In developing countries, millions of smallholder farmers lose 40% of their income because of losses after harvesting. In addition, in developed countries, more than 40% of all food produced is wasted! But there is hope – thanks to innovations and smart thinking in the circular economy. Bernhard Kowatsch, Head of the Innovation Accelerator at the United Nations World Food Programme, presents several initiatives that work towards ending hunger.
Let’s get back to smallholder farmers in developing countries.
Bernhard Kowatsch is Head of the Innovation Accelerator at the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The WFP Innovation Accelerator identifies, nurtures, and scales disruptive startups and entrepreneurs that accelerate progress towards zero hunger. Previously, he co-founded the award-winning ShareTheMeal app and worked as project leader at the Boston Consulting Group for global tech and industrial goods companies. Kowatsch took part in the BMW Foundation Denkraum event in July.
After harvesting maize, for example, they lose up to 50% as a result of inadequate storage.
Consequently, many farmers are forced to sell their produce immediately after harvesting it – at a time when prices are low due to high supply – only to buy back the same produce later at increased prices!
At the UN World Food Programme (WFP) Innovation Accelerator, reducing post-harvest losses is just one of the areas where we support startups and innovations that can help us reach the next step in emergency response and ending hunger.
For example, we supported a WFP team training smallholder farmers on how to improve post-harvest handling methods, combined with simple but effective hermetic storage equipment.
The BMW Foundation Denkraum event, held in Munich on July 5, 2018, revolved around ideas on how we can shape the way towards a circular economy. The current economic model works mainly along the lines of make, use and dispose. In contrast, the idea of a circular economy implies a systemic shift towards regenerative and restorative production processes.
The equipment is sold to farmers, and as it is both air- and watertight, it helps them to guard against insects, rodents, mould, and moisture.
So far, participating farmers have been able to reduce post-harvest losses by up to 98%.
For most farmers, the cost of buying the new storage devices is recovered within one harvest.
Here are a few other creative initiatives that work towards ending hunger and improving food security for all people on this planet:
1. A new circular economy/zero-food waste cooking alliance
An obvious idea to combat food waste is to ensure that consumer behavior, when it comes to both the purchase of food and its use, is considerate of our environment.
Denkraum participants highlighted the desire to create a circular economy cooking alliance – for example, recipes using leftovers. Think about all the doggie bags you could repurpose for a delicious meal! WFP has recently launched an initiative called #RecipeForDisaster building on this trend!
2. Using blockchain for transparency in food supply chains
For years, new business models and technologies have helped make food supply chains more efficient, and yet at every stage, food may be lost or expire, or it simply may take too long to inform producers about changing consumer demands.
A number of retail and transport companies are already working on blockchain solutions that would allow participants in the market to share their data and gain access in a more collaborative way than ever before.
At WFP, we are currently exploring this very concept – using blockchain for food supply chains – in pilots in East Africa.
3. Sharing meals via the ShareTheMeal app
There are 821 million undernourished people in the world today. The good news is that hunger is entirely solvable. And it costs just US$0.50 to feed one child for a day.
ShareTheMeal is an app developed by WFP that enables people to "share their meals" with children in need. Users can easily give US$0.50 (or more) with just a tap on their smartphone.
"The good news is that hunger is entirely solvable."
The app even shows donors where their meals will go, ensuring that vulnerable communities will have access to nutrition. Funds raised through the app have also resulted in specific projects focused on reducing food waste – such as providing storage containers and food to 20 schools in Uganda – aiming to make school meals healthier and to ensure that there is enough food available throughout the year.
4. Hydroponic plant growing, saving 90% water, and utilizing localized production
Hydroponic growing (H2Grow) is a soilless cultivation technique that enables plant growth in areas that are non-fertile, arid, or have limited space.
Hydroponics is a cost- and time-efficient method, requiring about 90% less water than traditional agriculture. In order to capitalize on this technique for humanitarian purposes, WFP teams worked together with the Innovation Accelerator to scale-up the H2Grow initiative.
As the expert for hydroponic solutions in development and emergency contexts, H2Grow offers tailor-made systems to vulnerable communities so that they can grow food anywhere. So far, they’ve managed successful projects in areas as diverse as the urban slums of Lima, Peru, the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria, and Sudanese refugee camps in Chad.
Equipping vulnerable people with access to open-source knowledge and experts makes it possible for them to provide for themselves in a self-sustainable way.
The desert in Jordan just got a little bit greener! With the #hydroponic solutions through @WFPInnovation, we are helping vulnerable Syrians and Jordanians meet their nutritional needs and improve their livelihoods! 🌱💦#distrupthunger #H2GROW pic.twitter.com/rfgYOgzDzG
— World Food Programme (@WFP) October 30, 2018
Each of the above initiatives has the potential or is already working well towards ending global hunger.
We at the WFP Innovation Accelerator are constantly looking for disruptive startups and innovations that can help us make emergency assistance more effective or sustainably lift people out of hunger!
Through innovations and the circular economy, together we can reach a world without hunger by 2030.