By Steve Agbota
Managing Director Africa, Rockefeller Foundation, Africa Regional Office, Mamadou Biteye, oversees the foundation’s work across Africa, which include initiatives in the areas of agriculture and food security, health, youth employment and urban resilience, among others.
In this interview, he spoke on how the Rockefeller Foundation’s mission has been to promote the wellbeing of humanity throughout the world for than 100 years and his mission to Nigeria, which is to work with farmers in Kano and Kaduna states to equip tomato farmers with agronomy skills in post-harvest loss management in the tomato value chain.
He said the skills are to benefit farmers for the long term, enable them to change farming behaviours that have been leading to unnecessary food loss during harvesting, storing and transporting their produce. He also spoke on how the foundation committed $130 million through Pyxera, the implementing partner of YieldWise in Nigeria, to introduce simple post-harvest loss technologies that farmers can access easily.
Rockefeller Foundation investing in agriculture
The foundation has a long history in agriculture and a long-standing commitment to food security. We are proud of the investments we made to drive the Green Revolution in the 20th Century in the form of initiatives like Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), CSRD, among others. Today, the 21st Century has come with a need for a greener revolution that ensures that we use all we grow and minimise losses on the farm and after. We would also like to see the lives of millions of smallholder farmers improved and their livelihoods secured, to enable them to contribute significantly to their local and national economies too.
That’s why last year the Rockefeller Foundation launched the YieldWise initiative. With large multinational companies like the Coca-Cola Company, Dangote Farms, and the World Food Programme as key collaborators, the initiative is linking smallholder farmers and big businesses, and together they mutually benefit from diversified sources for products and enhanced markets.
The foundation is partnering various stakeholders on the continent to create and invest in agricultural initiatives. In 2015, the foundation launched Leadership for Agriculture (L4Ag), an exclusive network of Africa’s Ministers of Finance and of Agriculture coming together to provide leadership and strategic thinking on how to transform and energise Africa’s agricultural sector, to position it as a major contributor to economic growth across the continent, and consequently to strengthen food security. It currently has a growing membership led by the founding countries of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea.
Another example is the Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation in Africa (PIATA) under the Global Development Alliance (GDA). PIATA is a five-year, $350 million partnership between the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the Rockefeller Foundation, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and aims to spur an inclusive agricultural transformation for at least 11 countries in Africa to increase incomes and improve the food security of 30 million smallholder farm households. To achieve this, these organisations will leverage each other’s resources, knowledge and capacities to have broader influence in the agricultural development sector.
Fighting against food waste and loss
In Nigeria, the first phase of YieldWise focused on tomato as a representative crop, thus the focus on the North. The success of this initial phase is aimed at demonstrating what is possible in this value chain, and what we learn will definitely influence any direction we take thereafter, both in terms of region and crop. We are yet to design the next phase but right now, we are focusing on key lessons as we implement the initiative in the North, and we will take into consideration current outcomes as we move into the next phase. However, with the proof of concept that we expect from phase 1, farmers, private sector and governments may not need us to take this to other regions and value chains.
Investment in the initiative in Nigeria and ways of accessing the funds
There is no formula as such. YieldWise initiative is a $130 million seven-year investment, so each geographical location and value chain has its own unique challenges we are addressing specifically. Each is accessing the funds via implementing partners for specific interventions as per their needs.
Other crop value chains the initiative targets
The same interventions are being implemented in Tanzania and Kenya, the other two YieldWise focus countries. On the maize value chain (Tanzania) and mango value chain (Kenya), farmers are being trained, aggregated, linked to markets and being connected to large buyers for their crops. Our hope is that this will spur a new way of thinking and working for the farmers and other actors in the value chains, to help us reduce food loss and help the farmers earn more income from longer storage of crops that remain saleable at later stages.
Steps to end food waste in Nigeria and other African countries
In Nigeria, Pyxera, which is the implementing partner of YieldWise in Nigeria, is working with farmers in Kano and Kaduna states to equip tomato farmers with agronomy skills in post-harvest loss management in the tomato value chain. The skills are to benefit them for the long term, to enable them change any farming behaviours that have been leading to unnecessary food loss when harvesting, storing and transporting their produce.
Pyxera is also aggregating farmers and training them on Post-Harvest Loss (PHL) technologies and linking them to markets; currently, Dangote Processing Factory is the anchor buyer under the initiative. The YieldWise initiative seeks to introduce simple PHL technologies that farmers can access easily. In the last year, we, together with Pyxera, have introduced the plastic crates to replace the raffia baskets that have traditionally been used to transport tomatoes. The design of the crates has allowed farmers to transport their produce easily with minimal damage, whereas before they used to lose lots of tomatoes on the way due to poor storage.
This season we will also be working with Cold Hubs to provide cold storage facilities at Garum Mallan Market in Kano. The storage unit will enable farmers/traders to store their produce at a fee – enabling them to extend the shelf life of their produce. We are also working with the raffia basket makers and Savanna Institute of Design to develop prototypes on storage made from locally available material that enables transportation of tomatoes in appropriate technologies.
One and half years since inception of the initiative, there are some promising signs of success, including the Dangote Processing Factory being able to process the first batch of tomatoes since opening plant three years ago; 541 farmers have been aggregated with capacity to supply approximately 8,600 metric tonnes of tomatoes; and effective partnerships built with Dangote Farms Limited (DFL).
Pyxera has been able to introduce simple PHL technologies such as plastic crates with high PHL success rate (reduced PHL by 78 per cent among the small sample of farmers piloted with). The same interventions are being implemented in Tanzania and Kenya, the other two YieldWise focus countries. On the maize value chain (Tanzania) and mango value chain (Kenya), farmers are being trained, aggregated, linked to markets and being connected to large buyers for their crops.
Successes recorded by YieldWise initiative in other countries that will be replicated in Nigeria
The YieldWise model is different from other models. It looks at food waste and loss as an inclusive problem and is implementing an all-inclusive solution that looks across the value chain to tackle the issue. The YieldWise model is helping farmers access technologies and solutions to curb preventable crop loss; fixing broken links in the chain from farms to markets in African communities; engaging global businesses to account for the food wasted in their supply chains, beyond their own factories and farms; encouraging models and government policies that drive mutual economic growth such as modern export policies.
Other food waste interventions in the past have focused solely on one element in the value chain not looking at the interconnection between the elements in the whole value chain. In Nigeria, we are working with 20,000 farmers in the tomato value chain in Kano, Kaduna and Jigawa states; in Kenya, we are focusing on 33,000 mango farmers in the eastern and coastal regions and in Tanzania, we are working with about 50,000 farmers on maize across nine regions. Our biggest strategy in all three countries has been to train farmers to use proven technologies that preserve crops after harvest, improved packaging and distribution.
In the last year, the first in its implementation, some key milestones include creating an ecosystem of buyers across the value chains that made procurement commitments of $4.7 million and nearly 35,000 smallholder farmers were trained on how to reduce post-harvest loss. In the mango value chain in Kenya, 90 per cent of the farmers we have trained are using loss-reducing technologies and we have seen small-to-medium enterprises spring up and facilitate greater distribution of these technologies across the value chains. We hope these numbers can grow, and the impact can scale, and continue even in Nigeria.
Roles of partner organisations of YieldWise initiative
Pyxera is our main implementing partners and they aggregate and train the farmers in agronomy, and connect them to markets. Our anchor buyer is Dangote Farms Limited (DFL), which buys the tomatoes and pays the farmers. Other players are Kano Farmers’ Cooperative, which helps to bring the farmers together, Kano State government, which helps by providing enabling environment for these connections, among other organisations that help with capacity building and funding. Each partner plays a key role in the implementation of the initiative and, therefore, ensures its success.