Skip to main content

Food for Us: Capacity building through research, and trial of a cellular phone application, to reduce on- farm food waste and increase food redistribution in South Africa

  • Published on July 6, 2017
This project involves the development and trial of a mobile phone application to trade surplus food from farms and develop a community of practice around the issue of food waste through transformative learning. Phase 1 of the project (funded by the UN's One Planet SLE fund) was trialed in the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces, with the intention to divert surplus crop that might otherwise be be discarded.
The aim of the Food for Us project is to reduce food loss and waste that occurs on-farm in South Africa, by redistributing surplus produce and opening up market access for small-scale growers. The core project objectives of Phase 1, included: 1) To successfully develop and trial the Food for Us up, with user uptake and training 2) To enhance South African food waste and transformative learning research capacity 3) To develop communities of practice around use of the app and the topic of on-farm food waste 4) To improve learning and insights, and transformation of practice amongst those trialing the app 5) To develop carbon, water-use and nutrition saving conversion factors and assumptions, and savings associated with the app use 6) To develop a business model for taking the project forward and increased app uptake 7) To successfully disseminate project findings and increase interest generated for scaling This project involves the trial of a cellular (cell) phone application to connect fresh produce growers in South Africa (Greater Cape Town and Eastern Cape) with secondary markets to divert surplus crop that may otherwise be sent to low value markets or discarded. Running in parallel to the trial, research will be undertaken to understand why fresh produce loss and waste occurs on farm, what happens to this produce and reasons for not adopting higher value diversion practices. The following provides a brief overview of the main project achievements and learnings: 1) App trials undertaken in the Raymond Mhlaba Municipality (Eastern Cape)(23 users) and 2) Worcester (Western Cape)(17 trial users). 2) Enhanced South African research capacity including training opportunities in food waste and transformative learning provided by project partners Feedback and Rhodes University’s ELRC; x3 early career researchers were involved in the programme, who now have improved capacity for food systems research in: a) mobile learning affordances and social learning; b) learning network development and boundary crossing; c) business modeling; d) understanding sustainable and rural food systems; and e) research instrument design and data capturing. A masters research study (Durr, 2018) and a MBA study (Tantsi, 2019) will be direct outcomes of this project. 3) Communities of practice developed around the use of the app and on-farm food waste. Due to significant in field facilitation by the research strong communities of practice was set up between buyers and sellers previously unknown to each other. 4) Improved learnings and insights; and transformation of practice amongst users: Due to the strength of the communities of practice, improved sharing of learnings and practice in terms of use of the app use, increased understanding of food waste on-farm, and opportunities for redistribution were enhanced. Increased use of the app resulted in enhanced community linkages. 5) A mobile app was developed for iPhones and Androids, with much of the project time allocated to app stabilisation. This became a core focus, as opposed to large-scale uptake. 6) A report was produced to illustrate the carbon, water-use and nutrition actual and potential scenarios savings associated with the use of the app. The nutrition factors are a first for South Africa. 7) To ensure the future sustainability of the project, a detailed business model to scale the use of the app was developed. The model is providing a platform to seek funding to further embed the app's use and maintain the communities of practice formed. 8) Three post-graduate scholars at Rhodes University were supported through the project. 9) A successful dissemination of findings workshop was held on 25th July 2018, with over 50 organisations and individuals attending. Interest has been generated by the Dept. of Trade & Indus to roll out the app in South Africa. We would welcome engagement with others using mobile phone technologies to improve the sustainability of food systems; or those involved in developing or working within communities of practice on the topic of food waste (surplus). If you reside in South Africa or Southern Africa and are interested in this project we would appreciate hearing from you to discuss working with you and/or sharing our learnings. Funding to embed the learnings and maintain momentum for another year is being sought. If you are able to advise on a suitable avenue of funding for this purpose, we'd be interested to hear from you. For further information on the project and Phase 2, please contact: Thato Tantsi Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC) Rhodes University, South Africa email:

Supporting document(s)

food_for_us_feedback_report_-_potential_savings.pdf Download
food_for_us_workshop_synthesis_25_july_2018.pdf Download
food_for_us_-_report_pdf.pdf Download
Project start date
Project end date

You might also be Interested in