New funding will allow the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business to extend and expand post-harvest loss research with a consortium of global partners in Africa.
The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research will contribute $2.8 million to build on work started in 2016. Other organizations will match the investment, giving the consortium a $5.7 million budget through 2021.
About $1.2 million of the total will support work at Smith, led by a team at the Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets.
“Enterprise and markets do more to reduce poverty than any other approach tried throughout history,” Snider Center founding director Rajshree Agarwal said. “Our interest in the project is discovery of sustainable, scalable solutions to drive upward mobility for smallholder farmers.”
Specifically, a Snider Center team led by Agarwal and research affiliate Steven T. Sonka will assess progress from the YieldWise Initiative, launched by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2016 with a mission to reduce mango loss in Kenya and other crops in Nigeria, Tanzania and elsewhere.
Sonka, a University of Illinois agricultural and consumer economist, already has visited the mango farms in Africa and seen the progress.
“It’s really exciting when you’re sitting on a plastic chair in the yard with a farmer who’s telling you how important her Rockefeller contact has been over the past two or three years,” Sonka said. “Those conversations are especially compelling when she mentions being able to send her children to school and college because of that assistance.”
Some solutions are relatively simple, such as placing flytraps in the farms. But Sonka said the overall challenge is complex and requires coordination along the supply chain.
“It’s a systems problem,” he said. “When the system is working well, consumers are better off, farmers are better off and the environment is better off because you’re not producing excess.”
Other participating institutions besides Smith and The Rockefeller Foundation include Iowa State University, Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands, Zamorano University in Honduras, the University of São Paulo in Brazil, Stellenbosch University in South Africa, the University of Nairobi in Kenya, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, and the Volcani Center in Israel.