Did you know that cassava, a root crop, is the main source of nutrition for approximately half of Africa’s population? If you didn’t, you’re not alone. Few of us here at Skild were aware that approximately 500 million people on the continent rely on it. We also didn’t know that cassava has an extremely short shelf life, spoiling within 72 hours of harvesting if left unprocessed. That’s why the Rockefeller Foundation Cassava Innovation Challenge was born.
Launched in partnership with Dalberg and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the competition is addressing loss and spoilage related to this vital food source by encouraging the development of creative, scalable solutions to this problem. The challenge is well underway, and will provide up to $1 million plus technical assistance from Dalberg and IITA to further evolve the ideas that are generated.
The online contest management focuses on Nigeria, which is the world’s largest producer of cassava. The country’s 30 million farmers grow more than 20 percent of the world’s supply—over 50 million tons annually. However, there are almost no processes or technology in place for preservation, and processing facilities are often far from farms, increasing the rate of spoilage.
Here are some sobering facts on food loss:
- 33% of food globally does not make it to consumers
- Food loss happens at every step of the process: farmers, processors, distributors, retailers, and consumers
- 40% of staple food in Sub-Saharan Africa is lost before it even makes it to market
- 1.3 billion tons of food wasted could feed 1.6 billion people
The Latest on the Challenge
In a demonstration of how much attention you can draw to an issue through an innovation competition, worldwide interest in the Cassava Innovation Challenge has been phenomenal. Organizers received more than 600 initial applications and had the difficult task of paring them down to a short list by late last year. Consequently, they are extending the timeline for announcing the results to the end of the first quarter of 2017.
It’s exciting to think about what scientists, designers, and entrepreneurs from around the world have come up with as solutions to this incredibly important problem. Their work will have a positive impact on the lives of half a billion people! We applaud the organizers and participants for their efforts. These kinds of impactful challenges are a big reason why Skild developed online contest software in the first place.