By Fola Akinola
Vinson Fellow’s food insecurity project suggests need for better data
It was a great pleasure to work with my faculty mentor, Dr. Rusty Brooks of the International Center, this semester.
At the beginning of the semester, I set out to conduct an exploratory assessment of food security policy in Mali. Through this process, I learned about how food security policy has changed in the past two decades. I also learned a great deal about how the efforts of the Malian government, intergovernmental organizations and private sector actors interact to alleviate malnutrition, hunger and food insecurity.
I identified three distinct lines of food security policy action: food production policy to improve the output of the agricultural sector, food distribution policy to increase the efficiency of the agricultural supply chain after harvest, and food access policy to ensure that consumers have fair access to the market.
Then, I zeroed in on food distribution policy and landed on a policy gap: post-harvest food loss. Post-harvest food loss is edible food waste that takes place during the period between harvest and purchase by the consumer. Food loss results from a variety of reasons, from inadequate food processing techniques and storage facilities to outdated transportation infrastructure. In the case of Mali, I found conflicting estimations about the extent to which food loss exists. This does not facilitate well-informed decision-making for policymakers.
Projects to reduce post-harvest food loss are emerging all over Africa, facilitated by governments, international organizations and agrotechnological companies. For examples, different actors have provided training to farmers on general post-harvest processing methods, established communal food processing and storage technology for farming cooperatives, created and expanded government-owned food storage facilities, recommended the repair of transportation infrastructure, and created new, low-waste methods of transporting food to the market.
Consequently, my next step is to develop a detailed policy recommendation encouraging government policymakers to prioritize obtaining consistent, accurate data on post-harvest food loss from smallholder farmers. This will allow growers, shippers and policymakers to take targeted steps to reduce food loss. Policy action without data is an exercise in futility and, where post-harvest food loss is concerned, is an unfortunate waste of resources, capital and lifesaving agricultural products.
Fola is a senior Honors student and UGA Foundation Fellow pursuing a double major in international affairs and French. She has served as an honors policy scholar, a student researcher through the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities and as a Security Leadership Scholar at the UGA Center for International Trade and Security. She has interned in Washington, D.C., studied abroad in France and is a volunteer with the UGA Intensive English Program. Her research interests include conflict studies and resolution, human rights and security, and African affairs.