Nigerian Companies Are Using Innovative Approaches to Reduce Food Loss and Boost Smallholder Farmers’ Incomes
In 2016, insects destroyed tomato fields in Nigeria, wiping out 80 percent of tomatoes in Kaduna State and setting off years of instability in markets across the country. Tomato prices often skyrocket without warning, scaring off customers and causing tomatoes to spoil without ever making it to market. Due to poor demand, the price then drops again days later, causing unstable markets, food waste, and huge losses for farmers.
Setbacks like unstable tomato prices, food waste, and crop disease have contributed to the ongoing food security crisis in Nigeria, which was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruptions to already fragile value chains. Many farmers are unable to protect themselves from unstable markets or avoid food spoilage at a time when 12.7 percent of the population is undernourished and nearly a third of children under five have stunted growth. Food waste also contributes to climate change, as it is associated with an estimated 8-10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
How can Nigerian farmers create more stable prices for their crops and reduce food waste so they can sell more of their products and increase their incomes? Several grantees of the United Agency for International Development (USAID)/Nigeria COVID-19 Food Security Challenge helped answer this question.
The challenge, launched in 2021 as part of the Feed the Future initiative, led USAID/Nigeria to partner with youth-led and mid-stage companies already working in food production, processing, and distribution in Nigeria. It awarded $4 million in funding and technical assistance to 32 companies to support food production and security in Nigeria. Of these, 12 are women-owned and 31 are new to USAID.
Here’s how four of the companies are using innovative methods to help local producers avoid food spoilage and increase production.
Sustainable Drying Technologies Boost Farmers’ Incomes and Reduce Food Losses
Farmers in Nigeria lose about 50 percent of their farm produce and about 30 percent of grains before they reach the market. Inadequate transport and storage facilities due to poor access to power, cold storage and drying facilities are major challenges. The situation is exacerbated in northwestern Nigeria where violence and security concerns add a layer of instability for farmers. When farmers are provided with drying methods necessary to preserve their food, it decreases food waste, generates higher incomes and boosts the nation’s economy.
In Kaduna, Gombe, and Adamawa States, Sosai Renewable Energies Company provides solar-powered dryers that dehydrate food with heat pumps to produce food that is safe and free from dust, dirt and external contamination. With funding from USAID, Sosai increased the production capacity of its solar dryers from 540 to 29,000 kilograms, increasing sales by up to 800 percent. With Sosai’s sustainable, climate-smart dryers, there is a 90-percent reduction in food loss compared to the traditional method of floor drying.
In Kano and Kaduna States, Gum Arabic Company Nigeria (GACON) Limited uses stainless steel solar dryers to dry ginger and improve its quality. With USAID’s funding, GACON was able to install 22 solar dryers, increasing production by 50 percent and improving the quality of ginger processed to international standards. By replacing dated processing techniques with solar drying technology, GACON made a 15-percent increase in sales, 50-percent increase in market inquiries from international buyers, and ten percent increase in profits for 2,880 ginger farmers.
Affordable Cold Storage Increases Farmers’ Income and Food Security
In Nigeria, 45 percent of food spoils due to a lack of cold storage, resulting in massive post-harvest losses and more than 93 million smallholder farmers losing 25 percent of their annual income. With refrigeration and freezing systems, farmers at the base of the pyramid can keep food fresh longer and reduce these losses while also increasing incomes and creating new jobs.
Flourish ColdChain Limited provides efficient, affordable refrigeration systems to off-grid communities to help extend the freshness of vegetables, fruits and livestock from two days without refrigeration to ten days with refrigeration. USAID funding enabled Flourish to deploy 24 solar fridges across eight states in Nigeria, leading to the preservation of 34,000 kilograms of agricultural products.
As a result of Flourish’s efforts, 5,918 farmers in communities with access to refrigeration reported a 35-50 percent increases in revenue. A rural market woman in Kwara State who uses the Flourish solar freezers was able to raise the price of her livestock by 50 percent, and the visible freshness of her products has attracted more customers to her business. She now makes higher profits and has more money to take care of her family.
In Edo State, SmartAgro Technologies used USAID support to install a solar-powered cold storage facility that allows farmers to keep fruits and vegetables fresh until they are sold. The facility led to an incredible 95 percent reduction in food loss compared to the traditional system. Farmers have experienced a tenfold increase in revenue from $2,000 to $20,000 per month. The number of farmers and retailers that use SmartAgro’s platform increased from 100 to more than 600 farmers and from 300 to 1,000 retailers over six months.
Hope for a More Food Secure Future
Sosai, GACON, Flourish and SmartAgro’s work demonstrates how drying and cooling technologies keep food fresh longer and provide farmers more flexibility with selling their products, allowing them to earn more while also preventing spoilage and the loss of much-needed food. Smallholder farmers with access to these affordable technologies benefit from increased revenues, incomes and customers. These farmers are now able to provide for their families and produce more food for their communities.
While the food security crisis in Nigeria is far from over, the COVID-19 Food Security Challenge has proven that sustainable, locally based solutions from small- and medium-sized enterprises can make a difference. As we work to achieve a food-secure future, these solutions will play a crucial role along the way.