AFMASS EA Sustainability Panel: New initiatives, present-time technologies to drive sustainable food systems in Africa

KENYA – Africa provides a vast world of opportunities for many businesses, with big international companies setting eye on the fast-rising economies and population.

Sustainability round tables are common in the West, but Africa is also starting to ask questions on climate change. 

At the just concluded AFMASS Eastern Africa event in Nairobi, Kenya, issues on the impacts of sustainable intensification of food production on the environment, economy and society took centre stage.

Day three of the conference involved discussions around Energy, Utilities and Sustainability Management, showcasing latest technologies that promote resilient food systems critical to increase productivity and production, maintain ecosystems, strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought.

It was evident from exhibition, that manufacturers are making big strides, even where governments have done less in terms of policies.

From packaging designs, to health and wellness, as well as nutrition, companies are quickly adopting sustainable practices to build communities, boost local sourcing while improving competitiveness and trade in their respective fields.

The contributors of the session included: Arthur Peywa, Ag. Energy Manager, New Kenya Corporative Creameries (KCC); Kevin Ochieng’, General Manager, Isuzu East Africa; Michael Ndereba, Sales & Marketing Engineer, DST East Africa; John Kariuki, Agribusiness Lead, Bidco Africa; Laban Kagori, Value Stream Manager, Mars Wrigley Confectionery Kenya; Staneu Muriuki, Juice Manufacturing Manager, Coca-Cola Kenya.

From insights received from the discussions, becoming a sustainability leader can pay off, but it is not easy.

It requires discipline and for some companies, executing business programs, products, and practices with an eye on their environmental and social implications has become a demanding managerial exercise.

Coca-Cola, New Kenya Corporative Creameries (New KCC) and Bidco Africa in one accord committed to rethink their strategy, beyond Reuse and Repackaging to more systematic ways like compostable packaging.

“We are looking at recycling our PET 100%,” said Staneu Muriuki, Juice Manufacturing Manager, Coca-Cola Kenya.

“We have employed initiatives such as using lesser packaging, eliminating unnecessary packaging like the layer pad inserts for carton boxes, and we’re in the process of totally eliminating them.

“We are going for better technologies such as new packaging lines which come with better options that ensure we use less packaging.”

Kenya banned single-use plastic bags last year and Tanzania is joining the camp, but stakeholders think a regional policy on single-use plastics would be critical for effective implementation.

According to Kevin Ochieng’, General Manager, Isuzu East Africa, the industry players need to up their game in supporting government efforts as it strive to match global standards.

In terms of water efficiency, New KCC, the state-owned dairy corporative says it has managed to use 30% less water in its operations, plus other initiatives such as Reuse and wastewater treatment.

Coca-Cola is fast-tracking collection and recycling of PET plastic bottles across Africa, with US$38 million in pledges to stimulate plastic recycling industries across Southern and East Africa.

Locally, companies are embarking on marketing and education, putting environmental health and sustainable development at the forefront of their business strategies.

Diageo, Unilever, Nestle and Coca-Cola recently joined forces to launch Africa Plastics Recycling Alliance which seeks to challenge plastic waste by creating jobs and commercial activity to improve the collection and recycling of plastics.

Energy efficiency key to sustainable development

Governments are implementing policies with new efficiency targets and also, energy prices are increasing each day.

Manufacturers are adopting new technologies wherever possible to increase operating efficiency, lower carbon emissions and reduce running costs.

Such factors, according to panellists, may be crucial for environmental certification.

At the exhibition hall was DST East Africa, showcasing latest systems and technologies in industrial dehumidifiers, used in various drying applications.

From the presentation made by Michael Ndereba, Sales & Marketing Engineer at DST East Africa, companies are striving to enhance operation efficiencies and save energy.

They are not only going for contemporary technologies, but also those that provide a user-friendly interface, monitor protection devices, trips and alarms and adjust unit capacity.

Food security and sustainability

Sustainability is not only about environmental awareness; it has moved to empowering communities as well as job creation especially among the youth.

Bidco Africa has gone ahead to unveil a programme that provides technical support such as the provision of quality fertiliser, seeds and other farming inputs to increase productivity and improve farmer livelihoods.

The edible oils manufacturer is betting on the platform dubbed Digi-Farm to promote sunflower and soya beans farming in a move that could significantly cut reliance on imports.

Isuzu East Africa is the latest to debut the cold chain logistics scene with its vehicles which claim to reduce wastes, inefficiencies in the entire food value chain.

Inefficiencies across the entire food supply chain, including poor handling and transportation could be attributed to higher food prices especially for the final consumer.

Kevin Ochieng’, General Manager, Isuzu East Africa concludes: “Let us get solutions that will ensure that from farm to fork, 100% of the products they (farmers) produce reach the end consumer.

It ensures affordability in terms of the cost of food and higher productivity for the farmer.”

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