Interview: Tackling food loss/waste in Africa requires an all-inclusive solution—Mamadou Biteye, MD, Rockefeller Foundation Africa
Rockefeller Foundation Africa, which is responsible for several projects on the continent, has recently launched YieldWise, a $130 million initiative. The initiative will work with private, public and nonprofit actors in the food supply system to demonstrate how global food loss and waste can be cut in half.
Despite the problem of world hunger, the waste and loss of food is a global problem and the reality is shocking. As the figures below suggest, this problem is unlikely to go away until we all do something about it.
Rockefeller’s YieldWise is eager to tackle the issues which lead to global food loss and waste, and it is committed to ending this plague in Africa. However, it recognizes the fact that it cannot fight this issue alone and so it is collaborating with various sectors to proffer solutions to food waste in Africa. YieldWise is committed to three-end results from this fight against food loss, which are – an increase in profits for businesses, economic growth for countries in Africa and provision of food for more people, while protecting the planet.
Ventures Africa caught up with Mamadou Biteye, the Managing Director of the Rockefeller Foundation Africa regional office. He is a trained agricultural economist, with over twenty years of experience in strategic leadership, human resources management, financial management, program development and implementation, public policy analysis, advocacy/campaigning and community participatory development.
Biteye shed some light on the project currently being embarked on by Rockefeller.
Ventures Africa (VA): YieldWise has picked Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania as their first port of call in the fight against food waste and loss. Why is that?
Mamadou Biteye (MB): 470 million smallholder farmers lose 15 percent of their income due to inefficiencies around post-harvest processes and broken market links, which is significant for a vulnerable group that is often food insecure. In sub-Saharan Africa, 50 percent of fruits and vegetables, 40 percent of roots and tubers and 20 percent of cereals and grains. These staple foods are lost in post-harvest management.
These three countries were selected first, as they experience significant losses across the value chain in the selected focus crops (mango in Kenya, tomato and cassava in Nigeria, maize in Tanzania). These same crops are priorities in national agricultural plans, they also have existing buy-in from anchor buyers (Coke in the mango value chain, WFP In the maize value chain, Dangote Group in the tomato value chain) and existing infrastructure that will enable the initiative goal and objectives to be met.
VA: What are the other achievements has YieldWise made with regards to food security?
MB: The initiative is building on two years worth of preparation work, together with implementing partners e.g. AGRA, from whom we have recorded many successes. A significant one I can mention is in the adoption of new technologies in the storage of crops. A case in point is Tanzania, where, through AGRA ,we created awareness and promoted adoption amongst smallholder farmers on the new crop storage technologies including 100kg PICS bags, metal silos and cocoons etc. We enabled their understanding of how these new inventions work compared to the traditional ones they had been using and distributed several of each to farmer groups in September last year.
They were able to store their grain, instead of having to sell it immediately, sometimes at throwaway prices so they do not suffer loss of crop and have even less to sell or eat. Earlier this February (6 months after storage), we are glad to learn that upon opening the storage technologies, they found the crops in optimum state – no weevils, with the right moisture content and ready for sale and consumption, in the middle of the production year. The storage technologies are also safe for the environment and can be used for six harvests i.e. six years.
VA: What are the practical steps YieldWise will take in ensuring that its goals of ending food loss/waste are achieved?
MB: Due to the fact that food loss and waste is an all-inclusive problem, eliminating it requires an all-inclusive solution that looks across the global food system to identify where the biggest losses occur and provide incentives for solving the problems at the root. We will partner with companies that are major food buyers including Coca Cola and the Dangote Group and focus on what we see as the four biggest opportunities for transformation:
- Fixing broken links in the chain from farms to markets in African communities;
- Helping farmers access technologies e.g. hermeneutic cocoons and PICS bags to curb preventable crop loss;
- Giving farmers access to finance and credit facilities;
- Training farmers to use proven technologies that preserve crops in harvest, packaging and distribution.
VA: Aside from Coca-Cola, what other companies did YieldWise collaborate with to carry out this project?
MB: The Rockefeller Foundation is partnering with cross sectoral partners to provide the much needed solution to food loss. In Nigeria, we are working with farmers in the tomato and cassava value chains; in the tomato value chain we are working with the Dangote Group through Pyxera Global to buy tomatoes from farmers in bulk, thus providing sufficient supply for the Dangote Group’s tomato processing firm.
In Kenya, we are supporting the mango value chain and working with Technoserve to provide training and education to farmers on Post Harvest Loss (PHL) techniques and linking them to companies, such as Coca Cola, that are buying the mango puree/syrup from the farmers for their Minute Maid Juices.
In Tanzania, we are supporting the maize value chain and we are working with their government and WFP to provide PHL techniques for the safer storage of maize from the farms. At the farms, we are offering simple techniques such as PICS bags that store maize longer and fresher at a large scale level we are working with government to construct silos where maize can be stored especially during bumper harvests. The awareness and mobilization of the farmers has been done by AGRA.
VA: Behavioral change is very essential in putting an end to food waste and shortage. Is YieldWise involved with the governments of Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania to aid in orienting people on food shortage?
MB: Yes, the foundation is working with governments to ensure these countries adopt post-harvest loss measures, through encouraging models and government policies that drive mutual economic growth, such as modern export policies. A key example is Nigeria’s Kano State, where our work is with Pyxera Global. Kano State will be among others in the federation to benefit from $1 billion secured by the Federal Government from the World Bank, African Development Bank and the private sector for the development of Staple Crop Processing zones. The Minister, has since requested the government of Kano State to allocate an additional 250 hectares of land for the project, which he said, would make Kano the hub of tomato production in Nigeria and its output would replace the current import of the farm produce from China and Italy.
VA: Is there a timeline YieldWise has set as the deadline for achieving its goal?
MB: Yes, this is a 7-year initiative and we hope to make gains as we go along and as the initiative evolves. We hope that by the end of the 7 years we will have more partners and more countries will have seen the benefits of our model and recognise the need to apply it to their streams of work.