Improving Efficiency in the Food System in Kenya

Reducing food loss can help to increase the amount of food that reaches market, helping to make the food system more sustainable. TechnoServe is working with The Rockefeller Foundation in Kenya to minimize food loss in the mango value chain.

The United Nations reports that the world will need to produce 70 percent more food by 2050 in order to feed the projected world population of 9.6 billion. However, this increase is a huge burden on already strained agricultural resources, such as land and water. Making the global food system more efficient is a necessary step in being able to feed the world’s population in the future, while also limiting the amount of natural resources used towards agriculture.

One of the primary inefficiencies of the global food system is food loss and waste. Food loss happens in various parts of the value chain. Some crops are destroyed in the field before ever making it to market. Other crops are harvested and then spoil on the way to market. Consumers contribute to food waste every time someone goes grocery shopping and throws out fruits and vegetables before eating. It is estimated that almost 30 percent of the world’s agricultural land is devoted to producing food that will never even be eaten because of these inefficiencies.

Fruits and vegetables have particularly high rates of loss; the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates losses for these commodities to be between 37 and 55 percent. Building upon knowledge of the mango value chain from Project Nurture, TechnoServe has partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation to implement the YieldWise initiative in Kenya. The initiative has piloted several technologies to help reduce post-harvest loss, while training smallholders, stimulating the market demand for mangoes and connecting farmers with buyers and giving them access to innovative finance mechanisms. Building off the first phase of on the ground testing, YieldWise hopes to reduce losses from 21 percent to 10 percent by the end of the initiative.

As of December 2015, TechnoServe had facilitated increased buyer demand by linking nine buyers to farmers and farmer business organizations. Over 4,100 farmers had received training on three main topics: agronomy, including post-harvest management; farmer group governance; and business skills.

More Mangoes and More Income

Joyce Musya, a mother of three and the vice secretary of the Upendo Fruit Farmers Self Help Group, is one mango farmer seeing reduced loss because of these interventions. Previously, she was losing almost 2,000 mangoes – or 20 percent of her harvest – each season to fruit flies and mango rust disease. Once the mangoes were exposed to mango rust, they no longer met export standards, which meant that Joyce was unable to sell to large exporters, and had to sell a lower quality crop for as low as $118 for the entire season, greatly reducing her income.

After years, of frustration with her mango crop, Joyce was ready to replace her mango tree with oranges, meaning she would have to wait almost three years until the trees matured before she would have a new crop. But after interventions from TechnoServe, where she learned about good agricultural practices, Joyce invested in fruit fly traps and began a proper spraying practice to protect her mangoes from rust. She was able to sell over 8,000 mangoes the following season for $522.

With this increase in income she is now able to pay school fees for her two sons currently in university. She feels empowered and excited for the next mango season, where she is hoping to increase her harvest even more, and put the profits of her harvest towards renovating her home.

When farmers are able to harvest more of their crops, it helps to not only increase their incomes, but to create a more efficient and sustainable food system. Preventing post harvest losses is an important step in working towards feeding the world’s population and using resources wisely.