By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
United Nations (UN) Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and partners have tasked people to do more to reduce food loss and waste.
They warned that failure to act to reduce food loss and waste would result to a risk of an even greater drop in food security and natural resources.
The piece of advice was given ata global event marking the first International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and their partners said that at the present time some 690 million people are hungry and three billion cannot afford a healthy diet.
They noted that hunger has been on the rise for the past five years, and that Novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is threatening the food and nutrition security of up to an additional 132 million of people.
“On top of that, we are faced with an ecosystem decline and the consequences of climate change.
“Yet, food continues to be lost and wasted. This year we have witnessed an increase in food loss and waste as a result of movement and transport restrictions due to the pandemic,” the agencies stressed.
They pointed out that COVID-19 aside, each year about 14 percent of the world’s food is lost before even reaching the market.
According to them, food loss is valued at $400 billion annually – about the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Austria.
“On top of this comes food waste, for which new estimates are coming out early 2021. When it comes to environmental impact, food loss and waste generate eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions,” they elaborated.
UN and partners disclosed that food loss occurs from farm up to and excluding retail, whilst food waste occurs at retail, food service and household level.
They highlighted that causes of food and waste range from poor handling, inadequate transport or storage, lack of cold chain capacity, extreme weather conditions to cosmetic standards, and a lack of planning and cooking skills among consumers.
“Simply put, reducing food lost or wasted means more food for all, less greenhouse gas emissions, less pressure on environment, and increased productivity and economic growth,” organizations explained.
They pointed out that innovation, technologies and behavioral change are key to reducing food loss and waste.
“Food loss and waste is a big challenge of our time,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, said, and urged for stronger partnerships, more public and private investments in training for smallholder farmers, technology and innovation to step up the fight against food loss and waste as ‘our planet is a small boat in the universe.’
“Innovative postharvest treatment, digital agriculture and food systems and re-modelling market channels offer huge potential to tackle the challenges of food loss and waste. We have just built a partnership with IBM, Microsoft and the Vatican to empower Artificial Intelligence in all these areas,” Qu added.
Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, encouraged governments to make food loss and waste part of national climate strategies.
“Only 11 countries have so far included food loss in their Nationally Determined Contributions. None of them included food waste. By including food loss and waste and sustainable diets in revised climate plans, policymakers can improve their mitigation and adaptation from food systems by as much as 25 percent,” Andersen said.
Calling food loss and waste “an ethical outrage” given that so many people go hungry, António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, in a message sent in support of the Day, urged everyone to play their part in tackling this issue – from countries setting a reduction target and measuring their food loss and waste and policy action in this area being included in climate plans under the Paris Agreement to businesses taking a similar approach and individuals shopping carefully, storing food correctly, and using leftovers.