Some years ago, I was working on a project that is related to transportation of agricultural produce and storage of farm produce and I was at a major vegetable spot in Lagos, Ibadan, Akure and some other south west state in Nigeria, the rate and volume at which tomatoes, pepper, leafy vegetables and all other food product were wasting was alarming, I had to ask some of the store keepers some questions on why they have allowed that rate of wastage, they replied and said “well, we have no choice but we pray that we should completely sell off our produce in a day or two so that we can record less wastage and improve our pocket” I sincerely looked at them and really felt for them, they are in business but a problem that can be technologically solved drives them back and make them record bad losses. Food wastage does not only occur in the market, it occur in the home, many bins are filled with wasted foods likewise many farms have a lot of wasted farm produce. How do we put a stop to food wastage? What are the technologies in place for reduction of food wastage?
Food waste represents a direct drain on resources at both the micro and macro levels, with producers utilizing labor, water and energy to produce food that will never be consumed and household’s spending money on food they never eat. One quarter of the water used in agriculture is spent on wasted food. Food production also has significant environmental consequences including carbon dioxide and methane emissions, and food waste is the largest contributor by volume to bins. Wasted food can help address food insecurity, preventing food from being wasted in the first place has both environmental and financial benefits for food producers. Food waste is a bigger problem than many people realize. In fact, nearly one-third of all food produced in the world is discarded or wasted for various reasons. That equates to nearly 1.3 billion tons every year According to FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, not surprisingly, industrialized countries like the United States waste more food than developing nations. Food wastage is a big problem and it has not been effectively controlled in Africa. We have focused on production of farm produce, marketing of farm produce, processing and packaging of agricultural produce but can we ascertain or compare the percentage of our concentration on the aforementioned issue to the percentage of our concentration on food losses and wastage? How many startup are working on putting a stop to wastage of food in Nigeria? These are where the issues lies. Every year we keep producing with zero profit due to unopened issues like spoilage and wastage. With my search, I got to see how countries like India are circumventing food wastage, countries like the Great Britain and many other countries, they kept on developing different modernized technology to curb food and farm wastage. We have quite a few in Nigeria working so much to curb food and farm losses.
In 2010, the average American generated about 219 pounds (99 kg) of food waste, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While you might not think food waste affects you, please think again. Throwing edible food doesn’t just waste money. Discarded food is sent to bins, where it rots and produces methane gas (One of the strongest GHG), which is the second most common greenhouse gas. In other words, throwing out your food contributes to climate change. It wastes a huge amount of water, too. According to the World Resources Institute, 24% of all the water used for agriculture is lost through food waste every year. That’s 45 trillion gallons (about 170 trillion liters). You can see the numbers? Although these numbers may seem overwhelming but they can be proved with research institute agencies.
How can we put a stop to food wastage?
- Technology: There are several indigenous method of storing or preserving food, when we take a close look at Africa we can be categorized to be the late adopters of technology compared to some other advanced countries. The six distinct farm production technology still have our names written on the first and second category of the technology, we still produce food using the Traditional manual technology (TMT) and the Improved Manual Technology (IMT); surprisingly, we store with this technology too, Am I saying that is bad? NO! At least, we can always develop at our pace. There are different Traditional Manual technology that can be enhanced for food storage and they include drying, smoking, grinding, grilling, and many more, as indigenous as all this might have looked or sounded over the years, they have helped reduce food wastage. Instead of wasting a lot of harvested fish, they can dried, smoked or grilled likewise many other harvested farm produce. Instead of wasting egg shells and littering the bins with egg shells, it can be modified into scouring powder, mouth wash and fertilizer. Biodegradable household waste can be converted into biogas and even used for fertilizer application, tomatoes can be stored using ash and crops like plantain can be stored using activated charcoal. The growing interest in food quality and safety has spurred a lot of research. There is development being done in sensitive and reliable methods of analysis as well as technology for freshness preservation and food quality. It is important that technology is embraced and accepted so that gradually food wastage can greatly reduce. Cold chain solutions would go a long way in extending the shelf life of perishable farm produce. According to the FAO, 10% of the food loss in developed countries is due to lack of refrigeration but in developing countries like Nigeria that figure nearly triples to 28%. The ability to maintain a cold chain can significantly extend the shelf-life of some farm produce (Fruit and Vegetables) but is often nonexistent in emerging markets, deploying more advanced cold chain solutions could reduce the problem significantly. As we keep walking to embrace new technologies for reduction in food wastage, we can also develop the indigenous method of food storage. It is not bad to have our agriculture engineer’s produce more advanced (fast, reliable and automated) drying machines, smoking machines can be upgraded to be timelier, AI centralized and advanced. All this would go a long way to put a significant stop to food wastage.
- Discipline: Can we please stop impulsive buying? Can we stop over buying anytime we shop? Can we improve how we store and preserve? Most people tend to buy more food than they need. Though buying in bulk may be convenient, research has shown that this shopping method leads to more food waste. To avoid buying more food than you need, make frequent trips to the agro mart, food store and malls every few days rather than doing a bulk shopping trip once a month. Make sure to use up all the food you purchased during the last trip to the market before buying more groceries. Additionally, try making a list of items that you need to buy and stick to that list. You can also try up different mobile application that can help you form a food time table with what you have at home or mobile application that can help you track when your food stuff can get spoilt, this would help the consumer to cook accordingly reducing the amount of food wastage and this will help you reduce impulse buying and reduce food waste as well. Improper storage leads to a massive amount of food waste. According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, about two-thirds of household waste in the United Kingdom is due to food spoilage. Many people are unsure how to store fruits and vegetables, which can lead to premature ripening and, eventually, rotten produce. For instance, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers and onions should never be refrigerated. These items should be kept at room temperature. Separating foods that produce more ethylene gas from those that don’t is another great way to reduce food spoilage. Ethylene promotes ripening in foods and could lead to spoilage. Be disciplined to reduce food wastage and contribute to better creation of sustainable environment.
- Reuse and Recycle: There are endless ways you can reuse and recycle your food waste, it is important that food are reused, plastics are recycled and wastage is reduced, all this does not only make the user happy by being meticulous, it create a safer environment. Stop using a bottle once and throwing it away, if it can be reused, please do. Stop throwing all plastic waste to the bin, this plastics can be converted to planting materials, instead of throwing into the bin please convert it into irrigation bottles for crops sustainability. One of the project I am privileged to anchor teaches kids how to plant and we make them plant using pure water nylons, that pure water nylon that keeps littering your environment can be converted to planting materials, USE THEM.