Inefficient agricultural practices, mass deforestation, excess water consumption, biodiversity loss and a reduction in soil fertility is wreaking havoc on the planet. According to a recent report published by the World Bank, the food industry is responsible for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions and 8% of these emissions arising from food waste.
If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions Not only is it contributing to global warming, but it is also harming the economic growth. Estimates suggest that by 2030, the value of annual food waste will be equivalent to $1.5 trillion.
Reducing food waste is vital to protecting our land from irreversible damage, improve food security, and slowing down global warming. Our world is already 1.2 degree warmer than pre-industrial levels. Extreme weather events like floods and droughts, which cause major disruption to food sources and supply chains, are becoming increasingly common.
We cannot afford to idle any longer. Action must be taken immediately.
To fight the global emergency of food waste, Youth Green Journal members from the UK, Tanzania, Kenya, India and Sierra Leone came together to find sustainable, long term solutions to the problem.
Young people often have large networks of influence, through our connections […] we can promote good practices and raise awareness in all of these areas.”
In high-income countries, where food is relatively cheap and easily bought in bulk, an important cause of food waste is buying or preparing excess quantities of food, which end up being thrown away.
In the UK, households are responsible for 70% of edible food waste. Worryingly, 28% of this waste occurs because individuals discard food simply because of personal preference. We need to learn to appreciate the true value of food, from farm-to-fork. This means having a better understanding of the real cost of manual labour, natural resources and environmental impact of the greenhouse gases emitted through its storage, transport and distribution.
The government can invest in large-scale projects to educate the public about these issues. They can help to rapidly scale up the work of organisations like Olio, a food-sharing app, to reach greater numbers of people. Between 2015-2018, the amount of surplus food that was redistributed in the UK almost doubled, but there is still the potential to save more than 150,000 tonnes of food by improving redistribution services. Governments shoudl incentivise and streamline this process so that all viable food can reach those who need it, rather than being thrown away.
Young people in the UK can make a big difference by reducing their household food waste. We can investigate how much food our household consumes per week and make sure to cut down on excessive buying. We can learn how to store and preserve different kinds of foods, and what we can do with leftovers. Young people often have large networks of influence, through our connections with schools, community groups, local businesses and social media, we can promote good practices and raise awareness in all of these areas.
Young people should invest in the rural areas around them, to aid the transition to better technology and harvesting techniques.”
Tanzania’s economy is heavily dependent on the agricultural industry, but increasing heat, drought, land degradation and pollution is putting a large strain on the sector. Lack of adequate rural infrastructure such as roads, markets, water storage, transportation, processing facilities means that food waste is produced before it even reaches the consumers.
For instance, it estimated that post-harvest losses due to inadequate agro-processing facilities are 30% for cereals and 70% for fruits and vegetables. Poor private sector development in rural areas, despite ongoing industrialization policies, also play a part in the failure of establishment of rural infrastructure.
Government and stakeholders need to increase expenditure on rural infrastructure so that more roads, storage facilities and reliable electricity supply can be provided and food spoilage can be minimized. In addition, financing agricultural activities, through providing loans to potential farmers may incentivise them to invest in better agro-processing technologies which in turn will reduce food waste. Individuals and families have to be careful to reduce consumption.They should store and preserve food properly, and experiment with different techniques such as salting, pickling and freezing.
Young people should invest in the rural areas around them, to aid the transition to better technology and harvesting techniques. By raising awareness, participating in political organizations, and innovating ways of efficiently handling resources, food waste in Tanzania can be reduced significantly.
Young people should raise awareness about this in their own communities, as a means of influencing others to change their behaviour and reduce food waste.”
The agriculture industry contributes 24% of the national GDP of the Kenyan economy, and employs 40% of the country’s workforce. Inefficiencies in food production and waste management have impacts on the environment, the economy, and the livelihoods of many citizens.
Wasting energy both at the front-end and the back-end by not eating all the food we purchase has a hidden but costly impact on the environment. Food that gets wasted often goes to landfill and releases the greenhouse gas methane as it decomposes. Toxic by-products can leach into the surrounding land, damaging the environment. Badly managed landfill sites may also attract vermin. Agriculture accounts for 70% of water use in Kenya and worldwide, so food waste also causes a huge waste of limited freshwater and groundwater resources.
Individuals and families can reduce food waste by planning meals ahead of time and donating safe and non-perishable items they no longer want. Many Kenyan household families also compost their kitchen waste, the best way to produce low cost fertilizer for their farms.
Kenyan food industries have been developing more sustainable food harvest, storage, processing transport and retailing practices. For example, hermetic storage also known as ‘sealed storage’ is being used by the local industry, and has been observed to reduce waste of food in storage to almost less than 1% during long distance transportation. In addition, the local food industries ensure the food products are clearly labelled with their ‘purchase and best before due dates’. Businesses like large cafeterias conduct food waste audits to determine how and why they waste food and identify opportunities to improve performance.
Young people should raise awareness about this in their own communities, as a means of influencing others to change their behaviours and reduce food waste.
With the largest youth population in the world being in India, its young people can take a leading role in raising awareness about this issue.”
In India, about 14.5% of the population is undernourished, whilst approximately 40% of the total food produced in the country gets wasted. Unsustainable agricultural practices including the use of backdated technology, farming on fragmented land along with soil degradation and a steep decline in the groundwater table worsen the situation. It is almost ironic that farming causes environmental degradation in the country, yet a large part of the population remains unfed.
Much of the food produced gets wasted from restaurants, other eateries and overindulgent parties. According to one estimate, about 10-15% of the food at weddings get wasted. Up to 16% of the food grains, fruits and vegetables produced in India gets wasted due to insufficient cold chain and proper storage facilities.
There are many steps that can be taken to address the issue, at every level. Each household should plan their meals in advance, so that they do not buy excess groceries and try harder not to waste any of the cooked food. Left-overs should either be saved for later use or donated to organisations like the Robin Hood Army that distribute them among the underprivileged. Governments should conduct campaigns to educate people about the problems of food waste, providing advice on day-to-day steps ordinary people can take to cut their food waste.
Young people are creative, can come up with innovative ideas, and are often stubborn optimists, so they can bring this issue to the notice of all Indians and urge their communities to massively cut down food waste.
Mark Sara Koroma
Young people must take an active leadership role in creating awareness about food waste and champion transformation within our agricultural supply chains.”
The issue of Food Waste in Sierra Leone has caused food insecurity, hunger, malnutrition and infant mortality. The highest amount of food waste occurs within the tourism and food processing industries. Food waste which is left in dumping grounds emits bad odor, causes soil and environmental degradation, and can lead to serious health problems.
For far too long our country has not been able to produce adequate food for its citizens. Farmers practice subsistence farming rather than mechanized farming. Due to lack of proper storage and preservation facilities, vegetables and crops usually rot before reaching markets.(FAO). We need urgent and radical action from the government to boost mechanized agriculture and food production in Sierra Leone. A huge amount of money is spent in importing our staple food, rice, which is too expensive for many people to buy. Not being able to grow what we eat in our country is a main cause of poverty, malnourishment and hunger.
Individuals who have the luxury of being able to afford more food than they need must firstly try to reduce the amount they buy, and secondly, share excess food with other members of their community who are less fortunate.
Calvin Kim 🇰🇪
The Kenyan government has failed to ensure adequate and nutritious food supply to its citizens. The North Eastern part of the country in particular is struggling with food insecurity. Thousands of people go without food for days while food is wasted in restaurants.”
The agriculture and food industry in Uganda needs to be boosted through continuous sensitization of the different stakeholders and agriculturalists. Many farmers have resorted to using strong fertilizers which in turn have limited the exportation of goods.”
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In November 2020, climate activists from 10 different countries participated in a virtual Climate Youth Hack. The Youth Green Journal is a culmination of the winning ideas developed at the hack. The journal explores how different communities around the world are being affected by unsustainable practices, and what must be done to tackle it.