive
strategies for chain actors needs attention (Lim-Camacho et al., 2016).
At the consumption level, for WTP studies analyzed in this review, more research is still needed on larger
representative samples with mixed price sensitivities in developed countries. The realities of local
consumption of low carbon food products needs investigation in developing countries. The application of
carbon neutral certifications (as conducted in Costa Rica for coffee) as key instruments in promoting low
carbon value chains still needs investigation in different crops and geographies (Birkenberg & Birner, 2018).
At chain governance level, actor relationships, linkages, power, influence dynamics in achieving low
carbon food value chains is not satisfactory. No specific studies have been discovered in this review that
directly explore the achievement of low carbon food value chains in terms of chain service provision. The
potential of block chain technology on environmental monitoring and certification, traceability, food-safety
along food value chains from the Base of the Pyramid (BOP) perspective (Green, 2018) has received less
attention as well.
Since today’s low carbon development amongst nations is precipitated by the Paris Agreement, a critical
review of developing country NDCs, NAMAs and Green Growth Strategies for the designated emission
reductions in the AFOLU sector generally and food value chains in particular.
The dis/enabling environment and its associated role in this contemporary subject need more attention
with precision in terms of best practices for the public sector in how to green food value chains at the local
level (Hilmi, 2018) and incentives, social and cultural drivers, as well as economic constraints and
determinants (Meybeck, 2016) as well as policies to drive a low-emission transitions in food value chains
(CMF, 2018). Garnett, (2011) asserts that measures to reduce food chain GHG emissions need to be assessed
within the context of other social and environmental concerns such as human nutrition, biodiversity, land
and water use and animal welfare which is still and also a major knowledge gap.
Conclusion
Low-carbon food value chain development implies a transition and orientation towards the production,
supply and consumption of low carbon food in varying contexts. Research about such transitions and re-
orientation is long overdue. In-depth analysis of the food value chains from cradle to grave, chain actors,
stakeholders, service providers, institutions and their complex interactions is required to build a stepping
block in the process. This also requires a great deal of efforts in identifying trade-offs and synergies among
the social, economic and environmental dimensions amid-st wicked intricacies of poverty, hunger and
malnutrition in the developing world. Such analyses shall then be augmented by the logic of the ‘quadruple
helix’ between governments, business, science and civil society aimed for continuous improvement in
achieving and consolidating low carbon food value chains.
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