Food / Blockchain

Reports

Agnew, J., Hall, R. P., Mwangi, J., Sumner, D., & Kristofikova, N. (2022). The Impact of Blockchain Technology on Food Insecurity through African Indigenous Vegetables in Western Kenya: Final Report. USAID LASER PULSE, 65 pages. 

Blockchain can strengthen the functionality of entire agri-food value chains that support food security. In the last several years, the number of last-mile mobile phone-based technologies designed to support smallholder producers has proliferated throughout the agriculture sector in Kenya and other low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Blockchain, the distributed ledger on which digital currencies (such as Bitcoin and Ethereum) operate, is among such emerging information and communication technologies (ICTs). Blockchain is heralded primarily for its ability to contribute to agriculture by improving information flows, and thus transparency and trust in agri-food value chains. However, there is limited evidence as to whether blockchain technology (BCT) can be used to leverage improvements in food security – either through improving income or increasing the availability and desirability of nutritious foods. 

This study is one of the first to explore how BCT could be used to improve food security. It investigates how BCT can be deployed in horticultural value chains with the express purpose of improving food and nutrition security among all AIV value chain actors – e.g., AIV producers, traders, retailers, and customers. The study also focuses on understanding how digital platforms using BCT will secure the place of women and youth in the agricultural value chain.

Agnew, J., Mwangi, J., Hall, R. P., Sumner, D., & Kristofikova, N. (2021). Transaction and Information Pain Points in African Indigenous Vegetable Value Chains in Western Kenya: A Gender-Responsive AIV Value Chain and Market Analysis Report. USAID LASER PULSE, 47 pages. 

The use cases for blockchain technology (BCT) have taken off since its initial development for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. In agricultural value chains, BCT has been developed for agri-food products from source to retail outlets, increasing transparency between value chain actors, and creating secure transaction platforms. However, BCT is not a magic bullet for addressing all value chain inefficiencies and challenges. This study, Exploring the Use of Blockchain Technology to Improve Food Security Through African Indigenous Vegetables in Western Kenya, aims to investigate the types of challenges within the value chain for African indigenous vegetables (AIVs) that BCT is appropriate to address. It also aims to investigate if deploying a BCT-based digital platform in AIV value chains will lead to improved food security for all value chain actors.

This gender-responsive participatory value chain analysis (PVCA) investigates the transactional, informational, and other types of pain points within AIV value chains to identify where BCT is needed. AIVs are known as ‘female’ crops, as women are primarily responsible for their production, marketing, and preparation. This PVCA also investigates gender disparities in the value chain with the view to understanding how a BCT-based digital platform might help to secure the place of women in the value chain as it is upgraded.

This study also finds that while smartphone ownership is low, value chain actors are willing to pay for a smartphone as well as a monthly subscription fee to use a digital platform if it will address their key pain points.

Hall, R. P., Ranganathan, S., Agnew, J., Christie, M. E., Kirk, G., Lucero, C., Clark, S. F., & Archibald, T. G. (2019). Virginia Tech Food Access and Security Study. Virginia Tech. http://hdl.handle.net/10919/95218

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There is growing evidence to suggest that a substantial number of college and university students in the United States grapple with food insecurity during their studies.

In response to the increasing concern over students’ access to food, this study aims to document food security at Virginia Tech. The study was designed with two parallel goals: to contribute to the national conversation on food access and security amongst higher education students; and to inform a strategic response through data-informed programs and policies at Virginia Tech. The first phase of the study was conducted between Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 and consisted of semi-structured key informant interviews. The second phase was conducted between December 2018 and January 2019 and consisted of an anonymous survey distributed to 32,242 students (27,421 undergraduate and 4,821 graduate) located in Blacksburg.

A total of 2,441 (8.9%) undergraduate and 589 (12.2%) graduate students completed the entire survey (for a combined response rate of 9.4%). This study finds that 29% (±3.8%) of undergraduate and 35% (±7%) of graduate students were classified as having low or very low food security based on the USDA food security instrument.

This report also documents a range of on- and off-campus food assistance services that are available for students and provides a summary of the feedback obtained from the key informant interviews on potential next steps that could be taken by Virginia Tech.

Policy/Technical Briefs

Agnew, J., & Hall, R. P. (2021). Technical Brief: Linking the AgUnity Blockchain-based Platform to the Kenyan Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy. USAID LASER PULSE, 4 pages.

In 2020, AgUnity, Virginia Tech, and Egerton University created a partnership to investigate how blockchain might be used in the value chains for indigenous vegetables to improve food security through increasing the incomes of smallholder farmers and making the nutritious leafy greens more appealing to consumers by providing information on how they were grown at the point of sale. Results reveal that the record keeping functionality of the blockchain has helped value chain actors to better negotiate profitable prices for the products, introduced standardization of weights in transactions, reduced waste and post-harvest loss, created reliable market information, and reduced the occurrence of exploitation, failure to repay credit, and corruption. The AgUnity app also increases increased cooperative behaviour between actors in the value chain, led to the self-led organization of farmers and improved value chain governance, and created more time, especially for women, to pursue other types of entrepreneurial endeavours. 

Our research revealed that integrating blockchain-based technology with other services can simultaneously address challenges throughout the value chain that contribute to constrained income and food security. Thus the AgUnity app can be used to upgrade entire value chains in a highly efficient manner. In this way, the V3 Super App can assist Kenya in accelerating the achievement of the ASTGS.

Hall, R. P., & Agnew, J. (2021). Project Summary: Exploring the Use of Blockchain Technology to Improve Food Security Through African Indigenous Vegetables (AIV) in Western Kenya. UASID LASER PULSE, 5 pages.

The use cases for blockchain technology (BCT) have taken off since its initial development for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. In agricultural value chains, BCT has been developed to trace agri-food products from source to retail outlets, increasing transparency between value chain actors, and creating secure transaction platforms. However, there is limited evidence as to whether BCT can be used to leverage improvements in food security – either through improving income or increasing the availability and desirability of nutritious foods. Exploring the Use of Blockchain Technology to Improve Food Security Through African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs) in Western Kenya is one of the first project’s undertaken to investigate how BCT can be deployed in horticultural value chains with the express purpose of improving food and nutrition security among all AIV value chain actors. The project also focuses on understanding how digital platforms using BCT will secure the place of women and youth in the value chain. The project was undertaken by a new collaboration between Virginia Tech, Egerton University, and AgUnity.