Grappling with food security implications of lost and wasted food is a constant challenge for researchers and policy experts. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, roughly one-third of the food produced in the world goes to waste -- a staggering 1.3 billion tons every year. In many developing countries, food loss takes place just after crop harvest, between the field and the market. However, the specific causes of postharvest loss vary widely, depending on crop type, region, weather, and farmers’ incomes. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Through efforts by the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs and Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative, the State Department is actively pursuing solutions to postharvest loss that can promote innovation and improve market efficiency. Back in February, we brought together government officials, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and foreign diplomatic corps to discuss challenges, focusing on supply chains, cold chain storage, financing, research, and implementation. This event successfully highlighted the issue, and made it clear that postharvest loss solutions need to be tailored to local conditions.
Our follow up and next steps would need to expand the range of stakeholders and focus on innovation. Fortunately, we had a great model and partner, the Office of Innovation and Development Alliances (IDEA) at USAID. IDEA led a Food Security Open Data Challenge last year and showcased solutions from the challenge at the Iowa Hunger Summit. Today, farmers, industry representatives, scientists, and policymakers are using new apps developed through the event.
Using the open data concept, we brought together postharvest loss and data experts; private sector and academics for a Postharvest Loss Ideation Jam (brainstorming session). U.S. embassies and host countries partners actively provided reports on country specific postharvest loss challenges for discussion. Participants worked together to identify where interventions, based on open data, might lead to innovative solutions to address these challenges.
There is so much room for collaboration and innovation. I encourage you to consider how you can help solve postharvest loss challenges facing your own country. It is the combination of all the ideas from innovators and entrepreneurs that will reduce postharvest loss and improve food security around the world.
*The Postharvest Loss Ideation Jam builds on a number of U.S. government priorities, such as the Open Government Initiative; the virtual Food, Agriculture, and Rural Community on the U.S. government’s data sharing website; , the Global Open Data Agriculture & Nutrition initiative; and Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and security initiative. The Ideation Jam follows on the State Department’s event in February, “Food Security and Minimizing Postharvest Loss: Markets, Applied Research, and Innovation.”
About the Author: Edward Kaska serves as an Office Director in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.