News / Africa

    Over a Billion Tons of Food Wasted Annually

    A CropMobster gleaning, collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields to avoid food waste. (Photo by Gary Cedar)
    A CropMobster gleaning, collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields to avoid food waste. (Photo by Gary Cedar)

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Joe DeCapua
    A new study says one-point-three billion tons of food are wasted or lost every year, causing significant harm to both the environment and the economy. The food losses occur as an estimated 870 million people go hungry every day.

    The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says it has released the first study to “analyze the impacts of global food wastage from an environmental perspective.”

    The report differentiates between food loss and food waste. Food loss is due to such things as poor harvesting, inadequate storage and transportation. It’s more of a supply side issue. Food waste, meanwhile, comes on the demand-side during processing, distribution and consumption.

    FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, “Every day, consumers, especially in the rich countries, waste almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa. The implication of this massive food waste for food security and sustainability is huge. If we reduce food loss and waste, we have more food available without the need to produce more and putting less pressure on natural resources.”

    The report – Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources – says the amount of food that is produced, but not eaten, “guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River.” That unconsumed food, it says, is also responsible for three-point-three billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

    “Developing countries suffer more food losses during agriculture production. But in high income regions, food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher. Up to 40 percent of total wastage compared with only four to 16 percent in low income regions,” he said.

    Graziano da Silva added there’s also the economic cost.

    “The food wastage means $750 billion every year. This impressive figure is the equivalent of the GDP of Switzerland.”

    Joining in the release of the new report is Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP, the U.N. Environment Program. He called the $750 billion figure “an extraordinary wake-up call” for those thinking about food security and agriculture.

    “In that figure we may not even capture many of the more indirect impacts that are associated with degradation of natural resources. The impacts on climate change. The drivers that will cost perhaps not today’s consumers of food, but tomorrow’s children and grandchildren, who have to run our economies and mange these impacts in ways that are economically not yet fully captured,” said Steiner.

    He emphasized the losses and waste do not only occur on land.

    “We again have phenomena where in many fishing fleets – sometimes 20, 30, 50–percent of the catch is thrown back into the sea. But it is not as if fish will happily continue to swim. Many of them will be dead and essentially no longer available either for consumption or indeed for maintaining the fish stocks of the world. So, we are really trying to address a phenomenon here today that concerns each and every one of us on the planet,” he said.

    He said the types of food being raised to meet the demands of growing economies are having a greater impact on the environment. More countries are adopting a Western style diet that’s high in meat consumption. Livestock produce a lot of greenhouse gasses.

    “Our initiative with thinkeatsave.org is to reach out to literally citizens across all countries, all continents, in all sectors, to become part of addressing this phenomenon of wastage that simply is unnecessary, unacceptable and unsustainable in the 21st Century. We are all able to address this issue by becoming part of the solution,” said Steiner.

    Recommendations to reduce food loss and waste include raising awareness about the problems through media campaigns – coordinating international initiatives and strategies – and investing in public and private projects that reduce loss along the food chain from field to market to consumer.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora