Giving Compass' Take:

• The Rockefeller Foundation launched the Yieldwise Initiative, which helps to reduce agricultural loss and boost income and food availability throughout rural parts of Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania. 

• In what other ways can philanthropic capital help improve global food systems? 

• Read how women farmers are changing the field. 

It is the week before Christmas, and Elizabeth Muia is getting ready to receive visitors at her home in Kyumu village in Machakos County, located in Kenya’s Eastern Region. Two of her three adult daughters are busy preparing fresh vegetables from their farm. The youngest is making tea with milk from Elizabeth’s cows.

In all directions beyond the neat hedge surrounding the house, trees labor under the weight of mangoes, their branches bent over with the juicy heaviness of the fruit. It will soon be time to harvest, and Elizabeth is expecting a bumper crop.

Women like Elizabeth comprise nearly half of the agricultural labor force in the developing world, but their production is limited by barriers to finance, training, technology, and equitable land rights. Investing in women smallholder farmers is critical to help address global rates of hunger and malnutrition, which have skyrocketed since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

In 2016, The Rockefeller Foundation launched the Yieldwise Initiative, which aims to reduce post-harvest loss in select countries and value chains by up to 50 percent. More than 40 percent of fruits and vegetables in developing regions spoil before they can be consumed.

Using a multi-pronged strategy, YieldWise sought to improve millions of rural lives by boosting incomes, increasing the availability of food, and protecting finite environmental resources. YieldWise targeted the mango value chain in Kenya; tomato and cassava production in Nigeria; and maize in Tanzania.

YieldWise in Kenya was implemented by TechnoServe, an international nonprofit that promotes business solutions to poverty in the developing world by linking people to information, capital, and markets. Through YieldWise, women farmers like Elizabeth were empowered with knowledge and resources to increase their yields and reduce losses.

Elizabeth is one of the 80-member Masii Horticultural Farmers’ Co-operative Society, which has set up an aggregation center where farmers can take their mangoes for storage and collective marketing. “The mangoes are kept in cold rooms and buyers go there instead of coming to the farms. This arrangement has helped me greatly because I would not have been able to keep all my mangoes until I got a buyer. We are also able to get better prices when we sell together. I am no longer afraid because no matter how much I produce, as long as they are of good quality, I know my mangoes will be bought. In fact, after this season, I want to plant 15 more trees.”

Read the full article about investing in women farmers at The Rockefeller Foundation.