One major step to curb post-harvest food waste

Friday March 4 2016

Mamadou Biteye, Rockefeller Foundation

Mamadou Biteye, Rockefeller Foundation president for Africa.FILE|NATION 

By LEOPOLD OBI
More by this Author

The Rockefeller Foundation last month unleashed Sh13 billion ($130m) war chest to fight food waste and loss in the world. The foundation’s president for Africa MAMADOU BITIYE told LEOPOLD OBI how Kenyan farmers stand to benefit from the funds.

How much of this money will be devoted to Africa?

The initiative’s initial focus indeed is in Africa, and across four value chains in three countries: Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania. In Nigeria, we are focusing on tomatoes and cassava value chains; in Kenya we are working on mangoes and in Tanzania maize.

What is the application procedure if anyone wants to benefit from the cash?

There is no application procedure as this is an initiative that will run over seven years, and will work with partners and build on existing work.

Through this initiative, you aim to cut food loss by half. What specific measures are you putting in place to achieve this?

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.

These are fixing broken links in the chain from farms to markets in African communities; helping farmers access technologies such as hermeneutic cocoons and Purdue Improved Cowpeas Storage bags to curb preventable crop loss; giving farmers access to finance and credit facilities and training farmers to use proven technologies that preserve crops in harvest, packaging and distribution.

Your President, Dr Judith Rodin, said some of these measures are already in place. What are some of the existing technologies that you have been employing in Kenya?

In Kenya, we are working with partners such as TechnoServe, who are equipping farmers with skills in post-harvest loss, linking them to markets and large buyers such as Coca Cola and training them in financial literacy so that they can achieve maximum profits for their inputs. The technologies we have put in place are simple and locally available but have maximum ripple effect.

They include heavy molded plastic crates that ensure that the mangoes remain safe and fresh when transported to markets. Farmers are also being trained to sundry the mangoes and sell them to markets within their communities.

In the statement announcing the fund, you vowed to finish the business you started with the Green Revolution more than 50 years ago. Why has it been difficult to prevent this staggering food waste and loss?

Food waste and loss is not an issue that can be stopped single-handedly; it will require strategic partnerships between governments, private sector, businesses and consumers alike. There has also not previously been an integrated approach such as that offered by YieldWise, with a focus across the value chain.

Post-harvest loss is also greatly influenced by perceptions, therefore, YieldWise will focus on behaviour change, from how smallholder farmers grow and store their crops to how companies account for food loss and waste across their supply chains. Africa has the potential to feed the world and if we can reduce the number of losses incurred from the farm then we can make this continent a better place.