There are many links in Sub-Saharan Africa’s food supply chain, and funders have focused on different links at different times. Lately, a lot of big money has gone toward the support of small farmers and the creation of more resilient crops. The Rockefeller Foundation has thrown its support behind both efforts, but lately it's also been working an age-old problem for agricultural societies, which nonetheless has a low profile: postharvest food losses.
These losses can occur for a number of reasons including inadequate storage and transport techniques, premature harvesting, crop blight, and animal attack.
About a third of food grown around the world never reaches consumers, according to the foundation, and the results can be pretty devastating, especially in Africa where there's not much margin for error. That's why Rockefeller has been working hard on this issue over the past year, convening a range of actors in Africa to kick around ideas for reducing postharvest food losses.
Two recent grants for such work are worth spotlighting.
With a grant of over $736,000, Deloitte Consulting’s South Africa office will develop better strategies and new interventions for preventing postharvest food loss in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The D.C.-based PYXERA Global Inc. will use a second grant of $300,000 for an analysis of postharvest food loss in Nigeria.
One benefit of Rockefeller's push, hopefully, will be to move this critical issue off the backburner in development circles. Once upon a time, remember, the UN declared that reducing postharvest food loss, especially in developing countries, “should be undertaken as a matter of priority.” And according to the World Food Programme,
95% of all research investments over the past 30 years have focused on increasing productivity and only 5% directed towards reducing losses
While a few advances toward improving postharvest loss numbers have been made over the last few decades, farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa still lose harvested crops with an estimated annual value of around $4 billion. Again, that's devastating for a continent that can hardly afford to lose one thin dime.
And with Africa's population still growing, the stakes of preventing postharvest food loss will only rise higher.