Tackling food loss & waste: SMEs saving nutritious food in Africa

With almost 690 million people, or 8.9% of the world’s population, without enough to eat, concerns about food loss and waste are an important part of the discussion to eliminating hunger and malnutrition. Globally, 14% of food (valued at US$ 400 billion) is lost each year between harvest and the market due to inadequate transport, storage and packaging. This figure is even higher in less developed regions, such as Sub-Saharan Africa where 30-50% of production is lost at various points along the value chain.

According to FAO, the main losses affect roots, tubers and oil crops (up to 25%), fruits and vegetables (up to 22%) and meat and animal products (up to 12%). “Nutritious food is the most perishable one, and therefore the most vulnerable to loss. Not only food is lost, but its safety and nutrition is impaired”, states Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director of GAIN. Reducing food loss and waste is essential to strengthening our food systems and ensuring the most vulnerable have access to safeand nutritious food. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated already high levels of food loss and waste in the food value chain. “Levels of losses in perishable produce and products in the supply chain showed a dramatic increase, owing to the restriction of movements that hampered food transportation to markets or market access by consumers”, according to FAO.

As the UN marks the first ever International Day of Awareness of Food Loss & Waste on Tuesday 29th September, we showcase 4 SUN Business Network (co-convened by GAIN and WFP) members that are tackling food loss and waste in sub-Saharan Africa through cold chain logistics, drying techniques and product innovation.

Lycheeland’s fruit roll-ups, a healthy snack using overripe fruits that would otherwise have been thrown away.

Five years ago Hasina Ralay, a Malagasy entrepreneur launched Lycheeland as a solution to reduce food loss and waste resulting from surplus fruit production that could not be absorbed by the market. She took it as her mission to learn several methods of conservation and she was immediately convinced by the drying method because it preserves the nutritional and taste values of the fruit, without the need for preservatives or sugar. Hasina dries a large variety of local fruits such as lychees, physalis, banana, blackberries, pineapples, rambutan, jackfruit and dragon fruit. In addition, Hasina has created fruit roll-ups, which are a healthy snack using overripe fruits that would otherwise have been thrown away. These snacks are sugar and preservative free and are ready to eat. She is also planning to launch vegetable crisps soon.

Since launching, Hasina’s business has continued to grow, not only promoting natural, nutritious and healthy foods, but also fighting against food loss and waste, supporting farmers by guaranteeing fair prices, using an environmentally friendly processing method and creating jobs, especially for women.

“However, malnutrition is one of my biggest concerns for Madagascar”, states Hasina, where the national prevalence of under-five stunting is close to 50%. “Dried fruits are highly nutritious, but they are very expensive to process and are not accessible to the larger population, especially not those suffering from malnutrition” she continues. The public and private sectors must work together to find innovative solutions to reduce the costs of drying and preserving highly perishable and nutritious goods.

Jolenta Joseph, CEO of Sanavita

Jolenta Joseph, CEO of Sanavita, a Tanzanian agro-processing business, has done just that. Jolenta was lucky to be accepted by the Sokoine University Graduate Entrepreneurs Cooperative, an agriculture incubator which allowed the company to access milling machines and laboratory services at a subsidised rate. Through the laboratory’s product analysis service, Jolenta discovered that by drying orange fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSP) in the sun, they lost 80% of their beta carotene, which contains the crucial vitamin A. In comparison, placing them on solar dryers means they lose just 20% and also increases their shelf life by up to 6 months. Over the last year, Sanavita has grown its product portfolio and now produces OFSP puree, bread, flour, soya flour, pumpkin seeds flour and pro vitamin A flour – all using the solar drying technique to optimise shelf life and reduce nutrient loss.

Limpho Produtos Alimentares, a Mozambican family business run by father and son team, Octavio and Dolco Muchanga, are committed to the reduction of post-harvest losses and food waste in the local rice industry. Limpho uses broken rice – grains which have been snapped or fractured during the milling process and are commonly discarded as they are deemed inferior and unappealing to consumers – which they turn into fortified flour and biscuits that contain high levels of nutrients, including fibre, vitamin B, iron, and zinc. Sanavita and Limpho Produtos Alimentares recently competed in the 2020 SUN Pitch Competition, each winning cash prizes of US$ 10,000 from GAIN and DSM respectively to scale their business’ impact on nutrition. Sanavita also won a mentorship prize from Cherrie Atilano, CEO of AGREA, an agro-social enterprise in the Philippines.

Kennie-O Cold Chain Logistics transports 25,000 tonnes of nutritious produce which is saved from being spoiled

Ope Olanrewaju’s business, Kennie-O Cold Chain Logistics (KCCL), was established in 2014 in response to the problem of agricultural post-harvest losses in Nigeria. The company’s refrigerated trucks transport perishable fruit and vegetables from the farms directly to urban consumers, thereby reducing food loss and increasing fresh produce availability in the country. “The business is innovative as it meets a very pressing need of farmers plagued by a lack of appropriate storage and cool transportation, leading to spoilage of their agricultural products. It is commercially viable and also addresses a nutritional gap”, states Ope. Since winning the 2018 SUN Pitch Competition, Ope has attracted interest from investors which has allowed him to increase the amount of produce transported from 10,000 tonnes to 25,000 tonnes. In addition, whilst undertaking training from BoP Innovation Center (which formed part of his competition prize), Ope was able to interact with cold chain actors in the Netherlands. As a result of this networking experience, Ope is now looking to introduce innovative technology to the KCCL trucks. “We have added wireless trackers to monitor the truck location and route in real-time, as well as to track the temperature inside the trucks, monitor how often the truck doors open and close, and any subsequent impacts on temperature”, Ope enthuses.

Addressing food loss and waste should be a priority for all actors – governments, the private sector, civil society, donors, and consumers – and together they must seek effective solutions that can help reduce losses, such as technological and operational innovations, improved post-harvest management, and better packaging, transportation and storage methods.