Reduce food wastage to enhance food security

Climatic change has made issue of food insecurity more critical and serious in developing countries. According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of United Nations about 815 million people out of the 7.6 billion people in the world were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2016. Most of these people belonged to low income countries.

On one hand there is starvation on other hand food wastage on a very large scale has been reported globally. According to Food Wastage Footprint :Impacts on Natural Resources report, each year global food waste is the size in volume of water that annually flows into Russia’s Volga River. Food wastage on such high scale has environmental implications. It is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to atmosphere.

12th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 12) calls for the world to cut food waste in half by 2030.The United Nation hopes that if this goal is met it will improve the standard of living of population, there will be less hungry people on the planet also environment will be rid of poisonous gas emissions. However, meeting this ambitious goal will require a smart strategy considering.

Global Situation

According to Food and agricultural organization findings roughly one third of the food produced globally for human consumption every year (approximately 1.3 billion tonnes) gets lost or wasted. Food losses and waste amounts to roughly US$ 680 billion in industrialized countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries. In developing countries 40% of losses occur at post-harvest and processing levels while in industrialized countries more than 40% of losses happen at retail and consumer levels.

Again according to findings, industrialized and developing countries waste roughly the same quantities of food respectively 670 and 630 million tonnes. Every year consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes). Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia, each throw away only 6-11 kg a year.


Africa is among continents suffering from issues of food insecurity, starvation and malnutrition. In Africa a lot of food wastage has been reported with almost 50 percent of the food produced wasted every year. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the amount of food wasted on the continent is enough to feed 300 million people. The statistics of food production compared to hunger suggests that Africa actually produces more than enough to feed itself.

Thus it is wastage of food that is bringing misery and suffering among people. In Africa, the food wastage comes from post-harvest loss and consumer preferences for different types of food.

According to Mamadou Biteye, the Managing Director of the Rockefeller Foundation Africa, 50 percent of the post-harvest waste comprises of fruits and vegetables; 40 percent of roots and tubers and 20 percent of cereals and grains. The growing middle class in Africa has also caused a problem of food wastage through changing consumer habits with food preferences. A lot of food gets wasted which is not preferred for consumption.

Farming is an important source of income in Rwanda. About 70 per cent of the population works in the agricultural sector. Low Agricultural productivity and the levels of malnutrition at 38 percent for children less than 5 years old are dual problems related to issue of food security. Food wastage in form of Post-harvest loss is a major problem for food production in Rwanda. Stakeholders in the agricultural sector are seeking ways to develop post-harvest technologies to cut food losses and wastage in a region.

Food wastage is one of factors aggravating the issue of food insecurity globally. To combat issue of food insecurity serious steps needed to be taken in both developed and developing countries to control food wastage. In high income and middle-income countries food wastage is reported at later stages in the supply chain. Raising awareness among stakeholders as well as finding beneficial use for food that is presently thrown away will be effective in controlling amount of food losses and waste.

In developing countries food wastage occur mainly at early stages of the food value chain. Strengthening the supply chain through the direct support of farmers and investments in infrastructure, transportation, as well as in an expansion of the food and packaging industry could help to reduce the amount of food loss and waste.

In Africa lot of food gets wasted due to post harvest losses, farmers should be provided with requisite technology and training to prevent post-harvest loss and help with food processing and distribution. 

If Africa carefully pursues a solution to the problem of food wastage issue of food insecurity and malnutrition will resolve itself. It requires awareness, education and behavioural change. Through legal regulations also it is possible to reduce food wastage by setting penalty and fines for wastage at high level.

The writer is a Kigali based economist and consultant.


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