“Empty your plates…A bag of rice begins with a grain.” These are words of a teacher in the Secondary School I attended…one who knew the importance of avoiding food loss and waste. She preferred we emptied our leftover food into a bucket which will be used to feed pigs.
The lesson is rechoed as Cameroon joins the international community to commemorate the first-ever International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste with theme, “Stop Food Loss and Waste. For the People. For the Planet”.
It is time for Cameroonians to better manage leftover food at home and for farmers to avoid loss after harvest.
Managing Leftover Food
It is common place in many homes in Cameroon to have leftover food after the family has eaten. But how is such food managed?
“I always tell my children to re-heat left over food and eat the next day or refrigerate it. They usually do so but sometimes fail. This is because they prefer eating a new dish instead of the old one,” explains Ndeh Humphrey, a family head.
In other homes, leftover food is reheated until it gets finished as the Motto is ‘No to wastage of food’.
“I sometimes share leftover food and bread with my neighbour’s children rather than let it waste in my house,” indicates a Mother in Yaounde.
The above notwithstanding, it is however not strange to find heaps of leftover food mixed up at waste disposal spots across the major cities of the country.
The loss and wastage of food also props up in the farming sector.
This is typical of fruits and vegetables which go bad if they are not sold on time, after harvesting.
Statistics from the United Nations indicate that around 14% of food produced is lost between harvest and retail meanwhile significant quantities are also wasted in retail and at the consumption level.
Furthermore, more than 20% of fruits and vegetables is lost between harvest and retail, the UN reports.
Effects of Food Loss and Waste
Food loss causes hunger. Statistics show that the number of people affected by hunger has gradually been on an increase since 2014 as a result of tons of edible food lost or wasted on a daily basis.
Food loss equals waste of resources. When food is lost, the resources used to produce this food like water, land, energy, labour and capital are wasted.
Moreover, disposing of lost or wasted food on the soil causes land pollution, one of the factors affecting climate change.
By dedicating an international day to raise awareness on food loss and waste, the UN is advocating for responsible production and consumption of food.
This will go a long way in contributing to the fight for Zero Hunger and the fight against Climate Change.
COVID-19 and Food Loss / Waste
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged food security in many countries: quarantine measures disrupted production and supply chains; the closure of schools and entertainment spots led to the loss of markets for producers and distributors. These in turn brought about waste and loss of food, unfortunately.
More food waste even came in when families who stocked their homes during quarantine could neither consume nor properly preserve all they had stocked hence had to discard of it.
With the troubling hunger situation across the world and the COVID-19 pandemic still around the corner, it is important that all actors in the sector (from producers to suppliers, retailers and consumers) put hands on deck and fight food loss and waste.
Eleanor Ayuketah Ngochi