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Wastage of food is a huge contributor to climate change

 Rotten fruits and vegetables at Wakulima Market, Nairobi. [David Gichuru, Standard]

When one-time presidential contender Mohammed Dida said we should only eat if we are hungry, we thought he was bluffing and speaking to the gallery.

Dida was among the contenders who participated in the first-ever presidential debate when he made that point. Over 10 years later, it still rings in my head. We live in a world of inequalities where others have plenty and others lack.

At such a time, those who have plenty must bear responsibility for those who lack totally. Go to any eatery or food joint, and you will be surprised by the amount of food in the trash. A man who is really hungry cannot afford to throw away even a tiny morsel. Yet you will see people paying for platefuls only to take a bite and claim to be filled, wasting nearly a quarter. 

Of course, more food is wasted before it gets to the plate through poor storage of farm produce, delayed access to markets, or a total lack of it. The World Food Programme’s statistics indicate that up to a third of food produced annually for human consumption, is wasted.

The amount of food produced but never eaten could feed over two billion people, a majority in developing countries. In developed countries, most of the waste happens at retail and consumer levels, while in developing countries, most of the loss happens post-harvest.

If you extrapolate those global figures back to developing countries like Kenya, the developed countries can be equated to the upper and middle class, while developing countries are the masses struggling to access food.

A food index report produced in 2021 showed every Kenyan wastes up to 99 kilos of food yearly, translating to 5.2 tons of food annually. Averagely, two-thirds of the loss happens at household levels. Up to 14 million Kenyans are food insecure, with over 2 million getting into a food crisis from time to time.

Wasteful food is also a big contributor to climate change. If wasted food were a country, it would be the world’s third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the US. A lot of the world’s energy and resources go to waste when food goes to waste.

For instance, on average, 250 square kilometres of fresh water are used in producing food that eventually goes to waste at various stages. For the food that goes to waste after cooking, a lot of energy used in cooking becomes a loss too.

In the backdrop of the sixth session of UNEA-6 that just ended at the UNEP headquarters in Kenya, concerted efforts must be made towards addressing food waste. However, it is important to note that the government and other agencies can only do their part: install storage facilities, among other measures.

When it comes to food on our plates, fridges and stores, it can only be our moral responsibility to make sure it is consumed or handed over to those who can eat it.

-The writer is anchor Radio Maisha.

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