Today the global food system produces one-and-a-half times enough food to feed our entire population—yet 815 million people don’t know where their next meal will come from. Nearly 2 billion people suffer from some form of malnutrition, and diet quality is now the number-one contributing factor to deaths and disabilities worldwide according to the World Health Organization. At the same time, agriculture and livestock production are key drivers of global warming and environmental degradation, with meat production accounting for nearly 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions – more than the entire transportation sector.
At The Rockefeller Foundation, the question we are now asking is: how can we sustainably nourish the world with dignity and equity, without breaking the back of our planet?
Our work on food is currently implemented through YieldWise Food Loss, launched in 2016, which aims at halving food loss and waste, YieldWise Food Waste, focused on food waste in the U.S., and through the Alliance for Green Revolution (AGRA), launched in 2006, which is focused on doubling yield and incomes for African farmers.
As we look around the horizon, we will work to reshape the global protein economy. Focusing on both human health and the environment, we have to fundamentally rethink the way the world provides protein to a growing and ever wealthier global population to ensure nutritious food is more accessible, available and affordable to everyone around the world.
Currently, more than 40 percent of fruits and vegetables in developing regions spoil before they can be consumed. Post-harvest loss reduces the income of small-holder farmers by 15 percent. To address this problem, in 2016 The Rockefeller Foundation launched YieldWise – focused on reducing food loss by focusing on fruits, vegetables, and staple crops in Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania—countries where up to half of all food grown is lost.
In the U.S., nearly 40% of our food supply is wasted every year. At the same time, 41 million Americans—including 13 million children—lack consistent access to adequate food. Wasted food represents wasted resources: one-fifth of our freshwater supply and nearly one-fifth of our cropland is used to produce food that does not get eaten. When that food is thrown away, it takes up 20% of our landfills where it emits tons of methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
Food security is critical for both human welfare and economic growth in Africa. About 70 percent of sub-Saharan Africans depend on agriculture for their livelihoods—and smallholder farmers account for 90 percent of food production in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, many farmers barely produce enough food to feed their families, leaving no money for investing in tools and technologies that could increase yields.