The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and The Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) have released a new study identifying innovative solutions for improving the supply chain flow of diverse, healthy foods. The study focuses on emerging markets in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia because of their vulnerability, complexity, and opportunities for big investment. Over a six-month period, experts at GAIN and GKI researched new ways to improve nutrition outcomes, and also to spark a dialogue about investments for a better food system in these areas.
The report, Nutritious Food Foresight: Twelve Ways to Invest in Good Food for Emerging Markets, looks at the highest impact areas along the value chain and which innovations are the most suited to improving food security and reducing malnutrition. In order to create an actionable plan, GAIN and GKI gathered a panel of experts from around the world to analyze and critique these innovations to find which ones would be most effective in improving nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia over the next five years. This group, known as the Delphi Panel, is made up of leaders in nutrition, agriculture, business, and sustainable food systems.
Food Tank spoke to members of the Delphi Panel, Dr. Simone Frey, founder of Nutrition-Hub and Future of Nutrition, and Ebun Mesaiyete, Business Development Partner at APM Terminals in Nigeria and expert in cold-chain logistics. “Everything was about calories and making sure there was enough,” Dr. Frey tells Food Tank. “Now, it is making sure that people have access to nutritious food. It’s about pointing out the importance to invest in the infrastructure and the supply chains in developing countries because we will benefit from that as well.”
The Delphi Panel highlighted innovations that make specific changes within parts of the traditional value chain that reduce waste and inefficiencies. These innovations are driven in part by the decreasing costs of solar energy and access to mobile phone connectivity. Innovations built on these platforms become affordable for emerging markets and can create value where general infrastructure is lacking. By highlighting these innovations, the panel aims to help local markets in the short-term, rather than implementing costly, radical, and time-consuming changes that may take more than five years to have an impact.
The panel prioritized their top 12 innovations within the four “Delphi Directives,” which include: starting with native, sustainable, and nutritious foods; investing in food processing closer to the point of production in order to reduce losses and retain nutrients; making food markets more traceable and transparent to stabilize demand, improve safety, and reduce price fluctuation; and using cold storage and transportation to help perishable food last longer—especially for rural populations, mothers, adolescent girls, and children.
Applying all of the innovations together at specific points along the value chain may bring about the best outcomes, but the GAIN-GKI study also notes that doing so requires better collaboration and communication. “This is [a] collective problem, the solution also has to be collective,” Mesaiyete tells Food Tank. “Wherever they will be deployed, even at a micro level, we will need to work together, and then these chains can be completed. That gives each innovation a stronger chance of success instead of standing alone.”
According to research by GAIN, over half of the fresh fruit and vegetables grown in sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia never make it to the people who need it, mostly due to food being lost after it leaves the farm. Analysis by GAIN in Kenya, India, and Nigeria suggests that these losses, combined with a lack of transparency in food markets, increase prices and keep healthy foods even further away from reach. Mesaiyete tells Food Tank, “Food itself is beyond nutrition. Even what is produced is not used efficiently. I think it’s criminal that it is happening.”
Projections by the United Nations estimate that sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia will see massive population growth by 2030, adding to the pressures on food production in the face of climate change. As new markets emerge in these areas, results from the new GAIN-GKI study suggest that now is the time to invest in sustainable food systems. By adopting new strategies in renewable energy and transportation, there can be practical options to improve access to nutritious food that may provide better returns on investments. “I believe this will only happen if each of the innovations has a business model,” says Dr. Frey. “We see more and more entrepreneurs who are mission driven and want to do good, instead of a non-profit project that ends after it has been implemented.”
You can learn more about the Nutritious Food Foresight: Twelve Ways to Invest in Good Food for Emerging Markets report here and read the full report here.