FORQLAB Closing Event

Kenya faces significant food waste challenges due to poor management practices and inadequate infrastructure. Projects like FORQLAB, supported by the Netherlands Food Partnership (NFP), aim to reduce waste through collaboration, innovation, and policy reforms, focusing on avocado and dairy sectors. Results show the potential for ICT and cooperative learning to revolutionize value chains, improving efficiency and sustainability while empowering farmers. Moving forward, small strategic actions, regenerative practices, and ICT integration are key to fostering a resilient and sustainable food system in Kenya.

Food Waste Challenges in Kenya

Kenya is no exception to the challenge that food waste poses across food supply chains, across the world. At the production stage, issues such as, poor farm management practices, inefficient harvesting solutions, post-harvest losses, and inadequate storage facilities lead to substantial waste, particularly among small-scale farmers. Similarly, the processing sector grapples with inadequate infrastructure, outdated technology, and limited financing for modernization, resulting in further losses due to spoilage or damage, alongside the generation of poorly managed by-products and waste materials.

Addressing food waste in Kenya is imperative due to its implications for food security, economic losses, environmental footprint of agriculture, and public health. By collaborating with stakeholders, implementing innovative solutions, and advocating for policy reforms, these initiatives represent crucial steps towards mitigating food waste and fostering a more sustainable and resilient food system in Kenya.

The Dutch footprint: FORQLAB

Hybrid launch of the FORQLAB project

In 2022, The Netherlands Food Partnership (NFP) supported the Food Waste Reduction and Food Quality Living Lab (FORQLAB) research project. FORQLAB is a consortium led by four Dutch universities ( Van Hall Larenstein, HAS, Inholland, and Aeres) in collaboration with two Kenyan universities (Egerton University and Meru University). The initiative aimed to enable collaboration between relevant Dutch organizations and international partners to explore areas that require urgent changes contributing to food system improvements in the avocado and dairy sub-sectors. FORQLAB follows a living lab approach, that involves using applied research with the business partners in order to find and test technical solutions and tools as well as look into better coordination across value chains.

The expected outcomes from the project were; two knowledge exchange platforms (Living Labs) supported with advice for sustainable food loss reduction, a research agenda, proposals for ICT and other tech solutions, and an implementation strategy that involves communication and teaching materials for universities and TVETs, and knowledge transfer and uptake. To achieve this, masters and bachelor students of Kenyan and Dutch universities were involved in conducting food loss audits, applied research around food losses and food quality, business cases for different stakeholders, cooperative development assignments, etc. and documentaries and curriculum have been developed.

FORQLAB’s closing event

Following completion of the research project, a close-out event was held in Egerton university – Njoro on 24th April 2024. The event brought together, all stakeholders involved in the project, to share lessons learnt on reduction of food losses, value creation in living labs model and mapping the next steps.

Marco Verschuur, FORQLAB project leader, - Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences - outlined the project's focus areas in dairy and avocado sectors. The project consisted of four phases: Inventory and inception, applied research, Spreading research outputs through living lab framework, and translation of project output in curricula and trainings. In the dairy sector, research compared Kitinda and Kaptama Dairy Cooperatives in Bungoma with Githunguri Dairy Cooperative in Central, assuming they are more advanced in their respective regions. Githunguri's studies focused on food loss audit, readiness for using milk bucket machines, milk transport optimization, sustainable farming models, readiness for quality-based payment systems, and digital technology adoption. Kitinda and Kaptama's studies centered on food loss audit, milk handling, governance strengthening, nutritional practices' impact on loss, and digital financial services.

Findings revealed lower food loss in Githunguri compared to Kitinda and Kaptama, with most losses occurring at the farmer level in Githunguri and at the collection and processing level in Kitinda and Kaptama. These differences fostered cross-learning between the two cooperatives, leading to an exchange visit.

Beschadiging van avocado's
Damaging of avocados

In the avocado sector Dr. Woody Maijers- InHolland University of Applied Science and his team focused on reduction of food waste in the avocado value chain, from production to market. The key areas were on quality seedlings, frozen products, traceability, qualitative and quantitative aspects, Logistics and optimisation of the supplychain, modelling and handling of transportation of avocados and the potential of black soldier fly for frass manure production. There is also need to explore means of reducing cost of international trade in avocado production.

In both value chains, embracing ICT is poised to revolutionize their positioning. Central to this transformation is the recognition that data is key, particularly for ensuring traceability. Peter Bouma, from the HAS Green Academy, unveiled an ICT application design. This design not only offers insights into how ICT experts can design a platform, but also emphasizes its focus on fostering horizontal interactions between farmers and cooperatives, as well as vertical connections between farmers and businesses. This innovative approach holds the promise of reshaping the dynamics of these value chains, ushering in efficiency and collaboration at every level.

Elizabeth Kiamba, Agriculture Advisor; Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands – Nairobi commended the project, highlighting its importance in steering the positioning of these key value chains. This is not only locally, but also in line with the trade cooperation with Kenya. This also aligns with the Kingdom of the Netherland’s Dutch Diamond approach that seeks to create synergy among private sector, knowledge, research institutes, NGOs, and Government. This is with a view of solving challenges by bringing their different perspectives, practices, and skills through collaboration.

Significant project takeaways were ideas, particularly in ICT and streamlined data sharing solutions. These innovations simplify data collection, offering a seamless, one-touch solution for future data utilization and research endeavors. The Living Lab approach proved instrumental in pinpointing challenges across different stages of the value chains. Thus, leveraging the Living Lab model is imperative for providing tailored solutions to empower farmers and drive sustainable agricultural practices forward.

On the other hand, cooperatives involved shared their views on the values that the project created for them. These included;

  • Knowledge transfer
  • Mindset change from just focusing on farming but transitioning into business. Learning how to market the products collectively rather than individually, so that they are not at the mercies of te brokers
  • Importance of cooperative governance and management and how to develop and implement the cooperative management structures.
  • Better understanding on improving avocado production, for farmers to increase yields and incomes
  • Importance of benchmarking with other cooperatives in the dairy sector, especially on animal management. The animal husbandry practices are more structured in Githunguri in comparison with Kaptama dairy. There is need to streamline milk transportation and efficient automation, for better returns for farmers.
  • For Kitinda cooperative, through the research, the process was impactful for the cooperative to realize their points of losses. They learnt the importance of collaborating with other cooperatives. When in surplus, they trade with other cooperatives and vice versa. Their aspiration is to explore ways of creating a consortium of cooperatives.
  • In Nandi Avocado cooperative, the training by Agriterra and role played in helping to streamline management of the cooperative manager

What does the future have in store?

Moving forward, the recommended steps include starting with small, strategic actions to effectively position the value chains. Gathering and organizing relevant information for dissemination among farmers and stakeholders is essential. Embracing regenerative agricultural practices ensures sustainability and resilience. Prioritizing the increase in cooperative membership, with an initial focus on quality over quantity, is advised. Exploring opportunities for value addition within the agricultural sector is also important. Integrating ICT concepts, such as traceability systems supported by tools like, facilitates informed decision-making for farmers, while offering empowerment through short courses to transfer ICT skills. Conducting comprehensive training sessions to enhance knowledge and skills are recommended.

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