Food Waste – how to tackle mankind’s most pressing challenges with mangoes

Did you know that if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter?

The FAO estimated that globally, 30% of all produced food is wasted. The number one cause for food waste is purely of cosmetic nature: as soon as a fruit or vegetable does not look like what we define as the norm, the produce will not make its way through the supply chain onto our plates. Across the supply chain the rejection of produce leads to a loss of natural resources and denies farmers of their income. Apart from the economic impact, the environmental and social damage is immense.

This also accounts for products grown by smallholder farmers in Kenya resulting in lost income while creating a negative environmental impact. Overly strict cosmetic specifications and order cancellations or last minute adjustments from the top of the supply chain lead to local farmers and/ or exporters being left with large amounts of fresh products and no market for them. Secondary, local markets cannot absorb the produce, which leads to it being dumped or sent back to the farmer.

A Kenyan social entrepreneur aiming to change this status quo is Yvonne, who is known as a ‘food waste warrior’ in her country. Together with experienced partners she founded Miyonga, an enterprise that supports and trains smallholder farmers in growing suitable varieties of crops using modern agricultural practices. With her help the farmers are able to acquire required certifications and increased market access. While working with the farmers Yvonne and her team realised that an immense amount of surplus food goes to waste while on the other side people suffer from malnutrition not able to achieve a healthy vitamin intake. Although, the wasted fruit and vegetables might be perceived as ugly, it does not affect their nutritive value in any way. No matter the size, shape or colour of a mango or pineapple these wasted products have the power to change one of mankind’s most pressing challenges: hunger.

In 2018, hunger is the leading cause of death in the world. Although we live in a world where we produce enough food for everyone, 821 million people – one in nine – still go to bed on an empty stomach each night. Even more – one in three – suffer from some form of malnutrition (World Food Programme). The consequences of not enough or wrong food cause suffering and poor health and negatively impact the progress in other areas of development like education and employment.

The innovation workshop of the second lab of tomorrow process focussed on finding innovative and sustainable business solutions to make Sustainable Development Goal 2 – Zero Hunger – a reality. GIZ taps into the high potential of the Sub-Saharan region to address food losses and food waste as it has the highest per capita losses of any crop in any developing region. Under the headline ‘Food not Waste’ European and African stakeholders collaborated to initiate sustainable business models to solve the food waste problem in Kenya.

The workshop gave food waste warrior Yvonne and her team the chance to meet with like-minded entrepreneurs and experts from different fields: “The workshop validated our ideas that we would actually turn rejected into desirables and make a difference to the community.“ Based on a feasibility study supported by GIZ, the Miyonga team identified the value chain of mangoes having the highest percentage of waste in Kenya.

The model involves the selection of first grade fruits for direct export while lower graded fruits that would have been rejected, are valorised into dried fruits and fruit powder. Currently, Miyonga produces mango and pineapple powder as well as dried mangoes and dried pineapples with no artificial additives or flavouring and sulphites making them a healthy source of vitamins. The product has been certified by the Kenyan bureau of standards (KEBS) and has successfully passed market tests by a food powder distribution company from Germany. Also, the Kenyan consumers approve the products, says Yvonne, “people use the powder to flavour porridge, to make smoothies, to bake, or as a salad dressing”.

“We are quite excited about the use of the powder and our dream is to see every child having access to the required vitamin intake per day.”

For Yvonne, the mango powder is just the beginning. For the future, the team aims to scale up and to take food waste from other Kenyan value chains into their product line and to cooperate with international partners. Although, Miyonga has won various awards and being recognised as the top 50 innovators in Africa at the Africa Innovation Summit in June 2018, Yvonne points out Miyonga’s greatest achievement: to contribute to the reduction of food waste in Kenya and to work for a world with zero hunger.

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