Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Why does Africa still struggle with food shortage?

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World Food Safety Day provides an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of safe food practices and highlight the efforts being made to ensure food security. The Kenyan government has been at the forefront of carrying out initiatives to combat food waste thereby showcasing the country’s commitment to sustainability and efficient food management.  

There are many challenges faced by developing countries when it comes to food shortage. These may include inadequate infrastructure, lack of awareness, and limited access to technology. In terms of inadequate infrastructure, there have been many cases where farmers were not able to transport their goods to markets. This leads to loss of food which becomes waste as the food cannot be consumed. There seems to be a lack of awareness on how to store large amounts of produce in some areas, especially the remote regions. This often leads to a lot of food wastage. 

According to the World Food Programme, one-third of the food produced for human use is lost or wasted worldwide. This equates to nearly 1.3 billion tons every year, worth an estimated $1 trillion. Each year, consumers in affluent nations squander roughly as much food as Sub-Saharan Africa’s total net food output. The amount of food produced but never consumed could feed two billion people, which is more than twice the global undernutrition rate. 

These statistics are alarming since many countries tend to experience food shortage especially during drought or heavy rainy seasons. In developing countries, 40% of food losses occur at the post-harvest and processing stages. These statistics emphasize the critical need for comprehensive strategies to mitigate food waste and enhance global food security. 

Inadequate infrastructure which is due to lack of proper storage facilities like cold storage and insufficient warehousing leads to significant post-harvest losses and spoilage. Food is very sensitive and if not stored properly or with the right temperature, tends to go bad. Another aspect that creates food wasted across the continent in some parts of the countries is inefficient and unreliable transportation networks result in delays and damage to perishable food items. Many roads in the African continent are not passable either due to lack of construction or damage by weather changes like heavy rains. 

Sanitation plays a very big role when it comes to food storage and even transportation. In many cases one will find there is limited access to clean water that is needed in preparing some food items for storage. This leads to a lot of contamination which makes the food not fit for human consumption and in the end the food is thrown away. 

 There is often a shortage of trained food safety professionals, including inspectors, technicians, and extension workers who are very crucial to food storage and even processing. Some areas experience inadequate training that can guide them on how to avoid food wastage. Farmers, processors, and food handlers frequently lack access to training programs that teach proper food safety practices. This creates a ripple effect where unsafe pesticides and fertilizers are used, leading to misuse of chemicals in agriculture and food contamination. The result is that the produce is thrown away.  

Another harsh reality is that there seems to be limited financial resources where farmers and small-scale food processors often lack the financial resources to invest in necessary food safety measures. This can be partly blamed on the high cost of compliance for some food safety standards and maintaining certification especially for many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 

As much as there are tangible reasons for food wastage, climate change and environmental actors also play a part in it. Climate change affects food production and increases the risk of contamination through extreme weather events and changing pest and disease patterns. Pollution of soil and water resources with industrial waste and agrochemicals can contaminate food supplies leading to loss of the produce.  

Addressing these difficulties requires a multifaceted approach that includes government actions, international assistance, capacity building, and enhanced awareness among all stakeholders in the food supply chain. To reduce such figures, the government must be actively involved in regulating food waste, particularly at the source. The Kenyan government, for example, aggressively pushes initiatives such as better storage and transportation methods to reduce food waste.  

Read also: A delve into PWC’s study on Africa’s food security

The Kenyan government has devised national initiatives to reduce food waste. This includes the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy, which encourages efficient food use and reduces post-harvest losses. They also aggressively support initiatives to reduce food waste, such as better storage and transportation strategies. This help includes the use of modern technologies like hermetic storage bags and cold chain logistics. The government supports initiatives aimed at recovering and redistributing extra food to those in need. This involves collaborations with non-profit groups and food banks to divert edible food from landfills to underprivileged communities. 

Kenya has implemented legislation to decrease food waste, such as regulations requiring proper handling and storage of food goods, which are enforced to ensure compliance and reduce losses along the supply chain. 

This year’s “International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste” aims to urge both the public and commercial sectors to prioritize actions and drive innovation to minimize food loss and waste, with the goal of restoring and rebuilding healthier and more resilient food systems. As we commemorate this day, let us remember its theme of “Reducing food loss and waste: Taking Action to Transform Food Systems” by embracing a better, more sustainable food lifestyle. 

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