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The Rockefeller Foundation Announces Results of the Cassava Innovation Challenge

NRI selected for an award of up to $500,000 to develop solution for increasing cassava shelf life, with the potential to enhance food security and increasing income for millions of farmers.


Nairobi, March 29, 2017 – The Rockefeller Foundation, Dalberg, and IITA today announced the results of the Cassava Innovation Challenge, launched last year to uncover novel solutions for increasing cassava shelf life in Nigeria and the world. The organizers are awarding the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), based at the University of Greenwich, United Kingdom, in partnership with the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Nigeria, with a grant of up to $500,000, along with technical assistance, to test and market a polythene bag with a built-in curing technology that will keep cassava fresh for at least eight days past harvest. The announcement was made today at the first All Africa Post-Harvest Congress in Nairobi.

Cassava is critical for food security in Africa. It is the main source of nutrition for an estimated half of the continent’s population, or 500 million people. Yet this root crop has a very short shelf life, and if unprocessed it will spoil within 24-72 hours after harvesting – less if it is damaged during harvesting or transport. Nigeria is the world’s largest cassava producer, accounting for more than 20% of global production – more than 50 million tons annually, grown by nearly 30 million farmers, most of them with less than an acre of land.

Approximately 40% of this cassava is lost due to spoilage, a tremendous problem that limits farmer incomes and rural economic development, and one that stretches far beyond Nigeria’s borders as food spoilage and wastage affects the global economy and impacts greenhouse gas emissions.

“We were encouraged when we received more than 600 applications from 32 countries with ideas for how to solve this problem of a short shelf life for cassava. Clearly a lot of people care about food security and ensuring that a vital staple crop is not lost to rotting due to lack of preservation technology,” said Mamadou Biteye, OBE, Managing Director for Africa at The Rockefeller Foundation. “Upon the recommendation of our expert judges, we are investing in NRI’s bagging technology in part because we see farmers using bags with great success to store other perishable crops. Now is the time to try this for cassava. We know that when farmers win, we all win.”

The challenge is part of YieldWise, The Rockefeller Foundation’s $130 million initiative launched in January 2016, aimed at reducing food loss by at least 50% by 2030 in representative value chains. Research has found that post-harvest loss reduction solutions exist, but they are not reaching the farmers who need them. With the farmer in mind, the Foundation is promoting a variety of interventions in the areas of education, technologies, financing and market solutions to ensure production is linked to demand, and so improving livelihoods, creating less vulnerable ecosystems and natural resources, and increasing food availability.

“Over the past five years, we have led numerous projects on the cassava value chain and designed facilities to invest in cassava across Africa. We have kept running into the number one constraint in cassava – its short shelf life,” said Nneka Eze, Partner and Co-Lead, Agriculture & Food Security Practice at Dalberg Global Development Advisors. “Over the past year, Dalberg designed the Challenge in partnership with IITA and The Rockefeller Foundation, reviewed over 600 applications, and coordinated inputs from our diverse group of expert judges. We are excited about the potential of NRI’s simple bagging solution to impact lives in Nigeria and in Africa, where more than half the world’s cassava is produced.”

“IITA is pleased to be part of this initiative to identify a workable and effective solution to this post-harvest problem in cassava, especially in Nigeria, being the world’s biggest cassava producer, where about 14% of the produce is lost annually on average. Providing a solution to reducing postharvest loss in this crop would potentially provide annually more than $200 million to the cassava value chain,” said Nteranya Sanginga, IITA’s Director General.

The Rockefeller Foundation Cassava innovation Challenge launch was based on input from those involved in the cassava value chain as to what could most help reduce post-harvest loss.  The challenge posed an optimistic goal of finding a novel, transformative, scalable, and easy-to-use solution. More than 600 applications were received. A panel of 21 judges from around the world, including Nigerian cassava experts, recommended a short list based on The Rockefeller Foundation’s criteria for innovation.

The complexity of preventing cassava’s quickness to rot made it difficult for any one solution to excel at all of the criteria. But among the many very good ideas submitted, a straightforward solution – bags – rose to the top of the judge’s recommendations as the one that most warranted further support. The judges weighed likely efficacy along with ease of low cost of production in Nigeria and, most importantly, appeal to farmers. Greenwich University NRI and FUNAAB polythene bag would be available in a range of sizes, for different value chain actors and are intended to prevent post-harvest physiological deterioration until the fresh cassava can be processed or transported for sale at the fresh market.


About The Rockefeller Foundation

For more than 100 years, The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission has been to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Today, The Rockefeller Foundation pursues this mission through dual goals: advancing inclusive economies that expand opportunities for more broadly shared prosperity, and building resilience by helping people, communities and institutions prepare for, withstand, and emerge stronger from acute shocks and chronic stresses. To achieve these goals, The Rockefeller Foundation works at the intersection of four focus areas – advance health, revalue ecosystems, secure livelihoods, and transform cities – to address the root causes of emerging challenges and create systemic change. Together with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation strives to catalyze and scale transformative innovations, create unlikely partnerships that span sectors, and take risks others cannot – or will not. For more information, please visit

About Dalberg Global Development Advisors

Dalberg is a strategic advisory firm exclusively dedicated to global development and innovation. Our mission is to mobilize effective responses to the world’s most pressing issues and to raise living standards in developing countries. From our network of 16 global offices, we serve clients to make sustainable improvements in the lives of disadvantaged and underserved populations around the world. For more information, please visit:

About the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is a not-for-profit institution that generates agricultural innovations to meet Africa’s most pressing challenges of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and natural resource degradation. Working with various partners across sub-Saharan Africa, we improve livelihoods, enhance food and nutrition security, increase employment, and preserve natural resource integrity. IITA is a member of CGIAR, a global agriculture research partnership for a food-secure future. For more information, please visit:



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The Rockefeller Foundation: Achieng’ Otieno, Communication Officer,

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IITA: Katherine Lopez, Head of Communication,