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Food losses and waste (FLW) negatively impacting food security, economic growth: FAO


By Byron Mutingwende


The reduction of food losses and waste (FLW) is essential in the creation of efficient value chains, which are the core of sustainable food systems that contribute to food security, nutrition, economic growth and environmental benefit, it has been noted.


Berhanu Bedane, the Livestock Development Officer for the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Sub-Regional Office for Southern Africa (speaking on behalf of Dr Patrick M. Kormawa, the Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa and Representative for Eswatini, Lesotho & Zimbabwe) made the remarks during a Training of Trainers Workshop on the FAO Methodology for Food Analysis in Targeted Value chains – East and Southern Africa running in Harare from 1 to 5 October 2018.


“Across the globe, approximately one third of the food produced and intended for human consumption, is lost or wasted at an estimated cost of one trillion dollars to the global economy. Recent studies estimate that annual global food losses account for 30 percent of cereal production, 40–50 percent of root crops, fruits and vegetables, 20 percent of oilseeds, meat and dairy products, and 30 percent of fish.


“These high levels of food losses are the result of inefficiencies in our food systems. The reduction of food losses and waste (FLW) is essential in the creation of efficient value chains, which are the core of sustainable food systems that contribute to food security, nutrition, economic growth and environmental benefit,” Bedane said.


According to a 2011 report by the World Bank, FAO and the Natural Resources Institute, grain losses in sub-Saharan Africa alone could be worth up to 4 billion USD a year – enough to provide the minimum food requirements of at least 48 million people.


He noted that within the context of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development Goals and specifically the target 12.3 – by 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses, and in order to meet the Malabo target of reducing post-harvest losses by 50 % by 2025, there is clearly the need for a specific focus on developing strategies and implementing actions to measurably reduce the levels of post-harvest loss in countries.


The workshop was organised in collaboration with the University of Zimbabwe in the framework of FAO Strategic Programme 4 on building capacity within countries to conduct food loss analyses, toward identifying the critical loss points and their underlying causes in food supply chains.


The FAO food loss analysis methodology has been used in a number of developing countries. The results of the studies using this methodology include recommendations on solutions that are feasible and sustainable in a given context for selected food supply chains, on policies and strategies that are conducive of food loss reduction, and served as basis for investment plans and scaling actions.



The workshop, which targets Eastern and Southern Africa, is part of a series of TOTs that FAO carries out in collaboration with partner institutions. Similar workshops were conducted in Cameroon in May 2018 for African Francophone countries and in Morocco for the Near East and North Africa Region (NENA) held just last month in September 2018.


As FAO has been designated the custodian agency for Target 12.3 and the Global Food Loss Index (GFLI) and supporting the AU PHL evaluation framework under the FAO AU joint project supported by the Rockefeller Foundation ‘Support to the African Union in the development of policies and strategies for country-specific plans to reduce post-harvest food losses, participants will be informed on the complementarity of FAO Food loss analysis methodology, and the approaches at the continental and global levels.


“This capacity building effort responds to an existing need. Indeed, according 2017 AUC Biennial Report on Malabo Declaration commitments on post-harvest losses only five countries reported having collected data on PHL in their countries and are on track on the PHL indictors: Malawi, Mauritania, Rwanda, Togo and Uganda, meaning 76% of the continent (42 Member States) were not on track on the PHL indicator.


“According to the Director of the Department Rural Economy and Agriculture (DREA) during a regional workshop organised by FAO and AU in Nairobi in July 2018, lack of data on the indicator does not mean that there is no PHL, it indicates a major challenge with PHL management including monitoring and reporting in the majority of the AU Member States,” Bedane added.


Dr Mireille Totobesola Barbier, project manager of the UN Rome based agency’s joint project ‘Mainstreaming food loss reduction initiatives for smallholders in food deficit areas’ funded by the government of Switzerland emphasised on the importance of complementarity of the food loss analysis methodology (FLA) with the post-harvest loss framework and indicator developed by the African Union, and the Global Food Loss Index (GFLI) developed by FAO for reporting and tracking against the Malabo Declaration and the Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, and for informing policy and strategies that are conducive of food loss reduction.  She also engaged participants in using the online course on FAO Food loss Analysis methodology (  and the Community of Practice on food loss reduction( platform which serves as a global convener and an integrator of knowledge related to post-harvest loss (PHL) reduction, facilitating linkages and information sharing amongst stakeholders and relevant networks, projects and programs, and actors from the public and the private sectors.


Professor Brighton Mvumi from the Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Engineering of the University of Zimbabwe said post-harvest losses and waste are a major dent to the food and nutrition security efforts that African governments are making.


“Hunger and malnutrition persist yet in Sub-Saharan Africa, about US$4 billion worth of food is being lost – enough to feed 48 million people. This raises ethical issues apart from economic. Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is set to double to more than 2 billion people between 2015 and 2050 and 50% of the population will be urban-based as opposed to the current 30%.,” Prof Mvumi said.


He added that with increasing climate change and variability and the environmental impact of food loss and waste in terms of clearing more land to produce food, there would be loss of investment (labour, water, agro-chemicals and increased greenhouse emissions when food deteriorates).


“We need to be more serious in stemming these losses through multipronged approaches including putting in place strong governmental policies, public-private partnerships and stakeholder engagement.”

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende