Giving Compass' Take:

• Shared Value Initiative and FSG share how Rockefeller’s YieldWise initiative is working to address the problem of post-harvest food loss in Africa. 

• How can funders learn from these efforts? What partnerships can further advance anti-food waste efforts? 

• Read about the gains to be had from reducing food loss

Post-harvest food loss is a large, urgent, but addressable problem that represents a major shared value opportunity for companies across the agricultural value chain. Approximately one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, amounting to nearly 1.3 billion tons annually. The problem of food loss is getting worse. For example, according to a 2013 report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, rice loss in Southeast Asia increased from approximately 14% in 1994 to an average of 37% to 80% today, depending upon location. By 2050, there will be 2 billion more people to feed. If the amount of food loss is not reduced, agricultural yield would need to increase by an estimated 70% and require an investment of USD $83 billion per year to meet demand.

Food loss has a negative impact on farmers, food consumers, and the environment. For farmers, food loss represents a wasted investment: wasted time spent tending the crop, wasted water and fertilizer used to grow the crop, and wasted resources used to transport the crop to market. In developing countries, an estimated 470 million smallholder farmers and 290 million people who rely on agriculture (brokers, processors, and buyers) lose an average of 15% of their income due to post-harvest food loss.

Many of the farmers most impacted by food loss are also part of the 25% of food insecure consumers in the developing world. Post-harvest food loss drives up the end price of food and restricts access to food, contributing to hunger and malnutrition. Fruits and vegetables account for nearly half of all food loss worldwide. The resulting lack of access to dietary diversity can lead to stunting, which currently impacts 180 million children worldwide. It can also lower lifetime earnings by 22%. The need for added production to make up for food loss also requires approximately 4% of world energy consumption, 20% of freshwater consumption, and uses 30% of the world’s agricultural land area. By 2030, the gap between expected water withdrawals and existing supply may reach 40%.

Food loss is particularly acute in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). More than 30% of the food produced for human consumption in SSA is lost. The value of this food loss far exceeds the volume of food aid provided to the area each year. In a region where 70% of the people derive their livelihoods from agriculture, postharvest food loss represents foregone economic value of up to USD $4 billion per year. Strikingly, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 95% of the agricultural research investments in SSA over the last 30 years have been directed at increasing productivity, with only 5% aimed at reducing food losses. This potential misallocation of funds directed at increasing overall agricultural yield is largely due to a lack of awareness of the true costs of post-harvest food loss among actors across the value chain.

Addressing post-harvest food loss represents a major opportunity to improve rural livelihoods. Many promising approaches to reducing post-harvest food loss already exist, but issues related to access, affordability, and awareness inhibit their adoption at a sufficient scale. Elimination of post-harvest food loss would feed 1 billion more people by 2050—many of them across SSA, where food insecurity is the greatest. This means much more than just more food for more people; it also means increased nutritional security, greater resilience within food systems, and improved farmers’ livelihoods.

Rockefeller’s Emerging Approach to the Post-Harvest Food Loss Challenge: Building a Shared Value Partnership System

In 2013, the Rockefeller Foundation recognized the potential to achieve positive social and economic impact across a broad range of issue areas—farmer livelihoods, food security, and the environment—by addressing the post-harvest food loss issue. The Foundation also saw the opportunity to engage a broad range of stakeholders and to meld different perspectives on this issue while at the same time accelerating the growth of the food and agri-business industry in Africa. As the Rockefeller Foundation’s Caroline Kronley summarizes, “We had an early hypothesis that the dynamism around the retail revolution in Africa would allow us to mobilize a broader range of stakeholders and interests, particularly the private sector. We thought about how we could marry this trend with solutions to the problem. We saw the shared value opportunity from the very beginning, and this shaped our strategy.”

During the exploratory phase, the Foundation conducted a range of activities in collaboration with a crosssector group of stakeholders to better understand the challenge of post-harvest food loss and surface shared value opportunities. By convening multiple perspectives and aligning interests, Rockefeller created a common language and understanding of the problem and an integrated set of potential solutions.