As the world grapples with the challenge of feeding an ever increasing global population from diminishing natural resources, food loss and waste have become critical components of the food security and nutrition agenda. As per the Sustainable Development Goal number 2, the world aspires to end hunger,achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture while locally food security and nutrition is among the four pillars of President Uhuru’s Big Four Agenda.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that a third of food produced globally is lost or goes to waste. In 2017, food worth Kes 150 billion went to waste or was left to rot in Kenya according to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics with maize leading at Kes 30 billion. Just last month, newspapers reported how hundreds of tonnes of pumpkins were rotting in Embu as farmers lacked market for their produce. Farmers in Kirinyaga and Nyandarua have had to feed vegetables meant for human consumption to their livestock due to lack of market or low prices due to over supply.
Food loss and waste mean two different things. Food loss occurs along the supply chain from production to marketing. It could occur before harvesting, during harvesting, handling, storage, transportation or distribution. Some of the causes if food loss include pests and diseases, flooding, poor harvesting methods, poor infrastructure ( roads and markets sheds), poor means of transportation and low prices due to over supply. Food waste occurs at the household level where people leave nutritious food meant for human consumption to expire for instance leftovers.
Governments, private sector, development organizations and farmers need to come together to address food loss and waste. Governments need to develop good road networks, physical market structures with proper sanitation, extend electricity connections and invest in storage or processing facilities to curb food loss. Farmers also need to research on market trends to ensure that demand and supply patterns match to avoid oversupply which usually leads to loss. Entrepreneurs along the food chain need to innovate to provide solutions such as solar powered storage facilities and mobile applications that support knowledge based farming.
At the household level consumers need to be sensitized to value food to understand the loss of resources such as labour, water and power that come with food waste. They should be educated on shopping and consumption habits to ensure that they only shop/ consume what they need.
By reducing food loss and waste, we will not only achieve SDG 2 on ending hunger but also SDG 12 that seeks to ensure sustainable production and consumption patterns.