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Reducing Food Loss and Waste Key to Strengthening Food Sustainability System: FAO

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Celebrating the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste this Wednesday, the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) together with other organisations emphasised the need to embrace Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 which seeks to ensure sustainable production and consumption patterns, including a specific target to halve per capita global food waste by 2030.

FAO said 17 per cent of all food available to consumers in 2019, ended up being thrown away as it stressed the need to raise awareness of practices and innovations to reduce food loss and waste and build a more resilient food system and transform food systems to avert $400 billion annually in loss and waste.

The global Covid-19 pandemic, FAO highlighted, caused an additional 132 million people face food and nutrition insecurity today.

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, FAO’s Deputy Director for Food and Nutrition Division Economic and Social Development Stream, Nancy Aburto said the problem of food waste was a global one and not limited to wealthy nations alone warning that the high cost of “healthy” diets was now “out of reach” of every region in the world, including Europe.

“Food insecurity, hunger, and malnutrition are impacting every country in the world and no country is unaffected; 811 million people suffer hunger, two billion suffer micronutrient deficiencies – that’s vitamin and mineral deficiencies – and millions of children suffer stunting and wasting, deadly forms of under-nutrition.”

“More countries need to embrace innovation to reduce waste, such as new packaging that can prolong the shelf-life of many foods, while smartphone apps can bring consumers closer to producers, reducing the time between harvest and plate,” said Aburto.

She said there are multiple benefits of reducing the “heavy” burden of food waste and loss such as food security, climate mitigation, reduced burden of pollution, and reduced use of water and land, protection of biodiversity by using existing agricultural land more efficiently, and reducing the push for expansion is also critical among others.

According to FAO, reducing food loss and waste would improve agri-food systems and help towards achieving food security, food safety, and food quality, all while delivering on nutritional outcomes.

“It would also contribute “significantly to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as pressure on land and water resources.

“With less than nine years left to reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 on ensuring sustainable consumption, and target 12.3 to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels, there is an urgent need to accelerate action, up to the 2030 deadline.”

In remarks to an online commemorative event, FAO stressed that not only is preventing food loss and waste crucial for the world’s people, it is also essential for the future of the planet.

The organisation also highlighted that reducing food loss and waste, strengthens the sustainability of food systems and improves planetary health.

“Increasing the efficiency of food systems and reducing food loss and waste, requires investment in innovation, technologies and infrastructure. Composting food waste is better than sending it to a landfill, but preventing waste in the first place, lessens its impact on the environment.”

It has been highlighted that maximizing the positive impacts of reducing food loss and waste, requires good governance and human capital development.

“However, this requires national and local authorities along with businesses and individuals to prioritize actions in this direction and contribute to restoring and improving agri-food systems.”

FAO chief QU Dongyu once said, “In the current health crisis we are facing around the world, promoting healthy diets to strengthen our immune systems is especially appropriate. We cannot continue to lose 14 percent of food produced globally and to waste 17 percent of total food in households, retailers, restaurants and other food services. This amounts to a loss of $400 billion a year in food value. There is a need to step up global cooperation to transform food systems, from farm to fork, in line with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.”

According to UN News, Qu also noted that food loss and waste in the fruits and vegetable sector remain a problem with considerable consequences, pointing out that “innovative technologies and approaches are of critical importance” as they can help maintain safety and quality, “increasing the shelf life of fresh produce items and preserving their high nutritional value.”

According to the UN, an estimated one-third of all food is lost or wasted worldwide as it moves from where it is produced to where it is eaten.

A lack of food, hunger, and malnutrition affect every country in the world, the UN said on Tuesday, in an urgent appeal for action to reduce the amount of food that is wasted.

“That half-eaten apple tossed in the trash bin after lunch is contributing to the staggering mountain of food wasted globally, at a time when more than 800 million people still go to bed hungry,” UN agencies said on Wednesday, marking the International Day to increase awareness of this issue.

Amir Mahmoud Abdulla, who is the World Food Programme (WFP) Deputy Executive Director said in Africa the value of lost food exceeds the annual value of grain imports.

These losses, he said, exacerbate food insecurity and affect the environment through the waste of precious land, water, farming inputs, and energy to produce food that is not eventually eaten.

“In fact, current levels of food loss caused more than three billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to be emitted, meaning that if food waste were to be a country it would be the third biggest emitter of carbon emission. This is really important for us all to remember as we head to the UN climate conference COP 26 in Glasgow,” he said in a pre-recorded message.

Gilbert Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said for countries to achieve SDG 12 target by the 2030 deadline, they will require collective action, and rapidly.

He outlined priorities for Governments and the private sector, such as integrating food loss reduction into national agricultural policies and development plans and improving access of smallholder farmers to rural financial services.

“This International Day is one way for us all to come together to promote interventions that reduce food loss and contribute to achieving more sustainable food systems. Together, we can scale up solutions for reducing food loss,” said Houngbo.

The International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste is celebrated every year on the 29th of September giving an opportunity to call to action both the public and the private sector, to prioritise actions and move ahead with innovation to reduce food loss and waste towards restoring and building back better and resilient-ready, food systems.

Source: UN News

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende