2010- senegal pm

Last week marked the beginning of the 21st Session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21). More than 150 world leaders are convening in Paris with the ambitious goal of limiting global temperature change to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

So what’s at stake?

According to a recent report on global food security from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), climate change, extreme weather, and environmental degradation will be among the greatest threats to food availability during the next 10 years. Increasing food insecurity is predicted to hit Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia the hardest. As a result, scarce resources could lead to violence and instability.

Reducing global food loss and waste holds great potential for combatting both problems.

More than a third of all food produced on our planet never gets eaten. This has a major impact on climate change. If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases—behind only the United States and China. This waste is also exceedingly expensive. The direct cost of food waste is about US$750 billion annually, equivalent to the GDP of Switzerland.

Global food waste and loss is also a major driver of food insecurity. While research has invested heavily in improving yields and inputs, less than five percent of agricultural research is spent on reducing global food loss and waste. The introduction of better farming practices and access to seeds, fertilizer, and the like has boosted yields, but these gains are often undermined by the enormous waste of food due to spoilage, insect infestation, and other factors that occur after harvest. This needs to change. As stated in ODNI’s report, “Simply growing more food will not result in more food-secure countries.”

This is why CTI is committed to reducing postharvest loss. We design tools carefully tailored to meet the unique needs of small farmers—tools that enable small farmers to not only increase production, but to reduce loss and deliver high-quality food to market. And our tools are supported by comprehensive programs, because we recognize that tools are only one piece of the puzzle. In Senegal, for example, we are working with local manufacturers, distributors, and food purchasers to ensure that our technologies are available, affordable, and linked to business opportunities.

As outlined in the ODNI report, we need to invest in the necessary infrastructure, technology, and education to improve food access around the world. Global food security and climate change are inextricably linked—COP21 must address global food loss and waste if they hope to reach their goal.

You can read the full ODNI Global Food Security Assessment here.

When we think of food waste, we often think about the massive amount of food we throw away in the developed world; uneaten food in our homes or unsold food from grocery stores and restaurants. But food waste also exists in countries with high rates of malnutrition and poverty, and it’s a huge contributor to global hunger. An estimated 15-50% of food produced in the developing world is lost after it’s harvested, often due to a lack of proper storage or processing technologies.

In a recent post on the Global Agriculture Development Initiative’s blog, CTI Senior Advisor Alexandra Spieldoch writes about post harvest losses and the need for technologies that can address this food waste and eliminate a major contributor to global hunger.

“There is little reliable data on post-harvest loss (PHL) and until recently it hasn’t played a big part in agricultural investment strategies. Only four percent of development assistance goes to agriculture and little of it for post-harvest programs. In light of high prices and lack of food availability, there seems to be new recognition that the world community can do more to prevent post-harvest loss as a means to meet world food demand.

In one of the most comprehensive reports to date, Missing Food: the Case of Post-Harvest Loss in Sub-Saharan Africa, the World Bank, the UN FAO and the UK Natural Resources Institute indicate that over 4 billion dollars of grain are lost annually in Sub Saharan Africa, which is enough to feed 48 million people for 12 months. PHL equals half of the region’s annual grain imports, and exceeds the total amount received through food aid over the last decade.  More investment in post-harvest technologies in Africa has great potential to improve food security as well as improve the lives of poor farmers. Helping small-scale women farmers get access to innovative, affordable tools that help them harvest, store and process their crops is a game-changer for development.”

Check out the full article on the  Global Agricultural Development Initiative’s Global Food for Thought Blog.