Reducing Food Waste: A Crucial Step Towards Sustainable Consumption and Production

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By Ify Onyekwere

Food waste is a primary concern affecting the immediate environment and economic and social development. Food waste is a significant problem in Nigeria, as it is in many other countries.

Reports from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that approximately one-third of all food produced globally is lost or wasted yearly, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons. This is particularly concerning because while millions go hungry daily, food waste harms the environment and contributes to climate change.

In Nigeria, the level of food waste is also alarming. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that about 50% of all food produced in the country is lost or wasted due to poor storage and processing facilities, inadequate transport infrastructure, and poor harvesting techniques. This is particularly concerning as Nigeria, one of the most populated countries in Africa, has a population of over 200 million people. Food waste has severe implications for food security and economic development.

Food waste not only contributes to the issue of hunger and poverty in developing countries like Nigeria but also has environmental and economic implications. When food waste is sent to landfills, it produces methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. Food waste also wastes the resources used to produce it, such as water and energy, leading to an unnecessary increase in carbon footprint.

Food waste also has economic implications. When food is wasted, the resources used to produce it have been wasted, leading to a loss of revenue and productivity. In a country like Nigeria, where agriculture significantly contributes to the economy, food waste means lost income for farmers and wasted resources that could have been used to improve agricultural productivity.

In an interview with Adederigbe Abiodun, a Nigerian member of the United Nations Environment Program, Regional Food Waste Working Group, an initiative of UNEP, he stated that one of the globally acclaimed drivers of food waste is the high socioeconomic status of households which is particularly evident in the social strata of Nigeria, especially within the rich and middle class.

“In Nigeria, some people see food waste as a status of affluence. It is not uncommon to see people in eateries leaving bones on their plates or not finishing their food. Even among street vendors, there is a lot of food waste, including soup, meat, and bones. Unfortunately, most of these edible parts are eliminated from the food supply chain. However, if these parts were used to feed animals or for agriculture, they would not be considered waste”.

He stated that the economic classification of some people in Nigeria also plays a role in food waste. Abiodun noted that lack of infrastructure is another issue that results in consumers eager to eat food leading to wasting them. Once the food spoils, it is not properly refrigerated, preserved, or stored, leading to further waste. He said this resulted from unstable electricity in major parts of the country.

“Lack of awareness is another issue leading to food waste in Nigeria. Some people are unaware that they are wasting food and think it’s normal to throw away some parts of food. Also, cultural beliefs in Nigeria play a role in food waste. Some people visit others and are not expected to finish the food, as it could make them appear hungry or poor,” he said.

Since reducing food waste is crucial to achieving sustainable consumption and production in Nigeria and the world at large, sustainable consumption and production require that food waste be minimized or eliminated, as it leads to environmental degradation and economic losses. Food waste also increases greenhouse gas emissions, as food waste in landfills produces methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas.

It is crucial to address the issue of food waste in Nigeria to achieve sustainable consumption and production and ensure food security. To achieve this, there should be increased awareness, education, and advocacy campaigns to educate people on the importance of reducing food waste. Investment in infrastructure and technology, such as better refrigeration and storage systems, can also help reduce food waste. By implementing these measures, Nigeria can move towards a more sustainable future.

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