Food Loss and Waste Reduction and Affordability of Safe, Nutritious Diets
This post is written by Ahmed Kablan & Mark Huseinga, USAID (Introduction by Ahmed Kablan).
Twelve months into the COVID-19 pandemic, my eating habits changed significantly. Aside from my concern for feeding my toddler a nutritious, diverse, and safe meal, I went from making a fresh meal from scratch every day to eating what my kid would not eat. Most recently, my lunch meal has consisted of what I find in the fridge that is about to go bad along with my three-year-old’s breakfast discards.
This takes me back to my initial thought. As parents, our major concern is ensuring that our child has daily access to safe, nutritious and diverse meals. This has become a daily preoccupation since he started his new daycare, requiring that we pack his late morning snacks and lunch. Thankfully, we are not burdened by food unaffordability, and we are privileged to be able to afford a diverse diet. But that does not mean this is the case for everyone. Recent inflation and increasing global food prices, partially induced by Russia's war on Ukraine, has pushed more families and individuals into poverty, and made what used to be affordable nutritious diets unaffordable.
I can’t recall how many times I told someone not to waste their food because there are millions who can’t afford to eat. The response I usually get is, “how is eating my meal going to help those who can’t afford to eat similar food thousands of miles away?”
According to a report by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a key determinant of food security and adequate nutrition is food affordability; it is a determinant of access to food and healthy diets. The report points out that one way to lower the cost of nutritious diets is by reducing food loss and waste (FLW) throughout agri-food systems.
A recent analysis done by the International Food Policy and Research Institute (IFPRI, unpublished data) looked at the impacts of reducing FLW in three countries: Bangladesh, Kenya and Nigeria. The results were clear: reducing FLW by 50 percent, a significant agri-food systems inefficiency, has direct impacts on diet affordability as well as several economic metrics such as agriculture contributions to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Some of the key highlights from IFPRI analysis, which will be published in January 2023, were:
FLW reduction by 50 percent has an economy-wide effect, with increases in GDP by 1-2%;
Poverty and hunger rates fall by 2-4 percentage points (in Bangladesh, for example, this means that 4 million people would be lifted out of poverty and hunger); and
FLW reduction will have direct impacts on diet quality and affordability, increasing the supply of food groups with larger consumption gaps (lower consumption of nutrient dense foods especially fruits and vegetables). This translates into elevating 4.2 million people from undernourishment in Bangladesh.
The bottom line is that FLW-reducing technologies and innovations can have huge positive impacts on economies, poverty and hunger and diet quality. Technologies developed by the Feed the Future Innovation Labs, such as the Post-Harvest Loss Reduction Innovation Lab (or PHLIL), are poised to contribute significantly to reducing FLW and deliver impacts at scale. For example, the BAU-STR dryer (a low-cost grain dryer produced by Bangladesh Agricultural University, PHLIL’s partner in Bangladesh) has the potential to reduce paddy rice losses by 12,500 tons per year (incorporating 5,000 dryers), equating to saving USD $3.75 million worth of rice.
PHLIL is also delivering impactful technologies produced by PHLIL researchers in Ghana. The innovation lab worked in partnership with the Women’s Poultry Association, applying its validated drying, moisture detection, and hermetic storage technologies. These improvements to prevent post-harvest loss increased poultry production by a factor of 50 over five years, increased egg production, and improved incomes for poultry feed producers. This short video explains the accomplishments achieved by PHLIL in the country.
In short, we have the tools and the knowledge to help cut FLW, make food more affordable and available and create income generation opportunities for women and the youth. What is needed is the resources and the will to invest in these solutions.