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The Importance of Postharvest Innovation for Sustainable Development

Photo by Luca Zanon on Unsplash

When it comes to farming technology in developing countries, the needs of smallholders are often overlooked. Investors tend to support large-scale, industrialized farms and technologies scaled to match that type of operation. However, there are 500 million smallholders around the world. In Africa and Asia, the farms of smallholders account for 80 percent of food consumed and the majority of agriculture in Africa is done by smallholders and family farms of two hectares or less. Additionally, the adverse effects of climate change are already changing the face of agriculture all around the world. Soil degradation, droughts, and fluctuations in weather patterns are increasing, resulting in lower yields and smallholders are more vulnerable to the consequences of a changing environment. Without investment in accessible resources and technologies for small-scale farms, Africa will struggle to feed its growing population in the coming years. Around the globe, it is estimated that the population will grow to approximately 9.7 billion people by 2050, an increase of around 2 billion more mouths to feed. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, the current population is expected to double.

Since 2002, the United Nations has recognized November 10 as World Science Day for Peace and Development. The day was born out of the recognition of the importance of science and scientists for the development of sustainable societies. This year’s theme of “Open science, leaving no one behind” is an opportunity to recognize that, worldwide, access to science, technology and innovation is not equitable.

Investment in food and agricultural innovations for smallholders, including new opportunities for women and youth, is a strategic way to meet the demand of feeding the world’s population and to achieve more equitable, sustainable growth. Since our founding, innovation and technology for rural development have been at the core of our organization. George Ewing, Bob Nave and Emery Swanson were skilled engineers and researchers working for successful Twin Cities-based food companies including General Mills and Pillsbury. They understood the value of appropriate technology that is affordable, available, accessible for improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and their families.

Nearly four decades later, we remain committed to their vision that appropriate technology solutions are key to any strategy for addressing climate change, increasing food demand and uneven economic growth. Too many rural communities throughout sub-Saharan Africa still depend on rudimentary and traditional postharvest labor methods such as processing grain entirely with a mortar and pestle or shelling every single peanut by hand. In 2019, this seems almost unfathomable. We can do so much better.

At Bountifield, we aim to propel all of society forward as a global community by making access to innovation more equitable for African farmers and entrepreneurs. Learn more about our work to provide postharvest technology solutions, and join us by supporting entrepreneurs in cultivating a more bountiful future for all.