A hungry world cannot stomach food losses and wastage anymore

A maize farm in Yimbo, Bondo sub-county [Isaiah Gwengi, Standard].

On September 29, the world marked the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste.

It is estimated that 30 per cent of all food produced for human consumption is lost and wasted from production to post-harvest handling and consumption levels.

Food system actors, particularly consumers, have a great role in stopping this. Eleven per cent of food waste happens at the household level, with food services and retail levels contributing five per cent and two per cent, respectively.

Food loss, which is reduction in quality and quantity of food at production and post-harvest stages, and food waste, which is the reduction in quality and quantity of food at retail and consumption levels, is a direct result of our decisions and actions. Therefore, the onus is on us to reverse this sad reality.

The Covid-19 pandemic, despite exacerbating the situation through disruption of food value chains, has also served to awaken humanity to act in ways that optimise food utilisation while minimising loss and waste.

Reducing food loss and waste is important as it contributes to the realisation of broader improvements in agri-food systems towards achieving food security, food safety, improving food quality and delivering on nutritional outcomes. Reducing food loss and waste also contributes significantly to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as well as pressure on land and water resources.

Looking at the multiple sectors that are influenced and impacted by food waste and losses, action on different fronts is required. The actions need to address these issues to reduce food loss and food waste and make better use of the food we painstakingly produce. This is critical to reaching Zero Hunger and SDG target 12.3 and will contribute to advancement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a whole.

Towards developing intervention mechanisms through informed decision-making, FAO has developed a Food Loss Analysis methodology that has been used in the identification and documentation of critical loss points along various food chains and applicable solutions and strategies to ensure minimal food loss.

The methodology is available online as a guide for countries to address this problem. This is the largest online collection of data on both food loss and food waste and causes reported throughout the world. The database contains data and information from reports and studies measuring food loss and waste across food products, stages of the value chain, and geographical areas.

Through elaborate partnerships beyond the UN, and including private sector and government, food waste and losses management could contribute to the overall achievement of the global SDG 1.2.3. FAO is currently supporting actors in different value chains through capacity building for better post-harvest management of food, including value addition.  

This year’s International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste made a clarion call for public and non-state actors to prioritise actions and redouble efforts to use innovation to reduce food loss and waste, restoring and building back better more efficient, inclusive, sustainable and resilient agri-food systems.

It is time to rethink how we manage food so that we can greatly minimise losses and wastage and therefore hunger. It is our collective actions and decisions that will contribute to reversing the current food loss and waste because a hungry world cannot stomach food loss and waste.