3 ways agribusiness can sustainably feed the world through circular food systems

The world is reeling from three crises. biodiversity loss; and poverty. The food system contributes a lot to everything.

Regarding the climate crisis, about 30% of total greenhouse gases (GHG), or one-third, come from the food system. A recent study by FAO found that emissions from pre- and post-production food processes, including fertilizer production, food processing, packaging, transport, retail, household consumption and food waste disposal, have increased since 1990. It doubled in 2019 and is on the rise. Overtake emissions caused by land-use change. For example, rotting solid food waste in landfills and open pits releases large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 28 to 34 times that of CO2. The company is primarily responsible for pre- and post-production processes and in this part of the food system he plays a key role in reducing GHGs.

On the biodiversity side, food production is causing biodiversity loss through habitat loss – the deforestation of forests, wetlands and grasslands. A recent study by the University of Maryland and his WRI found that 252 million acres of land (the size of Egypt) have been converted to crops since the early 21st century. About half of that he 131 million acres occurred in Africa. The food system contributes to soil and water pollution through chemicals used in agriculture. The latter kill even biodiversity useful for agriculture, such as pollinators, and threaten the sustainability of food systems.

Despite ample global food production, food and nutrition insecurity continues to grow for people in poor countries. According to the State of the World Food Security and Nutrition Report 2022, an average of 765 million people worldwide will be affected by hunger in 2021. Of these, 278 million were in Africa (20.2% of the population). The world produces 1.5 times as much food as she does to feed everyone on the planet, yet poverty and inequality prevent most of the world’s poor from accessing food. Global policies on trade exacerbate poverty and inequality by allocating food and agricultural inputs to already wealthy segments of society. This fosters the link between poverty and the environment. That is, communities in poor countries open up natural habitats for subsistence, which negatively impacts the environment. These vicious cycles can be stopped if governments and businesses adopt zero food waste policies.

A primary solution to these problems is a circular food system. This concept consists of his three principles: Address food loss and food waste issues. Adds converting materials that would otherwise be wasted into useful products.

WRI Africa works with governments, development partners and businesses to promote circular food systems in Africa. For example, through the Circular Food Systems project in Rwanda, project partners will seek new opportunities to accelerate business growth for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through technical advisory bodies that connect them to circularity knowledge, tools, and opportunities. I am developing a method. The project is creating market linkages with anchor companies and financial providers to ensure that small businesses receive the full technical and financial support they need to grow their circular food business. The advanced stage creates an environment that supports a circular food economy through intelligent policy design. While the project is still in its early stages, evidence from the first year of implementation shows an important way for companies to build circular food systems.

How businesses can help promote a circular food system

1. Pay the premium

First, companies must source products from food produced in ways that protect and regenerate nature and pay a premium.

Smallholder farmers are trained by many development organizations in sustainable land management practices that can increase food production while reducing environmentally damaging inputs. However, diffusion of these technologies is still insufficient in Africa and other developing countries. These techniques are typically labor-intensive and knowledge-intensive, but farmers who adopt them do not always get financial rewards from the market. Moreover, companies that have invested in chemical inputs into agriculture are actively lobbying for policy and price incentives to make their products more accessible to farmers.

If companies can shift their model, compensate farmers for adopting sustainable land management practices, and shift from environmentally destructive to conducive inputs, then market traction will emerge and these practices and products will become more sustainable. It will become more widely adopted among farmers. We are seeing key players in the agri-food sector becoming more aware and initiating these changes, but progress has been slow and inconsistent. Rapid climate change, biodiversity loss, and impact on human health, a more rapid transition is needed.

2. Invest in innovation to address food waste

Businesses interested in reducing food loss and waste can do so through a three-step approach: goal; and act. And we need innovation in all three areas. Measurement enables targeted action where it is most needed in the food chain.

Numerous innovations to reduce food loss at the post-harvest level continue to be tested and applied by companies around the world with varying levels of success. Every food chain is different: dairy products, grains, fruits. For example, the use of cold chain logistics to connect harvested agricultural products to consumers has been successfully applied in developed countries, but has been less well adopted in poorer countries due to poor energy access and infrastructure. Besides, cold chain systems typically use high global warming potential refrigerants and grid power based on fossil fuels, or off-grid diesel-based generation and transportation. gas). Companies can invest in renewable energy cold chain facilities suitable for many tropical countries. For example, most of sub-Saharan Africa has high potential for solar and geothermal energy, so we could transition to cold chain facilities that use these forms of energy, greatly reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. . Partnerships between research institutes, companies and governments such as Rwanda’s African Center for Sustainable Cooling and Cold Chains (ACES) are accelerating the transition to affordable, low-carbon emission cooling and cold chain systems across the continent and you can make cyclical food. possible system.

3. Invest in circularity of food waste

Today, less than 2% of the valuable nutrients in food by-products and waste are recycled, most of which ends up in landfills where it rots and produces greenhouse gases. . Compost waste into fertilizer while producing organic pesticides and pesticides. By converting organic waste into compost, we recycle nutrients into the soil and sustainably improve agricultural productivity while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Another SME that transforms food waste into usable products is Nyungu Africa. Turn corn husks and pineapple crowns into biodegradable sanitary napkins. A large number of small and medium enterprises have emerged on the continent. Through our circular food system project in Rwanda, we have found that these SMEs are constantly looking for ways to improve their products and have access to affordable and flexible funding to expand their business. Moreover, they need a supportive policy environment to thrive. Combining these three elements (technical support, funding, and policy) can increase the number and ability of businesses to convert different parts of food waste into usable products.

Circular food systems offer opportunities for businesses to build resilient and sustainable supply chains and create more sustainable jobs, while avoiding negative social and environmental externalities. A circular food system requires more efficient use of resources such as land, energy and water, while increasing productivity without negatively impacting the environment. It also reduces post-harvest losses through improved storage, transportation, processing and packaging, reduced consumer waste and improved food waste management. A sustainable circular food business must pay attention to many forms of equity. Especially in poorer countries, smallholder farmers who invest their knowledge and effort to produce healthy and environmentally safe produce get a premium price for their investment. However, it is important to note that no business can claim to be 100% circular. The purpose of any sustainability-focused business is to travel along the circular spectrum and achieve the strongest model.

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