There is a popular African proverb that says “one who is under the rain does not die thirst”; and this is interpreted mean ‘scarcity is somewhat impossible in the face of the surpluses. Sadly, the food, agricultural and poverty paradox in our world today makes rubbish of this age long analogy. Statistics released by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organizations (FAO) reveal that if only one-fourth of the food currently wasted globally is saved, it will adequately feed 870 million hungry people; this means that food which could adequately satisfy about 3.5 million people goes to waste.
Considering the report by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) that a little over 1.3 billion people currently live in extreme poverty, it is safe to say food wastage is the true reasons behind poverty in our world today and we must do all it takes to eradicate it.
The world has been fighting a wrong battle. Increasing agricultural production and utilization of arable land are not the solutions to poverty; rather, what we need is a total re-orientation and change in attitude from the reckless abandon paid towards food wastage. The world currently produces enough to adequately feed her entire population and we cannot afford to waste food while others die of hunger and poverty yet one-third of the total food production in the world is lost or wasted – amounting to roughly USD 680 billion in developed countries and USD 310 billion in developing countries.
Poverty kills more people in the world than malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis combined; the World Hunger Statistics reveal that 9 million people die yearly of hunger and this is disheartening considering the fact that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted yearly. The world must increase her determination towards eradicating poverty, and understand that curbing food wastage and increasing agricultural production is the surest path to achieving this.
India which ranks high on the world agricultural production index, second only to China in the cultivation of rice and wheat records the highest population of hungry people in the world with a 2014 statistics putting the figure over 190.7 million people. Like in many other countries, one-third of the total agricultural production goes to waste and this is a huge improvement from the 208 report which revealed a 72% waste especially in fruits and vegetables. How long can we continue to waste our resources considering its adverse effects on both humanity and the climate?
In Africa, the continent’s most populous nation - Nigeria leads the troops in agricultural production index, waste and sadly, poverty. The country’s food production index increased from 26.7% in 1965 to 116.9% as at 2014 and there is a growth average of 3.31% annually.
Nigeria is also on record to be the world’s largest producer of cassava and yam (amounting to 70-76% of the world’s total production), 7th in cocoa (after dropping from 4th), among the top 16 in rice production and occupies 16th on the global tomatoes production scale. Yet, reports by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics reveal that 70% of Nigerians (over 112 million people are living below poverty level as a result of massive wastes of foods and agricultural produce.
Over the years, man’s best friends are the trash cans and dumpsites because that’s where all our food ends! We must think about the plight of those in need, the life of billions of people depends on our unwanted food. I cannot agree more with Pope Francis, the 266th and current pope of the Catholic Church when he said “Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry.
To win the war against poverty, the world must follow in the footsteps of France. In 2016, the country’s Senate signed a legislation which prevented wastage of unspoiled food; under the law, supermarkets and large retailers were mandated to sign agreements with charities to which they will donate unsold foods rather than dispose them, and failure to comply attracts a fine of 3,750 Euros. (USD 4,230). Barely one year after, France ranked tops in a survey on food sustainability carried out by the Economist and Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition Foundation (BCFN).
Food wastage is largely attributed to poor Food Supply Chain (FSC) but we cannot deny that our actions towards re-distributions of unwanted foods play a major role. To win this war, everyone has a role to play in taking conscious steps towards archiving zero waste and exterminating hunger in our world. Government on its parts must pass relevant legislation and invest in Food Banks, while agricultural stakeholders and wealthy individuals must accept the responsibility to take the needy among us into consideration always.
Curbing wastes will not only end hunger, it will help reduce climate change and could save the world over USD 120 - 300 billion yearly by 2030 as contained in a report by the Global Commission on Economy and Climate (GCEC) in conjunction with the Waste Reduction Awards Program (WRAP)
We can make the world a better place, free of hunger and poverty. It begins with you!