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Gaining food security by cutting food loss

June 3, 2021
IDRC and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research launch a new CA$3-million research program.
Farmers and agriculture in storage shed.

Working together on the Future of Food Impact Roadmap,  IDRC and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) identified food loss as a key challenge in managing sustainable food systems. Now, IDRC and ACIAR are launching a new CA$3-million research program to reduce food loss in developing countries.

Around one-third of food produced globally is either wasted or lost. Whereas in most wealthy countries, food is wasted by consumers and retailers, food losses in lower-income countries occur mostly during growing, harvesting, processing, storage and transportation — long before it reaches consumers.

“Reducing food loss in developing countries will help combat hunger, raise incomes and improve food security,” said IDRC President Jean Lebel.  “Additionally, reducing food loss has environmental benefits by reducing the waste of resources, such as land, water, energy, and inputs, and reducing unnecessary carbon emissions.”

ACIAR Chief Executive Officer Andrew Campbell said, “We need to reduce food loss if we want to improve food security, hunger and human well-being in low-income countries. If we can reduce food loss, there is more food available for those who need it. And that in turn reduces pressure on natural resources to produce the food in the first place.”

The Food Loss Research Program will support projects in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. Initial priorities include finding ways to reduce losses along the value chains for mango and tomatoes in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, horticultural produce in the Pacific region, and catfish in Vietnam and Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Food loss affecting vulnerable urban communities in Zambia and Malawi will also be examined.

The program was launched as part of a United Nations Food Systems Summit Dialogue co-hosted by ACIAR and IDRC on June 3, 2021. The Dialogue brought together research leaders from around the world to discuss the global challenge of food loss and advance forecasting to identify innovative pathways to address the problem.

The Food Loss Research Program is just the latest collaboration between ACIAR and Canada’s IDRC. The two organizations have worked together since 2013 to support and invest in international agricultural research for development. “By working together, we have a wider reach and a bigger impact,” Campbell said.

Lebel added that the ACIAR-IDRC partnership also supports the development of both countries’ international research networks, which deliver benefits domestically, too.