Achieving Quantum Leap in Food Safety in Nigeria by Leveraging Enabling Digital Technologies
Nigeria is expected to be the third most populous country in the world by the end of the century, according to the UN. Over 50 million urban Nigerian dwellers demand more information about food, reflecting the need for more transparency. Globally, over 420,000 people die and some 600 million people – almost one in ten – fall ill after eating contaminated food. In fact, foodborne hazards are known to cause over 200 acute and chronic diseases from digestive tract infections to cancer (FAO Report). With the inability of food regulating bodies, such as National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), to regulate farm practices, most food consumers at restaurants and cafeterias also cast doubt on how food is grown and prepared.
“Over 50 million urban Nigerian dwellers demand more information about food, reflecting the need for more transparency.”
Most restaurants and cafeterias concentrate on making their customers’ sitting areas decent, but ignore safety and hygiene practices during food preparation and disregard kitchen hygiene. The length and complexity of modern agri-food chains, however, have created a distance between consumers and producers that makes it difficult for consumers to address their concerns and questions directly to the growers and producers. Increasing demand for food information reflects the need for transparency. At the same time, more and more food products and beverages are branded and accompanied by a variety of certification schemes, with an increasing risk of fraud.
Also, present-day food supply chains are faced with many issues that have to do with the reliability of information: consumer trust, supply chain transparency, product quality, logistic issues, environmental impact, personal consumer data, fraud, food safety, etc. Co-ops, farmers, restaurants, cafeterias and food producers presently rely on paper-based records, verbal promises, and complicated agreements; this frequently causes critical problems due to lack of transparency, restricted access to price data, lying, graft, and corruption.
For example, restaurant owners lack processes that can verify where raw food produce originates. Food buyers at restaurants lack access to sources of food products. Today’s global challenges are transforming the way we produce, market, consume and think about food. Food safety issues further hinder global food security and our collective goal of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, and exacerbate the poverty cycle affecting the most vulnerable populations. Our cities are changing, transforming our food systems.
The magnitudes of the cost of unsafe food, still, go far beyond human suffering. Contaminated food impedes socioeconomic development, overworks healthcare systems and compromises economic growth, trade and tourism. Food safety threats cause an enormous burden on economies from disruptions or restrictions in global and regional agri-food trade, loss of food and associated income and wasted natural resources.
“Today’s global challenges are transforming the way we produce, market, consume and think about food.”
In the current situation, much of the compliance data and information is audited by third parties and stored either on paper or in a centralised database and these approaches are known to suffer from many informational problems. Notable problems are:
- Inability of the food system to accurately distribute resources resulting in shortages and overproduction.
- Fraud, corruption and error both on paper and in IT systems.
- Integrity of digital records (problems due to human error and data tampering).
- Value chains being destroyed or replaced due to scandals and fraud.
- Inability to audit records over longer periods of time as well as recover them.
- Lack of verification and authenticity of records received from third parties as well as various authorisation barriers.
- Double-spending of certificates or certification schemes, grants, licences and other paper work by inability to verify them.
Farmers, food producers, co-operatives and food supply chain players are currently by far the best way to improve food efficiency in Nigeria which could help the supply chain retain a bigger share of their product value while creating trust within the value chain. Widespread collaboration and contributions of all actors across the food supply chain, underpinned by robust governance and agreeing to international standards and harmonized regulations, are essential to food safety.
HarvestPlus is partnering with The Fork to conduct initial research on the feasibility and desirability of applying blockchain technology to a biofortification value chain in Nigeria — in this case, for vitamin A-biofortified orange maize in Nigeria. The Fork is a Netherlands-based consulting group that specializes in blockchain training and implementation in the agrifood sector.
“The magnitudes of the cost of unsafe food, still, go far beyond human suffering. Contaminated food impedes socioeconomic development, overworks healthcare systems and compromises economic growth, trade and tourism.”
With the deployment of blockchain technology, El-kanis and Partners, with technical support from The Fork, aim to record information about food produce and transact incorruptible truth for agri-food supply chains that originate in Nigeria. farmTRUST Blockchain technology is a complete framework of integrated services for delivering a level playing field to agri-food supply chain networks in Nigeria which will eliminate up to 40 percent of food loss in Nigeria and provide traceable food supply to the populace. farmTRUST Blockchain technology records and transacts incorruptible truth using blockchain technology. It is a complete framework of integrated services for delivering a level playing field for agri-food supply chain. This solid framework of trust will allow everyone to know they are working, buying, selling, and sharing things according to a cryptographic “Book of Truth” that is utterly incorruptible. Platforms like this will support food safety and strengthen the choice for local versus imported food.