Woman scientist measure samples in a laboratory.

Building the Evidence Base on Food Loss and Waste – Young Scientists to Research Impacts on GHG Emissions

By Julianna White and Noel Gurwick

Food loss and waste account for approximately 8 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As a result, this area presents opportunity for large reductions in emissions. Reducing food loss and waste could also increase food security, reduce land area required for food production, and contribute to renewable energy options by reducing biomass loss.

The reduction of food loss and waste is a global priority. It is featured in the Sustainable Development Goal to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns, with a target to halve per capita global food waste by 2030. The public and private sectors are both interested in reducing food loss and waste, and standards for accounting and policies are emerging. However, the data used to make decisions remain weak, especially in the developing world. Global estimates for food and waste-related emissions remain coarse and there has been little analysis on potential emissions mitigation. Further, companies and countries remain unable to report on the climate change benefits as a result of their own efforts.

To help improve the evidence base, CCAFS, with support from USAID, has selected six graduate students to conduct research in 2019 to quantify greenhouse gas emissions associated with food loss and waste from key value chains. They are:

  • Daniele Eckert Matzembacher (Brazil), who will measure food loss and waste reduction and associated emission impacts from Brazilian entrepreneurship initiatives in fruits and vegetables that do not meet retail aesthetic standards;
  • Laura Holguin (Colombia), who plans to characterize fertilizer options using different combinations of biogas digestate from available waste, including yield impacts, methane and soil-based emissions;
  • Li Xue (China), who will focus on an input-output analysis quantifying GHG emissions of agri-food chain and associated food loss and food waste in China;
  • Norah Titiya Machinjiri (Malawi), who will study the effects of organic matter soil amendments on population dynamics of Aspergillus flavus and its natural antagonists; and on groundnut aflatoxin contamination in Malawi to reduce food loss and improve health;
  • Tabitha Nindi (Malawi), who hopes to understand smallholder farmers' storage habits in Malawi to reduce food loss; and
  • Xia Liang (China), who aims to establish an evidence base for the mitigation of nitrous oxide emission from reduced food loss and waste in China and Myanmar.

Fellows will coordinate with academic institutions and research project host institutions to arrange a six-month research stay. The cohort will have opportunities to share their experiences and present their research throughout the year.

The fellowships fall under the Climate Food and Farming – Global Research Alliance Development Scholarships (CLIFF-GRADS) that funds graduate students from developing countries to conduct short-term scientific training and research stays on topics related to the measurement and management of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon storage in agricultural systems. Host institutions are The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, The International Center for Tropical Agriculture, Syddansk University, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics, Malawi University of Science and Technology, and Hokkaido University.

CLIFF-GRADS is implemented by CCAFS, the GRA, and Aarhus University in collaboration with host researchers from 28 institutions. Funding is provided by the New Zealand Government and via support to CCAFS from CGIAR Trust Fund Donors and through bilateral funding agreements. The USAID Sustainable Landscapes program also supports the fellowships to research food loss and waste. Another call for CLIFF-GRADS food loss and waste research will be issued in 2019, and more information will be posted on the the CCAFS website at that time.

Strategic Objective
Emissions, Low Emission Development, Mitigation
Noel Gurwick

Julianna White and Noel Gurwick

Noel Gurwick is a science advisor on the sustainable landscapes team in the Office of Global Climate Change at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) where he focuses on land-based solutions to mitigate climate change.

Julianna White is the Program Manager for Low Emissions Development at the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). She is based at the University of Vermont.

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