The main challenge for agricultural research, development, and policy is how to feed over 9.1 billion people with safe food by the year 2050 (Parfitt, Barthel, & Macnaughton, 2010). While considerable attention is directed toward increasing food production by 50–70% to meet this target, one important and complementary factor that is often forgotten is reducing food loss and food waste (Hodges, Buzby, & Bennett, 2011). It is suggested that about one third of the food produced globally is lost or wasted (FAO–World Bank, 2010, Prusky, 2011), representing a loss of 1.3 billion tonnes of food per year in a world where over 870 million people go hungry (Gustavsson et al, 2011).
This background has led to the inception of Grain Plus –an innovative idea aimed at solving post-harvest loss challenges among smallholder farmers in sub Saharan Africa. It is a lucrative pathway to food security through offering a suitable alternative to productionist approaches and saves on creating value chain linkages that affords the farmer ample production time to concentrate on market desired yield quality and quantities. Grain + is a reliable community based grain movement, storage and marketing innovation that ensures that household food security and produce markets are well satisfied with a huge range of crop products. It presents an innovative avenue that replaces smallholder farmers’ traditional storage systems and create a centrally located community based storage system that comes with logistical and marketing support that further eliminates the manipulative effects of middlemen along the value chains. It further presents the opportunity for rural farmers to adopt cashless economies and thus lessen the risk in losing their earnings to criminals in the volatile parts of the continent.
Grain + is a safe and reliable means of post-harvest loss reduction in that participating farmers are issued with Grain+ smartcards that allow them to monitor produce quantities in the central storage system and also track market bound Agricultural produce. This is an effective stride in solving market linkage and post-harvest loss challenges that affect most smallholder farmers in sub Saharan Africa. It presents an opportunity to safeguard about 33 million Smallholder farmers’ livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa, this representing about 80% of all farmland in the region that contributes up to 90% of food and fibre production in most of the sub-Saharan African countries.
The concept is replicable and fights food insecurity whilst boosting revenue generation opportunities among smallholder farmers through secure long term storage tenures. It boosts the growth of green economies and raises the bargaining power of the farmers. Farmers participants store their agricultural output with Grain plus and benefit from quality logistics, storage and market services. Generally, the grain market prices are lower at the harvest and appreciates in the off season whilst in storage and the involved farmer actively tracks the prevailing market prices through the Grain plus mobile application which will be available in both ios and android versions. The farmers stand the opportunity to benefit from commodity price increases on stored off season crops and this increases their level of income. Grain Plus will be guided in its progress by its uptake among smallholder farmers through subscriptions to its services.
As part of promoting my innovation, I founded an Agro-based company-Produce express that is aimed at securing the vital pillars for market accessibility and logistical support provision among smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe. Grain plus will operate as a subsidiary of Produce express. To date Produce express has set up 2 Produce collection and marketing centers in the north eastern districts of Zimbabwe since its inception in October 2018.
Nyasha Freeman Musikambesa, Zimbabwe