he first day of the year has always been a day I enjoy. Everyone seems to have a positive spirit. People exchange best wishes and both children and adults think about some good goal to achieve during the year.
This year, being the beginning of the decade, people tend to set a yearly goal and a decade one.
This spirit inspired me to set my own goals too and reflect about what Malawi could set as a goal for 2020 as well as for the next decade.
I thought of these two goals: (1) by the end of 2020 we shall end food losses and waste. (2) By the end of the decade, end all forms of hunger and malnutrition.
The first goal is important to underline that it is a global issue as one-third of all food is lost or wasted between the farm and people’s plate.
In general, food loss and waste at the point of consumption in homes and restaurants appears to be a hotspot in high-income regions, whereas losses during handling and storage are a hotspot in low-income regions.
This problem has serious impacts on many fields, for example, the food lost accounts to an estimate of eight percent of greenhouse gas emissions, the main contributor to climate change and it consumes a quarter of all water used by agriculture.
Every year, over one billion metric tonnes of food is never consumed. The annual market value is estimated at $ 940 billion globally.
In Malawi, smallholder farmers lose up to 27 percent of cereals and pulses due to poor post-harvest handling practices.
Up to 600 000 tonnes of maize are lost each year across the country, enough to feed all people in need and basically eliminate hunger in the country.
So why does it seem so difficult to close this gap and eliminate food losses and waste?
In the high-income regions, people buy too much food and restaurants tend to serve too large portions. Besides the decried food waste, this contributes to a large “epidemic” of obesity.
Sensitisation campaigns should continue to stress on the need to reduce the portions served and consumed as well as to buy less items at the shops.
In terms of food losses, this is also a solvable problem. There are many examples of trainings, even within Malawi, that worked well in disseminating the appropriate techniques to reduce losses by improving harvesting and storage options.
In addition, the use of new, but largely available, technologies such as hermetic bags to store the products should be encouraged, maybe by a large marketing campaign to illustrate the benefits compared to the costs, considering the possibility for reduced consumer prices by improving supply chains.
Reducing or, even better, eliminating food losses and waste will be a key milestone to tackle the larger problem of hunger and malnutrition.
We have 10 years to achieve this target, which is also one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be reached by 2030. It is a difficult and challenging one, but with focus and good will, it is surely something doable.
It is important to remember though that the responsibility to achieve this goal does not only fall on the government, the farmers or the specialised organisations.
Each one of us, as consumers, can contribute, starting today, maybe during our lunch break!