Global Paradox: wasting food while going hungry!

Imagine! The world loses or wastes a staggering 25% to 33% of the food it produces for consumption, losses that can mean the difference between an adequate diet and malnutrition in many countries, according to the latest report by the World Bank released on Thursday.

Maize harvesting in Kigali: WB reports says that in Africa food is wasted during production and processing (Courtesy photo)

Maize harvesting in Kigali: WB report says that in Africa food is wasted during production and processing (Courtesy photo)

The same report states that the developing world loses 120–220 kg of food per person per year, which means that even regions ridden by under nutrition, such as South Asia and Sub Saharan Africa, lose as many as 400–500 kcal per person per day, every day.

Despite the losses or wastes, millions of people on the African continent still go to bed hungry: more than one out of every 5 (or more than 20%) of its citizens is still denied the right to food, according to FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, as he was quoted saying at the marginsof the recentAfrican UnionSummit.

“The amount of food wasted and lost globally is shameful,” said Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank. “Millions of people around the world go to bed hungry every night, and yet millions of tonnes of food end up in trash cans or spoiled on the way to market.”

Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, expresses his concerns on food wasted 

Most losses take place at the consumption, production and handling and storage stages of the food chain, reveals the World Bank.

In sub-Saharan Africa, just 5% of food losses are at the consumption stage, but vast amounts of food are wasted during production and processing.

…and what’s about Rwanda?

Then, in a country like Rwanda, where the government allocates huge investment to agriculture sector (around 13% of the national budget as of this fiscal year), the government would be losing much of its investment if vast amounts of food were wasted during production and processing.

Obviously, without drying and storage facilities or a guar­anteed market, the country’s abundant yields would dete­riorate and be unable to com­mand a good price, which would in turn affect the entire economy which still heavily relies on agriculture with its GDP contribution of 30%. Thus the huge investments by the government in the sector would come to nought if there is no mechanism to contain the pro­duction losses.

Now the good news for Rwanda is that something is being done to contain the losses: post harvest losses have been reduced from 35% to 12%, as Rwanda News Agency recently quoted Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), Dr Agnes Kalibata. Even though experts say the loss reduction may not reach zero, but there is still a room for improvement to keep reducing this loss and bring it to at least  5%.

The reduction of produce loss in Rwanda might be attributed to some bulk storage facilities put in place by the government and the good job being done by the national Task Force for Post Harvest and Handling Storage operating since mid 2010.

Effective solutions to reduce food loss and waste clearly require multiple interventions. Even though it may not be realistic to expect zero food loss and waste, there is a need to step up efforts in changing agricultural production techniques, setting up post harvest handling and storage facilities and changing consumer behavior, among others.

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