Cut food waste to help feed the world, experts say
Around the world 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year. A more efficient food supply is a key to feeding an expected world population of 9 billion by 2050.
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To mitigate the growing problem of food waste, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched a global campaign in January. “Think. Eat. Save. Reduce Your Foodprint” aims to cut food waste worldwide.Skip to next paragraph
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This campaign comes two weeks after the launch of FoodTank, a food think tank initiative that aims to connect food producers, consumers, policymakers, activists, and farmers, with a view to reducing the amount of food that goes to waste.
“Wasting food makes no sense – economically, environmentally or ethically,” said Achim Steiner, UNEP’s executive director in a statement at the launch of the UNEP and FAO food waste campaign.
Kenya, like many other developing countries, also loses large amounts of food during post-harvesting handling, either to pests, poor storage, or contamination.
In 2011, for instance, 180 bags of maize weighing 90 kilograms (198 lbs.) each that were earmarked for relief were destroyed in Kituyi, eastern Kenya, in front of starving residents of Mutomo district, who had lost their crops to drought. The reason? The maize had been contaminated with aflatoxins.
Aflatoxins are naturally occurring toxic organisms that are produced by many species of fungus. They grow on grains, particularly maize and groundnuts, which have been stored with high moisture content. If eaten by humans, aflatoxins affect the liver and can cause death.
Paddy Likhayo, a grain storage expert from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, said grain losses to insects and other pests are also enormous in Kenya.
“We have also recorded huge grain losses due to pests,” Likhayo said in an interview with AlertNet. “Every season, pests destroy no less than 30 percent of the total grain harvested in the country.”
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Millions of tons of food, particularly perishable fresh produce, also go to waste in the developing world as a result of poor transport networks or lack of markets, storage facilities, and processing equipment.
“I have witnessed people throwing away tomatoes, vegetables, and fruits, among other produce, simply because they did not find a market for it, and they have nowhere to keep it,” Jane Kathure Biashara, a Kenyan community development expert told AlertNet in a phone interview.
“If we can help food producers to reduce losses through better harvesting, processing, storage, transport, and marketing methods, and combine this with profound and lasting changes in the way people consume food, then we can have a healthier and hunger-free world,” said Graziano da Silva, the FAO director general, in a press statement.
• Isaiah Esipisu is a freelance journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya.