Yieldwise: Rockefeller’s US$130m food loss and food waste initiative

For years, many organisations and governments have focused on food production, where use of quality seed; application of fertilisers and boosting of soil quality among other things have been highly promoted. These have been important and necessary components of helping to ensure food security and reducing poverty.
But while this has been happening, other aspects along the chain have not been given due consideration. After ensuring adequate productivity, then what? “It has been like using a leaky bucket,” says Betty Kibaara, Associate Director, The Rockefeller Foundation.
“You put in inputs; effort; labour; irrigation and so on to ensure a good production but then, all these leak out in the form of post harvest loss and food waste.” Food loss and food waste are becoming major issues of concern today, not only in Kenya, but also globally.
Rotting mangoes and vegetables on farms during harvest and in markets are a common phenomenon. Losses caused by weevils and aflatoxin on maize and by fruit flies on fruits have become nagging problems, where, while the world is unable to feed about 795 million people, we are wasting and losing food that is capable of feed ing 1.6 billion people.
Last year, in recognizing this grave problem, Rockefeller Foundation, an organisation that has among other things been engaging in agriculture for many years, launched Yieldwise, an initiative to address these losses.
The writer managed to get Betty away from her busy schedule in a Q&A to give us a better understanding about what the Yieldwise initiative is all about and how it is going to benefit you the farmer. Below are excerpts of the interview:
1Please tell us more about the Yieldwise Initiative Yieldwise is a USD$130 million initiative launched by The Rockefeller Foundation to address the twin problems of food waste and food loss. It seeks to reduce food loss by 50 per cent in the representative value chains (mango in Kenya, tomato in Nigeria, maize in Tanzania) and therefore improving millions of rural lives.
2Why food loss and food waste? Food loss and waste is a critical issue affecting today’s agriculture sector and food security, also making it a large missed opportunity for more targeted investment. Each year 30 per cent of all food produced for human consumption —1.3 billion tonnes — is lost before it reaches retailers. Of the food that does reach retailers, 40% is never eaten but thrown away. These losses have an economic, social and environmental cost. Food loss and waste is estimated to cost the global economy up to $940 billion per year, with both producers and consumers losing money on a daily basis. The amount of food lost or wasted every year could feed an estimated 1.6 billion people at a time when 795 million people go hungry. The impact on the environment is heavy, with more than 25 per cent of the world’s fresh water and a 20 per cent of its farmland used to produce food that is never consumed Food loss and waste generating about 8% of global greenhouse emissions.
3What do you hope to achieve with this initiative? In January 2016, we launched YieldWise, our $130 million seven year global initiative to address food waste and loss system-wide: Through YieldWise, we’re seeking to demonstrate that we can cut food waste and loss in half by: a. Helping farmers access technologies and solutions to curb preventable crop loss; b. Fixing broken links in the chain from farms to markets in African communities; c. Engaging global businesses to account for the food wasted in their supply chains, beyond their own factories and farms; d. Encouraging models and government policies that drive mutual economic growth, such as modern export policies.
4Where are you concentrating your efforts on and on which foods? YieldWise is being implemented in Kenya, Tanzania, and Nigeria where farmers and companies alike are poised to reap multiple benefits from solutions – and where our progress can be most demonstrated through the three value chains we are focusing on during Phase I. We have been engaging farmers (tomatoes in Nigeria 5,000 farmers, mangoin Kenya 20, 000 farmers and maize in Tanzania close to 50, 000 farmers). Our biggest strategy so far has been to train them to use proven technologies that preserve crops after harvest, packaging and distribution – and by introducing alternative markets – and with these much of this loss can be prevented.
5How do you hope to tackle these challenges, using what means and methods? Through supporting implementing partners such as AGRA, Technoserve, Pyxera Global, IGD in different countries. Through partnerships with continental wide institution such as the African Development Bank to continue to push forward the Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 on reduction in food loss. Engaging global businesses to account for the food wasted in their supply chains, beyond their own factories and farms; Encouraging models and government policies that drive mutual economic growth, such as modern export policies. .
6 US$130 million is a huge sum of money. How is it going to be invested? Sure, but perhaps not – food loss is a large problem and solving it will require leveraging other partners. Funds will be invested in building capacities to enable farmers and institutions to prioritise losses, support increased access to financing for the post-harvest loss solutions, raising awareness for post-harvest loss solutions, supporting PHL metrics, among other improvements in the value chain

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