UN agencies attempt to solve global food waste problem

Enough food to feed some 2bn people is wasted every year, leading UN agencies to create an interactive platform to try to reduce the losses — which could feed the world’s 800m hungry.

The Global Community of Practice of Food Loss Reduction’s new web portal allows users to get information about ways of reducing waste. An estimated 1.3bn tonnes of food, or roughly 30% of global production, is lost or wasted annually, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

It remains unclear how effective the new platform will be in solving the problem, but experts believe it is a step in the right direction.

“We need to close the gap between people being aware of this problem and what they do when they are standing in the grocery store or in the kitchen,” Dana Gunders, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defence Council, a US environmental advocacy group, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Awareness is the first step the more specific the information [available on the portal] the more helpful it is in terms of reductions.”

More than 40% of root crops, fruits and vegetables, 20% of oil seeds and 35% of fish never reach the mouths of hungry people, the FAO reported.

In developed countries, food waste usually occurs in homes or restaurants, when consumers discard products they believe have gone rotten, or in supermarkets if products don’t look picture perfect.

Most of the developing world’s spoilage happens during storage or transport, as infrastructure for refrigeration and preservation is often inadequate.

Backers hope information on the new platform will help farmers to “share experiences to concretely reduce losses”, the FAO’s Anthony Bennett said.

If farmers in Uganda, for example, find a new technique to reduce spoilage, they can upload information about the project to the portal so that others can learn from it.

As part of the initiative, the World Food Programme has provided metal silos and sophisticated storage bags to 400 small farmers in Burkina Faso and Uganda.

Better storage facilities reduced post-harvest waste to less than two% during a 90-day trial period, and the WFP is now scaling up the programme by taking it to 41,000 farmers and aiming for a 70% reduction in post-harvest losses.

At first, the farmers were sceptical about changing techniques they had used for generations, in favour of the new silos and air-tight, waterproof storage bags.

“After watching the grain in the traditional storage units deteriorate quickly, they expected the same [or worse] to be occurring inside the new units,” said Simon Costa, the project’s manager.

“Their disbelief quickly turned to jubilation when they discovered their harvest was in perfect condition.”

A manual showing how to build similar silos is now available online.

Reuters


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