The Rockefeller Foundation is putting down $130m to fight food waste in Africa

About 14 million people are facing hunger in Southern Africa. Some 10 million people suffer similar fate in Ethiopia but the world grows enough food to feed them all. The problem is that one-third of the food produced is never eaten. With drought exacerbated by extreme weather phenomenon El Nino exposing more people to hunger, and the projected 2 billion increase in the global population by 2050, the need to minimize loss becomes as critical as the need to maximize production.

The Rockefeller Foundation, in keeping with its long legacy in strengthening food security and advancing healthier, more productive food systems around the world, has, therefore, launched  YieldWise, a seven-year, $130 million initiative that will demonstrate how food loss and waste can be cut in half globally.

“The amount of food lost or wasted before it ever reaches a table is simply unacceptable, with devastating impacts on people, profit, and planet,” said Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. “Yet, it’s a challenge that can be prevented with a blend of existing solutions, from technologies that help farmers keep more of what they grow to models for private sector engagement that ensure those crops will be bought, rather than left to rot.”

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Rodin said the Foundation would finish the business it started with the Green Revolution more than a half-century ago – to ensure more of the world’s people are fed and the planet’s precious resources are protected — through YieldWise.

Collaborating with large multinationals like The Coca-Cola Company and Dangote, The Rockefeller Foundation will engage private, nonprofit and government actors across the food supply system, with a focus on linking small and big businesses that can mutually benefit from diversified sources for products and enhanced markets.

“We look forward to working with the Rockefeller Foundation to make the food supply chain stronger, more efficient and more sustainable in Africa and beyond. This effort has vast potential to benefit small farmers, local communities as well as consumers, and we’re excited to have the chance to advance the cause of sustainable agriculture while helping to improve the lives of people near and far,” said Muhtar Kent, Chairman  & Chief Executive Officer of The Coca-Cola Company.

The Foundation will, through YieldWise, immediately focus on streamlining the supply chain from farm to market in Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania, where up to half of some crops are lost to inefficient harvesting, storage, processing and time to market. Smallholder farmers in these countries will be given proven technologies to increase yield and create new paths to prosperity.

“In the global conversation on food waste, we often overlook losses between harvest and retail. On 470 million smallholder farms across Africa, lack of access to training and technology negatively impacts harvests and farmer livelihoods,” said Mamadou Biteye, Managing Director of The Rockefeller Foundation in Africa.

According to him, when crops and food exports don’t make it to the market, the economic development and global competitiveness of agriculture-dependent nations also suffer. “YieldWise is the first global solution to food loss and waste that works across the entire food system: from farm to store to table and beyond,” Biteye added.

The Rockefeller Foundation will also make targeted investments toward dramatically reducing food waste generated by retail outfits and consumers across the U.S. and Europe. This is also very important because every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.