How can the private sector prevent food loss and waste?

David Brand (GIZ) talks in an interview with Barbara Hofmann (GIZ) about an open innovation approach to solving development challenges as sustainable business opportunities together with the private sector.

© GIZ / lab of tomorrow

David Brand

David Brand is a consultant in the lab of tomorrow at the Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Since 2019, he has advised project teams around the world on implementing lab of tomorrow processes to create market-based solutions to development challenges. Another focus of his work is the methodological development of the lab of tomorrow. He is a certified design thinking expert and studied sociology and management in Mannheim, Mexico City and Istanbul.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

GIZ

Mr. Brand today is the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. You are currently working in an advisory position at the lab of tomorrow to establish a circular food system in Rwanda. Can you tell us more about that?

In Rwanda there is a rapidly growing population, and at the same time there is strong urbanization. Currently, the predominant linear approach to food production drives the exploitation of finite resources and damages human health through environmental pollution. In addition, there are aggravating factors such as limited access to food for the general population, low agricultural productivity, and post-harvest losses. A circular food system would regenerate natural systems and reuse waste.

 

This is the task we have taken on at the lab of tomorrow. In March of this year, together with the "Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)" and the "Competence Center for Social Innovation (CSI-HSG)" at the University of St. Gallen, we launched a so-called "Challenge" to address the need for a more sustainable food system. Together with local stakeholders and European partners, we were able to use design thinking methods to identify five specific challenges and develop new business models. These are currently in the incubation phase and are being tested for their viability on the market.

 

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Snipping waste in Kenya © GIZ / lab of tomorrow

What makes the lab of tomorrow special? How does this approach work to solve development challenges and achieve the SDGs?

The lab of tomorrow is a holistic approach to engaging the private sector in creating sustainable solutions to SDG-related challenges. Still, many approaches to development cooperation are transactional and top-down, meaning that it is not the people or companies, but organizations in development cooperation that set the key parameters and formats. This often creates a dependence on donors and leaves little room for user-centered innovation. Limited and short-term impact are a possible risk.

 

Therefore, the lab of tomorrow takes a different approach. We inspire local and European businesses to actively participate in creating products and services that help solve specific challenges in developing and emerging countries. The resulting products and services are commercially viable and scalable. Moreover, they are established on the market by the companies themselves. In this way, we create especially sustainable solutions: Development challenges become business opportunities. We leverage the resources and capacities of the private sector in industrialized, emerging and developing countries to develop and implement effective, market-based solutions.

 

Earlier, you mentioned that there is an incubation phase and that the principles of design thinking are applied. How exactly does a lab of tomorrow work? Could you describe the process in a little more detail?

The lab of tomorrow is a three-stage process that runs for an average of nine months. For example, it can be initiated by an external organization approaching us with a country-specific challenge. If the challenge shows economic potential, the process starts with a detailed analysis of the development problem. For this, the initiators of the "Challenge" conduct user-centered research directly on site to get to know the target group better.

 

This is followed by an "ideation sprint". In this phase, representatives of local and European companies form interdisciplinary teams to develop innovative products and services that contribute to solving the Challenge. The participating companies are screened and selected for their suitability by the initiators in advance and are also supported by experts from politics, academia, and the civil society. The ideation sprint itself is usually implemented by a professional design thinking agency. There, the participating companies contribute their existing know-how and necessary resources. As a result, market-oriented business solutions can be developed jointly using innovative and creative methods.

 

In the subsequent incubation phase, the participants develop suitable business models for their products and services. They regularly test their new business models with potential customers and improve them until their viability is validated. This ultimately leads to the creation of investment-ready start-ups or joint ventures that no longer require further support from donors.

 

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Field trip to the “Challenge”-country, Kenya © GIZ / lab of tomorrow

That sounds like a complex, but very exciting process, Mr. Brand. Do you have an example of such a business model?

A business model was developed that directly links fishermen in Kenya with restaurants and hotels in the cities. Previously, there was an oversupply of high-quality fish in rural areas and an unmet demand in the cities. Because supply and demand did not align, a lot of the fish spoiled on its way to the cities. Nowadays, the company "GoodFish" offers an online marketplace and a continuous cold chain in transit. As a result, customers in the cities receive quality fish, while local fishermen can sell more of their goods. It also effectively prevents food loss and waste.

 

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Transportation of food  Copyright: © Creative Commons

Can you look back at other processes concerning food loss and waste? Are there any other success stories?

So far, we have already been able to launch three lab of tomorrow processes that have specifically addressed food loss and food waste: the circular food system process in Rwanda described earlier and two processes in Kenya. One process addressed refrigerated food transport chains, during which "GoodFish" was created, and the other was centered around the prevention of food loss in production. This one has been particularly successful. Unfortunately, 40 percent of the fruits and vegetables produced in Kenya for mainly the European market are thrown away due to visual characteristics or last-minute changes in order quantities. The company "Wheeling Fruits" has been able to establish itself on the market to solve this problem. Instead of discarding the overproduction of "ugly" mangos, mobile drying facilities are used to produce a safe and durable food product and to secure another income for the farmers.

 

However, we have been able to develop business models to reduce food losses in processes that did not originally address this challenge. Our sustainable energy process in Uganda resulted in the creation of Wamala Energy, a company that has used solar-powered refrigeration machines to make milk production more efficient and more profitable for local people. Hopefully, we can add many more success stories in the future.

 

Can you already give a little outlook? What can we expect from the lab of tomorrow in the future?

We can already be very proud of what we have achieved so far: 226 companies, including Bayer, Merck, SAP, Siemens and TUI, have already participated in eleven completed processes. Of 58 business models developed, twelve are currently on the market and have received investments of over €6.5 million.

 

Therefore, I believe we can look to the future with great optimism, because the lab of tomorrow is a scalable tool that allows development challenges to be solved economically and sustainably. As such, it can be applied by all institutions in development cooperation. At our start, it began with one or two processes per year, implemented one after the other. Today, six processes are implemented at the same time. It is no longer only the "Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)" that initiates the processes, but also the private sector and other development organizations. As already mentioned at the beginning, we are currently implementing a process with Switzerland and another one in Austria with the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and the non-profit association for global development ICEP (Inspiring Cooperation  Empowering  People). Our goal for the future is to continue to carry out this open-innovation process together with other organizations.

 

In addition, we provide a handbook and a toolkit for our innovation process for initiators and interested parties and hope for a worldwide dissemination. At this point, we would like to give a shout out to all decision-makers in development cooperation and interested companies - please feel free to contact us with challenges such as the prevention of food waste and food loss. We look forward to supporting you on your way to innovative and flexible solutions.

 

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Lab of tomorrow „Food not Waste“ – Kenya © GIZ / photographer Viktor Schanz

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Developing countries hit doubly hard by coronavirus

A contribution by Gunter Beger (BMZ)

In most African countries, the infection COVID-19 is likely to trigger a combined health and food crisis. This means: In order to cope with this unprecedented crisis, consistently aligning our policies to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is more important than ever, our author maintains.

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Statement from GAFSP Co-Chairs: GAFSP and COVID-19 Pandemic

A contribution by GAFSP

COVID-19 has unprecedented effects on the world. As always, the most vulnerable are the hardest hit, both at home and - especially - abroad. A joint appeal by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) and the Department for International Development (DFID).

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(c) Christoph Pueschner/Zeitenspiegel

Can this end world hunger?

A report by Stig Tanzmann

Time to dig deeper: We can only benefit from technical progress if we have a solid legal framework for everybody. But so far, none is in sight - in many countries. Instead, international corporations grow ever more powerful.

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"Without peace, there will be no development"

Interview with Karina Mroß (DIE)

What contribution does development cooperation make to conflict prevention? What can it do for sustainable peace? Political scientist Karina Mroß talks to Raphael Thelen about post-conflict societies and their chances for peaceful development.

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(c) Privat

The 'Grey Gold'

A contribution by Maria Schmidt (GIZ)

The Cashew Council is the first international organisation for a raw material stemming from Africa. The industry promises to make progress in processing and refining cashew nuts - and answers to climate change

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(c) Privat

Borderless food security

A contribution by Christine Wieck

Enabling smallholders to trade across regions and borders promotes food security and economic growth. Although everyone is calling for exactly that, implementation is still difficult

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What do you expect from this Pre Summit, Mr. Haddad?

Interview with Lawrence Haddad (GAIN)

Nutrition experts from all over the world are coming together in Rome. They are not only distilling 2000 ideas to improve food systems - they are also preparing for the big UN summit in New York in September. An interview. 

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Mr. Campari, how do we create sustainable food systems?

Interview with Joao Campari (WWF)

Journalist Jan Rübel spoke with Joao Campari ahead of the UNFSS Pre-Summit. The Chair of Action Track 3 highlights key challenges in transforming existing food systems towards sustainable production and shares his expectations for the Summit.

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The fight against illegal fishing

A Report

The oceans are important for our food supply, but they are overfished. To halt this trend the global community is now taking action against illegal fishing. Journalist Jan Rübel spoke with Francesco Marí, a specialist for world food, agricultural trade and maritime policy at "Brot für die Welt," and others.

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The Rice Sector in West Africa: A Political Challenge

New insights on trade and value addition in the rice sector in West Africa

Low import tariffs, smuggling activities, unpredictable tax exemptions and weak enforcement of food safety standards: The potential of local rice value chains is undermined in West African countries.

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How to Combat Hunger in Times of Climate Crisis?

An Interview with Martin Frick (WFP)

The climate crisis fuels world hunger. What needs to change in the global fight against hunger, and which role plays humanitarian aid in international development cooperation?

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(c) GIZ

Land Rights for Secure Livelihoods: My Land is My Life

Three quarters of the world's population do not have secure land rights, which hinders investment and innovation. The project "Improvement of Livelihood and Food Security" supports smallholder farmers in acquiring land.

A project of GIZ

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No Food Security Without Climate Protection

A Contribution by Michael Kühn (WHH)

Climate change already affects the daily lives of people in the Global South. What are the challenges they face and what do these imply for negotiations at the climate conference in Glasgow?

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The Future of Development Politics: Voices from the Parliamentary Groups

A Contribution by Journalist Jan Rübel

Representatives of the six parliamentary groups offer their views on the future of German development cooperation.

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