How Access to Energy Can Influence Food Losses

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The report begins by reviewing the evidence to date focussing on the magnitude and geographical distribution of food losses. In the next sections the role of energy in post-harvest losses is discussed. Thereafter, the main entry points within the food value chain where lack of access to energy is the dominant factor influencing food losses is discussed.

"How Access to Energy Can Influence Food Losses"outlines low cost and off-grid post-harvest cooling and processing technologies that can be made available in developing countries. These household to community scale evaporative cooling systems, solar assisted cooling systems and as well as solar drying systems that can help increase shelf life . Additionally, through case studies, focus is laid on assessing the technical and economic feasibility of cooling and processing technologies.

Finally, recommendations are made that could be incorporated to further develop food loss strategies that can classify food value chains based on their energy demand. This will enable policy makers to quickly understand the main technologies for food preservation and processing that can be introduced based on the available energy sources in a given region.

According to the latest estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), around 795 million people were undernourished globally (FAO, 2015). The pressure on food production is expected to increase as the rising global population will require an estimated 60 percent increase in food production to meet the demand of food by 2050 (FAO, 2012).

At the same time, one third of all food amounting to 1.3 billion tonnes is lost or wasted globally.

As a result, overall global food availability is lower than it would be otherwise, negatively affecting food security and requiring the global agriculture system to produce additional food to compensate for the food that is not ultimately consumed by people. On the production side, crop production contributes significant proportions of typical incomes in rural areas (up to 70 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa) and reducing food loss can directly leads to an increase in real income of the producers (World Bank, 2011). In the past decades, significant resources have been allocated to increase food production.

However, most of these investments have been in the form of R&D targeted at increasing productivity and only a minor share has been directed to reducing losses. While increasing agricultural productivity is essential to ensure food security for humanity, it may not be sufficient as food production is a resource intensive process and many of the resources that are required to produce food are already under stress. With the limited capacity to expand agricultural land, the increase in food production would not only rely on increasing yields but would also depend in increasing efficiencies along the food value chain by reducing food loss and waste.

Approximately one out of every four calories grown to feed people is not ultimately consumed by humans (Searchinger et. al, 2013). Food is lost and wasted to a varying extent in all countries, across all stages of the food value chain, and in all types of food chains. In addition to undermining efforts to increase global food security, food loss and waste (FLW) inevitably translates into a loss of resources like energy and water and causes other negative externalities to the society such as monetary and environmental costs associated with waste management and greenhouse gas production (GHG)

Currently, agriculture already uses around 11 percent of the world’s land surface for crop production, and accounts for 70 percent of all water withdrawn from aquifers, streams and lakes (FAO, 2011c). Additionally, the food system currently accounts for about 30 percent of the world’s total energy consumption (FAO,2011a) and is responsible for about 20 percent of the global GHG emissions (FAO, 2011a).