​TACKLING FOOD SCARCITY USING BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY

Blockchain technology provides a solution to many problems farmers encounter.

In 2016, one of the major news item in circulation was the scarcity of tomatoes.

Rumour had it that people started snatching and stealing tomatoes. It was so bad that making a pot of soup became an expensive venture. Incidentally, Nigeria is the second largest producer of tomatoes in Africa. What a metaphor!

Many claimed that the cause of tomatoes scarcity is the fuel crisis which has driven up costs making it difficult and expensive for Northern tomato farmers to bring tomatoes to the South. Of course, it sounds logical, but it is not enough to result in scarcity, I believe. It is just an additional cause.

The major cause is the lack of effective storage and processing system. Imagine! Out of the 1.8 million tonnes that the country produces annually, 900, 000 tonnes are left to rot and waste. What a lose!

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the amount of food wasted in Africa is enough to feed 300 million people. One of the major contributors to this food wastage are the middlemen.

Most farmers do not market their produce themselves, they employ the services of the middlemen. The middleman serve as the link between the farmers and the consumers.

The UN reports that up to fifty percent of crop value vanishes between harvest and point of sale. That means, in the process of transporting farm produce from one place to another, it get spoilt and this leads to wastage.

An effective way to combat food wastage is to create a direct link between the farmers and the consumers. The question is how? How can the farmer participate more effectively in the economy? The answer is very simple…… It is called Blockchain Technology.

Blockchain Technology empowers farmers to reach the market without middlemen. The Blockchain is a digital transaction technology that can be programmed to record virtually everything of value.

One can put anything that holds value on Blockchain e.g tomatoes, cocoa, real estate, etc.

Block Chain contains transaction details, information and records called “blocks”. The data in the blocks are immutable i.e can not be changed.

When participants in a blockchain system complete a transaction, the time, date, nature and cost of the exchange is recorded.

Everything exchanged in a transaction is an asset. For example, a farmer harvests 10 kilograms of rice, and that is like building his asset.

Later on, he sells it to the distributor, whereby he exchanges his asset in the form of rice with money, which was the distributor’s asset. So both rice and money are assets.

Assets can have associated parameters. These additional parameters can be associated with it to trace its journey so that it is possible to measure the efficiency of the system to ensure the highest quality at a fair price.

For example, the parameter “time since harvest” provides some indication of how old is the rice, as a measure of quality for certain varieties of rice.

One or multiple such transactions can be combined and recorded as an immutable block in the Blockchain system.

This becomes a record that traces the asset and forms a chain with other records till the time that asset leaves the system.

Most times, retailers have no way of verifying a product’s origin. This gives rise to fraud in food industry. Due to it’s ability to record unalterable information at every step in the food supply chain, blockchain technology can provide reliable information regarding the origins of food items and the exact journey it took from farm to consumers, thus ensuring that farmers get a fair price for their produce while retailers get what they’ve paid for.

Farmers find it very difficult to track their goods-where it is sold, for what price and how much of their products are ultimately sold. Consequently, this makes farmers vulnerable, and at the mercy of traders who have more control over prices and quantities.

Blockchain technology provides a solution to many problems farmers encounter and if properly leveraged on, will help bring an end to food wastage in Africa.

Iyanuoluwa Olamide Aliu

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