Food Loss and Waste — A DUMB Global Problem That We Can Solve

Last updated: January 13, 2021

Over 30% of the food that we produce is never eaten. According to the FAO, we waste 1.3bn tonnes of food every year meanwhile more than 815 million people globally including 1 in 7 children go to bed hungry every day.

The amount of food we waste is more than enough to feed all the hungry people in the world 4 times over!

It takes a ton of resources to produce food and lots of energy to preserve and transport it. Then we leave perfectly good food to decompose and release lots of greenhouse gases which destroys the planet!

If global food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Essentially, we are destroying our planet to grow food that no one eats and the food we destroy our planet to grow destroys our planet some more!

How DUMBER can this get??

It goes without saying then that one of the most effective ways to reduce global hunger is to reduce food loss and waste.

Now, let’s talk about food loss.

While “Food waste” and “food loss” are used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two; a difference I learned about when I joined a panel of experts to speak at the UN FAO’s International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste on September 2, 2020.

“Food loss” typically refers to food that is lost in earlier stages of production such as harvest, storage and transportation while “Food waste” refers to waste that occurs when food that is fit for human consumption is thrown away by retailers, food service providers or by consumers.

Food loss is mostly found in developing countries where several factors such as the lack of proper road networks for transporting food, unavailability of equipment and technology for proper harvest and storage and insufficient cold storage among others contribute to this problem.

Here are a few of the many things we can do to reduce food loss especially in developing countries.

  • Better road infrastructure can reduce losses that occur during transportation.
  • Urban farming will reduce the distance food had to travel to get to consumers which will reduce losses.
  • Digital marketplaces will help buyers easily connect with sellers to reduce food that goes waste because they could not be sold.
  • Sustainable cold storage technologies can help prolong the shelf life of perishable crops.
  • Post-harvest management technologies and equipment such as threshers, moisture meters and hermetic storage made available to farmers in an affordable way can help reduce losses in grains after harvest.
  • Public education can help influence consumer habits and reduce the amount of food we throw away.

And so on…

It is evident that no single solution can solve food loss and food waste.

While the problem still persists, it is encouraging to see young people take bold risks and brave the odds in developing solutions to solve food loss and food waste problems and I am humbled to have a personal connection with many of these amazing innovators.

Jeffrey’s team at SAYeTech is developing multigrain threshers to increase the efficiency of threshing grains for smallholder farmers and reduce the associated drudgery associated with manual threshing which involves beating the grains with sticks.

Manual threshing of soybeans in Ghana. Photo credit: Dr. Kerry Clark

My own team at Sesi Technologies is developing affordable technologies to help farmers reduce losses and maximize productivity.

Our GrainMate moisture meter makes it easy for farmers to measure the moisture content in their grains and know whether their grains need storage.

We are also providing hermetic storage bags to help farmers store their grains for longer. Our GrainMate Trade platform helps farmer groups find buyers for their produce as well.

Even beyond solving food loss and waste, I am inspired by many other young people in my network who are also solving different problems within the agric value chain.

Aisha and her team at Farmz2u are helping farmers farm better with tailored agricultural expertise and access to market.

Francis and his team at Agrocenta are connecting all the stakeholders in the staple food value chain from smallholder farmers, partners, logistics suppliers, off-loaders to buyers under one umbrella for effective trading.

Alloysius and his team at Farmerline are creating lasting profits for farmers everywhere through farmer education, input finance & distribution and market access.

Kamal and his team at Trotro Tractor are making tractor services accessible to smallholder farmers right from their phones.

And I could keep going on and on…

It is the bold decisions of such young people that gives me hope that someday, one day, we can live in a world where no one has to go to bed hungry.

This post was written by Isaac Sesi, Founder and CEO of Sesi Technologies

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