Cut food waste in half? $130M tech-centric initiative intends to point the way

Tue, 2016-03-22 15:50 -- Liz Enbysk

A quiet crisis is underway in the global food system, says Mamadou Biteye, The Rockefeller Foundation's managing director for Africa. It's pretty easy to understand the problem: A third of all food produced is never consumed. Yet an estimated 1.2 billion people go to bed hungry or under-nourished every night. The economic losses, Biteye says, are in the trillions.

What makes the crisis more unpardonable – there are proven ways to fix at least some of the problems and end at least some of the suffering.

The Rockefeller Foundation is putting $130 million into a seven-year effort to show the world those solutions. With its YieldWise initiative announced earlier this year, the Foundation together with a coalition of leaders from the public and private sector intends to demonstrate how food waste and loss can be cut in half by 2030.

Focusing on sub-Saharan Africa
While food waste is a global crisis, YieldWise will focus on sub-Saharan Africa where up to half of some crops are lost to inefficient harvesting, storage, processing and time to market and 70% of the population relies on agriculture for their livelihoods.

Biteye offers this example of the challenge:

…take Sella, a potato farmer in Central Kenya. She refused to take a price for her potatoes that was so low that she wouldn’t break even on her investment in farming them -- but because she lacked important market information, she failed to garner a better price. In the end, the potatoes simply spoiled -- at great cost to Sella, and to the people who could have eaten the potatoes.

Sella’s lack of information, market opportunities, technologies, and access to alternative markets are, unfortunately, a familiar story for millions of farmers.

Many existing solutions
Biteye says the Foundation's past efforts to help farmers have surfaced solutions to the problems farmers like Sella face, but they aren't reaching them.

With YieldWise he says the Foundation intends to re-align actors and interventions, including expanding proven technologies that preserve crops in harvest, packaging and distribution.

"This technological innovation and training," he says "will begin at mango farms in Kenya, maize farms in Tanzania, and cassava and tomato farms in Nigeria -- nations that rely on agriculture to fuel growth."

Crop-saving techniques, he adds, can also increase farmer incomes, providing more money to circulate in the local economies.

Waste is unacceptable
"The amount of food lost or wasted before it ever reaches a table is simply unacceptable, with devastating impacts on people, profit and planet," said Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. "Yet, it’s a challenge that can be prevented with a blend of existing solutions, from technologies that help farmers keep more of what they grow to models for private sector engagement that ensure those crops will be bought, rather than left to rot."

More on food waste…
Video: Producing More Food with Less: Investing in Resource-Efficient Technologies


This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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