One-third of the world’s available food either spoils or gets thrown away before it ever reaches a plate—that’s enough to feed everyone in the world for two months. And with 1.2 billion people food insecure or undernourished, millions of vulnerable smallholder farmers losing profits they can’t spare, and a population expected to increase by 2 billion by 2050, we cannot afford to allow these losses to continue.
Fortunately, food loss and waste are preventable, and solutions already exist. From wider adoption of technologies that keep food fresh longer to models of private sector engagement that ensure farmers have steady buyers for their yields, we can ensure more food gets to more people.
From seeding the Green Revolution that fed a billion people across Asia and South America in the 1950s and 60s, to launching the Alliance for a Green Revolution Africa (AGRA) a decade ago, The Rockefeller Foundation has been committed to strengthening the intersection of food security, economic development, and resilience. But we recognize that no other gains can be sustained unless we also address food loss and waste.
In 2016, The Rockefeller Foundation launched YieldWise, a $130 million initiative, with the goal of demonstrating how the world can halve food loss by 2030, one of the UN’s sustainable development goals. We will initially focus on fruits, vegetables, and staple crops in Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania, where up to half of all food grown is lost.
Our strategy focuses on four opportunities:
- Fix broken links in the chain from farms to markets in African communities: We are training and aggregating farmers and facilitating buyer agreements between farmer groups and multinational companies like Coca-Cola and Cargill, guaranteeing farmers steady access to new local and global markets.
- Help farmers access technologies and solutions to curb preventable crop loss: We are working with companies like Dangote Farms Limited to build processing industries and the government of Tanzania to supply proper storage solutions, like metal silos and hermetic cocoons, to smallholder farmers.
- Invest in financing models and technology innovations that drive mutual economic growth: In Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania, we are helping equipment manufacturers promote the use of mobile processing, solar-drying, and cold storage units to extend the shelf life of the crops.
- Engage global businesses in accounting for the food lost and wasted in their supply chains, beyond their own factories: We are creating the tools businesses need to measure and track supply chain loss, which will encourage accountability, strengthen supply chains and increase profits.
Across all of these opportunities, we see the private sector as a key partner and collaborator.
Food Waste in the U.S. & Europe
While our initial efforts will be focused in Africa, we are exploring ways to complement this work by supporting innovative and catalytic efforts to prevent food waste in the United States and Europe.
In industrialized nations, this loss occurs not between harvest and markets, but at the retail and consumer level. Put simply, consumers don’t want to buy bruised peaches and misshapen tomatoes even if the nutrition content, taste and quality of this food is the same as one that “looks right.” This bias accounts for 1.5 trillion pounds of annual waste in the US and costs economies approximately $680 billion in annual losses.
We see these efforts as complementary, working together to build truly resilient and productive global food system for the benefit of humanity everywhere.
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