In speaking of food waste we often hear about the environmental consequences: waste of land use, energy, water, our natural surroundings, and so on. However, the real cost of food waste is not only paid for by nature, but also by people. This blog dives into the social impact of a malfunctioning food system, in which over 30% of the worldwide production of food is wasted (FAO, 2018) while at the same time one in nine people does not have access to sufficient nutritious food. What is the state of hunger worldwide, versus the state of food waste? Who are the ones most affected? What are the main consequences that they carry? In other words: how can the food system be balanced out?

By becoming more aware of the social consequences of a malfunctioning food system, including food waste, we can strengthen the view on our role within a global food network. It will show that the smallest action that aid the reduction of personal food waste does make a difference in changing the planet’s and people’s health. Accordingly, we look for ways to achieve social as well as environmental justice through the food-related choices we make daily.  

A closer look at the issue

Our food system has developed into a system stimulating continuous growth, in many cases at the expense of life on the planet and livelihoods of people. Some people are more affected by this than others, but ultimately it harms everyone. The current production of food is enough to feed the world population twice (WFP, 2018). At the same time, roughly one in nine people worldwide suffer from hunger (FAO, 2018). It is clear that a profound change in the food system is needed to nourish the 800 million people that suffer from undernourishment in a way that ensures the health of the planet.

The global population is expected to grow with 2.3 billion people by 2050, counting almost ten billion people in total. The food production should increase with 56% to feed all those people. Or: we can reduce our food waste and not have to increase in food production at all.

On the macro-level, plans are made to reach targets to reduce food waste and nudge consumers’ behaviour in the right direction such as streamlining expiration labels and eliminating the use of trays in cafeterias (see box) (Ranghanatan et al, 2018). A big share of the waste, however, still happens on the micro-level: within households. Figure 1 shows where food is wasted on the consumer level the most.

Figures are consumer waste per capita based on data from the 2007 FAO report ‘Global Food Losses and Food waste’. Globally, consumer food waste amounts to roughly 350 Mt which equates about 50 kgs per person or 10% of total food supply (Gustavsson et al (FAO), 2011

In the figure we see that the so-called high-income regions, defined by the World Bank, and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), have the highest share of wasted food at the consumption level. The USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand produce a striking 110 kgs of food waste per person each year.

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 2017
Note: Developed countries are not included in the regional estimates since the prevalence is below 5%.

So: how does that relate to undernourishment? Whilst the number of undernourished people was steadily falling from 2005 – 2014, it has started to increase again in 2014 and has since risen again to 821 million people (Hutt & Gray, 2015).  The following chart shows where undernourishment is prevailing, globally.

The chart shows that the largest part of undernourished people live in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia. So the regions where most food is wasted on the consumption level are the ones where hunger is least prevalent. This raises a moral question: how we can justify wasting the food that people in low income countries apparently are in such great need of?

Less food waste, more food security…?

To a large extent, the social impact of food waste relates to environmental consequences. The next figure gives an overview of those environmental costs.

Scialabba, 2014)

A growing global demand will put extra pressure on the agricultural sector. However, the need to produce more food can be offset dramatically by reducing the amount of food that is wasted. This also seems like an ethical thing to do, as societies carry most of the costs of the environmental impacts of food waste. First of all, simply said, human efforts to produce food that does not get a use, is wasted effort. Secondly, the pressure on countries to produce food is increasing as population grows. At the same time regions such as Sub Saharan Africa and the MENA-region also experience increased pressure on their agricultural productivity due to the effects of climate change. Soil is degrading, water resources are getting more scarce and more extreme weather conditions occur. If no serious system change takes place, the risk of a global food crisis is inevitable.

Rural women’s role in food security

The ones who are most affected by the increased pressure on the food system are rural women in low income countries. Women feed least and last in the countries that are faced with hunger, conflict and famine. Therefore, rural women are part of the so-called “left-behind category” (Nyirongo, 2018). Famine and hunger are not related to the fact that there is not enough food for people; it relates back to the access that people have to the food that is available, which is a political issue. Regarding food access, women are last in line. There are three reasons why:

  1. Deep-rooted gender norms. In many countries, the case is that women only eat after the men and kids have had food. Especially when crisis hits, women are the first to sacrifice their food to make sure the family has enough. Women do 2.6 times more unpaid care and domestic work than men do and earn 23% less for paid work (ILO, 2016).
  2. Man-made conflict. Man-made conflict is the number one driver of food insecurity and women are hit hardest by that. As men fight in conflicts, women become the head of the household, yet having little to offer to their families due to a lack of resources. Additionally, women are more subject to abuse, violence and abduction from their homes in times of conflict.
  3. Lack of women’s rights. In many countries, women have less power and less rights compared to men. Even though women make up for more than half the world’s agricultural workers, they do not own any of the financial means, land or tools to farm (WFP, 2018).

Challenges for the role of rural women for development, food production and poverty eradication are further complicated by a changing climate, food price inflation and economic crisis. Women empowerment is essential, not only for the well-being of communities, families and individuals, but also for overall economic productivity. Women are key agents in development as their productivity level is higher than men’s. A study of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimated that if women had equal access to resources as men (tools, land, credit etc) agricultural output would rise up to four percent. This might not seem like a lot, but globally, as a high share of low-income countries are active in the primary (agricultural) sector, this definitely adds up. Additionally, if women are given the opportunity to control household income they are more likely to spend it on food, health, clothing and education than men are.

Believe.earth

Improvements in food security can be made by, for instance, improving rural women’s access to agricultural resources and credits and enhancing decision making and ownership within households, communities and at government-level. Gender equality is essential in achieving food and nutrition security and contribute to social and economic growth, both now and in the future.

Conclusion

Globally, a clear pattern is visible: in high-income countries most food is wasted consumption stage of the food supply chain. Low-income countries hardly waste food at that level. These countries that largely rely on their primary sector, of which agriculture holds the largest share, suffer the most from the consequences of food waste because it puts pressure on their capacities. At the same time, they encounter the greatest problems in the agricultural sector such as heat and drought, water scarcity and more extreme weather conditions due to climate change.

The prevailing food crisis is a direct consequence of food loss and food waste practices, of which rural women in particular are affected the most. To solve these issues in the food chain it is important to empower rural women, as not only does it reduce inequality, it also increases agricultural productivity, and investment in the community that women take part in.

But: we shouldn’t forget the responsibility that the consumer has on the other end of the food value chain. System changes can come from here, too. The question isn’t only: how can we increase agricultural productivity to meet the nutritional needs of ten billion people in 2050? But: How can we make better use here and now, of the food that already exists? This is where we should strive for making healthier choices in consumption, both for the people as the planet. Cutting down on meat consumption would be a major step ahead, as this relieves a lot of pressure off the planet’s resources and lowers greenhouse gas emissions. Combating food waste is another major one. With that we can influence the lives of those most affected by the malfunctioning food system on the other end. Now, why should we care? Because, as Martin Luther King said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

References:

  • Besley, T. Persson, T (2008) Wars and State Capacity. Journal of the European Economic Association DOI: 10.1162/JEEA.2008.6.2-3.522
  • FAO (2010) How to Feed the World in 2050
  • FAO (2011) The state of Food and Agriculture. Women in agriculture, closing the gender gap for development.
  • FAO (2018) The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World. Building Climate Resilience for  Food security and Nutrition. http://www.fao.org/3/I9553EN/i9553en.pdf
  • Hutt, R., Gray, A. (2015) What is Hunger? World Economic Forum. Derived from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/10/what-is-hunger/ at 21/05/2019
  • Kapur, D. (2011) 31 – Agriculture, food and nutrition security. Public Health Nutrition in Developing Countries, Pages 844-878.
  • Kim, K. & Morawski, S. (2012) Quantifying the Impact of Going Trayless in a University Dining Hall. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition Volume 7, Issue 4, Pages 482-486.  
  • Lipinski, B. (2013) By the Numbers: Reducing Food Loss and Waste. World Resources Institute. Derived from

https://www.wri.org/blog/2013/06/numbers-reducing-food-loss-and-waste at 22/05/2019

Summer’s here! Bring out the sun beds, dig out that bathing suit, lather yourself in sun screen and just lie under the sun forgetting all about deadlines and alarm clocks. Well… not exactly, but another beautiful season is upon us and with it come different patterns and habits. As I was daydreaming of all the things that I will be able to do in summer like to go out more, hang out on the beach, and reclaim the wonderful afternoon siesta, I started to think of good habits to pack for this summer. I’m going to share a few of them with you here.

At home

Shed those extra pounds

With a new season it’s always great to look into your closet and see which pieces of clothing you haven’t worn. A simple trick is to put the hanger facing outwards (opposite to what you’d normally do) when hanging clothes on the rail and if after the season they are still turned outwards, then you don’t really use is.

Keep it cool

Higher temperatures mean food can spoil quicker. It is therefore crucial to wash and store all food well. Remember to look at our blog on how to store food properly. If you get distracted and find your lovely fruits covered in dark spots, don’t worry about it. Just cut out the good fleshy bits add some lemon juice and voila you have a nice refreshing smoothie OR simply gather those lonesome fruit, slice them razor thin, add some red wine, brandy, brown sugar and lots of ice for a simple summer sangria


© MollieKate

Chop – Drizzle – Eat

Let’s face it, it’s warm, we’re lazy so we might not feel like making a proper meal. Summer is perfect to enjoy a nice crunchy salad with all kinds of vegetables, beans, herbs, grains, nuts, and lentils. Scrape your fridge or cupboards, chop and mix everything and then drizzle with a lovely dressing. You can opt for one of my personal favorites: Tahini dressing, or Fresh mint dressing. Yum!

Out and about

Stay safe

The sun’s warmth is lovely but not its UVA rays. It’s important to protect our skin with face and body sunscreen as well as after-sun. Unfortunately, commercial sunscreens have a huge deteriorating impact on marine life and are linked with the destruction of the coral reef (Danovaro, R. et al, 2008). Fortunately, there are eco and even zero waste options which you can make yourself.

Tidy up!

Clear blue waters, soft green grass or beautiful clear sands. These splendid places offer us moments of peace and a place to have fun with our friends, so why not give something back? While you’re at the beach or park you can  spend 5 minutes cleaning up and even join the social media trend #5minutecleanup. It’s quick and very effective, and just think if all of us got into this habit!


© Giovanni_Tafa

Guilt free Ice cream

It doesn’t matter if it’s  vanilla or a triple chocolate chip cookie madness, ice cream is EVERYTHING in summer. However, this icy creamy goodness comes packaged in plastic that we unwrap and throw out before devouring it. We can easily avoid this by buying ice cream cones so everything is consumed and no more plastic. Yes please!

Going away

Pack it

It’s not just your luggage that needs to be packed, so does your food. Before heading out make sure to freeze what can be frozen i.e. dairy products, some vegetables, all fruits and more. Soft herbs like basil, mint and parsley don’t hold up well frozen, so chop and mix them with olive oil and freeze in an ice cube tray.  Another option is to see what food items can still be eaten and give them away to a friend or neighbour who will be more than happy to receive them!

Be prepared!

– The city;

A mason jar and a tea towel go a long way. These two items can save you a lot of unnecessary waste. The mason jar is perfect to keep beverages, ice cream scoops, and small snacks, while the tea towel is great to hold bread, croissants, fruits, or lay out for a mini picnic. These take minimal space and can be carried around the city in your favorite tote bag ♡

– Camping;

This requires a bit more preparation. The basic items would be a good water jug which keeps your drinks chilled or hot, as needed. Then reusable cutlery and a compostable plate (made from bamboo or cornstarch; I know incredible!). Finally, your toiletry kit; bamboo toothbrush & holder, toothpaste tablets, deodorant, bug spray, moisturizer, and sunscreen which can all be DIYed.


© GoingZeroWasteBlog

© GoingZeroWasteBlog

Summer is all about having fun, and that’s what our journey to reduce food waste should be about. It’s all about discovering alternatives and being creative with what you have. When I say you it is not just one individual but ALL of you who are reflecting on your personal habits but also the collective potential to make a positive change.

Who’s a self sufficient responsible zero waster? You are!

Sources

Sunscreens Cause Coral Bleaching by Promoting Viral Infections ( Danovaro, R. et al, 2008)

Going zero waste

Cookie and Kate recipes

After last weekend we can gladly say that summer has officially started. This asks for celebration! TBYW closed off the season before the summer break starts by hosting one of the biggest events of the year: the TBYW Summer Festival. The theme for this edition was Zero Waste, a topic that was used as broad as it gets. From making DIY eco-friendly cosmetics to growing your own plants and herbs, a wide range of DIY crafts and interactive sessions prepared everyone for a sustainable, waste-free summer. Doing so, we set ourselves free from the waste through recycling, reusing, reducing and reconnecting. In this blog you’ll find a review of the day through 4 lessons I learnt at the first-ever summer edition of the TBYW Festival

#1 Zero-waste DIY’ing does not have to be expensive, difficult and time-consuming

Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)
Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)

DIY’ing? Isn’t that for people who have a lot of time, money and specific skills? Well, the answer is no. Using only some necessary ingredients, visitors DIY’d their way to a pantry filled with dish soap, all-purpose cleaner, deodorant, toothpaste, menstrual pads and much more. The main ingredients that were used were ones you can find in your cupboard, such as towels and jars. The rest of the raw materials was bought in bulk  at the Soap Queen. The eco-friendly cosmetics workshop was a massively popular one during which, in about one and a half hours, the participants learnt to make sunscreen, toothpaste and deodorant. No artificial ingredients were used, just the necessary ones. And the fun thing is, from there on it was  just a matter of putting everything together in the right quantities and you’ve made yourself the ecologically-approved, natural, environmentally-friendly, waste-free version of the cosmetic products you use the most. Win-win!

#2 Bacteria can be good for you

Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)

Bacteria are generally linked to disease and food decay and we should do as much as we can to avoid having them! Right? Well, no. Some bacteria are actually essential to stay healthy. Large amounts of ‘bad’ bacteria can get you sick, or make food go bad, but ‘good´ bacteria can make sure that the bad kind does not stand a chance of growing. These good bacteria are referred to as probiotics. Probiotics provide healthy bowel flora which is essential for healthy digestion, bowel movement and a well-functioning immune system.

Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)

Fermentation is a process that provides for ready-made, natural probiotics. Through the use of micro-organisms a metabolic process takes place, changing organic materials make-up. Kombucha is the perfect example of a fermented product with great health benefits due to the high levels of probiotics. The base consists of hot water mixed with sugar and black or green tea. After the mixture has cooled down to about 20°C the micro organism is added: the SCOBY. A SCOBY is a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast and looks as funky as it sounds. However, this is the essential component that eventually causes fermentation to take place. The SCOBY ‘eats’ the sugars that are in the liquid, and produces alcohol (the alcohol percentage remains at a maximum of 1%), enzymes, carbon dioxide, a range of acids, vitamin C and B-vitamins. Not all claims such as the detoxing and cleansing properties are supported by scientific research, but in any way a refreshing drink with probiotics, vitamins and far less sugar then usual sodas can’t be wrong!

During the festival a one-hour kombucha workshop was provided by one of our beloved volunteers. As TBYW hopes to give more in the future, keep an eye out for more workshops after summer!

#3 Kimchi is one of the healthiest foods in the world

Credits: Simon Lenskens

Kimchi is a Korean side dish with pickled vegetables. The slightly sour taste might remind you of the previously named kombucha, and that is because kimchi is fermented as well. At the Summer Festival a kimchi workshop was held, given by non other than the founder of The Table For Kimchi who is Korean herself. Her level of knowledge and passion for the product was contagious for all participants who after the workshop could take a jar of the good stuff home.

Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)

Kimchi is prepared by dehydrating vegetables first, in salt. After that, a mixture, known as the kimchi paste, was prepared using seventeen (!) ingredients. To put that into perspective, most kimchi recipes use five or six ingredients. For this session, a vegan and sugar-free version was prepared using apples and kiwi instead of sugar and vegetable broth, sea greens (kelp, seaweed) and soy sauce to provide for the umami taste that fish sauce or shrimp paste can have, which are commonly used.

While the cabbages were dehydrating, the kimchi paste was prepared. Sea salt is an important ingredient that will eventually cause the ‘bad’ bacteria to not win the competition with the probiotics. The fermentation process takes around four months on 3°C, so you have to have a little bit of patience if you let it ferment in the fridge. However, if you store in at room temperature you can speed up the process and your kimchi is ready after about one week.

Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)

The health benefits of kimchi come down to the facts that it’s high in fiber, low in calories and packed with nutrients. We don’t have to get into the benefits of probiotics that are present due to the fermentation process again, but it’s worth naming that kimchi is full of it. With regards to the nutrients, kimchi stores among others; vitamin A, B1, B2 and C, and essential amino acids and minerals such as iron, calcium, and selenium. Continuing onto a range of components that are hard to pronounce, kimchi contains capsaicin, chlorophyll, carotenoids, flavonoids, and isothiocyanates that a.o. aid hormonal balance, digestive health, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and the list goes on and on. Finally, an important component to name is sea greens. Sea greens have been rising in popularity in the health food section, and serve as a great alternative for animal-based protein due to their richness in protein and minerals.

At the festival the mixture was tasted right after it was made, and people loved it already. Traditionally kimchi is used as a side dish,  for instance with fried rice, inside dumplings, in a spicy stew (kimchi jjigae, 김치찌개) or as kimchi with udon, a thick wheat noodle (김치 우동). Last saturday the freshly made kimchi was served simply on a bit of toast and it didn’t take long before the whole dish was empty. To fully benefit from all those health impacts however, we should (unfortunately) be a bit more patient and wait until fermentation has taken place, properly.

#4 A plastic-free lifestyle is adaptable for anyone

The collected waste of the month
Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)

Late in the afternoon the TBYW-festival visitors were invited to join an interactive session during which four volunteers shared their experience with a plastic-free lifestyle. Whereas the title of the session, plastic-free, might sound frightening, what became clear in the discussion is that plastic-free does not have to be taken as strictly as it sounds. It is a process, and in this process we try to refrain from speaking in terms of ‘doing it perfect’ and ‘failure’ because these make it seem like there is one way to do it, all or nothing. This is not true. Easy swaps from disposable, single-use goods can be made, to reusable and sustainable. For example, make a linen bag, coffee-to-go cup and prepared meals part of your standard packing list when you’re on the go. This way you can decline the plastic bags, disposable coffee cups and plastic-wrapped meals and you’re already well underway on your journey to keeping plastics out of our natural environment.

The most striking findings of the discussion are the following:

Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)
  • All participants spent LESS on their groceries this past plastic-free month. By buying in bulk and choosing your products more wisely, it was found that everyone lowered their grocery-expenses this past month. Also, as many prepared the meals and took them when they were on the go, less money is spent on plastic-wrapped sandwiches and salads.
  • All participants had a healthier diets during a plastic free month. It was found that buying package free largely directs you to the fresh produce-aisle or the markets where mostly non-processed foods are sold (bread, nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables etc.). This automatically causes you to stick to a diet reliant on non processed, fresh food. Isn’t that a great side-effect!
Credits: Simon Lenskens
  • Most participants learnt new food preparation skills. Examples of this are: making sourdough bread, making pasta, preparing plant-based milk, etcetera. It was found that after the third time it’s not even that much of an extra effort anymore to make your own bread or milk, and it saves you a lot of money.
  • Plastic-free requires mutual effort of both people and politics. Policies could drastically decrease plastic use. With the choices we make on the consumer-level, we can show that there is a demand for for instance decreased plastic packaging and more zero-package shops. We vote with our wallet, so to say. It requires politics to push plastic-free policies and it requires people to make plastic-free decisions. This way, the consumer cán make a difference.
Credits: Simon Lenskens
Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)

Conclusion

All in all, I can really say that not only the festival was very learningful, it was great fun as well. And what was highlighted in this blog was just the tip of the iceberg. The TBYW Festival offered not only workshops, also an informative wall about the future of food, a clothes swap corner, a yoga session, a food market, music in the evening and let’s not forget the great food that was provided throughout the entire day. The atmosphere was very relaxed, and the setting felt intimate, even though most of the workshops were pretty much full. I would like to thank all the people who came, and the TBYW team for the great organization! I am looking forward to the next version of the festival that will probably be held in autumn/winter, and I hope to see you there!

Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)

Credit: Stefa Nia Bi (facebook); water_i_am (instagram)
Credits: Simon Lenskens



Around the Wei river, trees and shrubs dot the area and grass stretches over kilometres of land cut by dramatic canyons. This green stretch of land in central China covers the Shaanxi province and extends to inner Mongolia is known as the Loess Plateau (Ahlquist, n.d.). Here 20 million people have lived and grown their food like the Sichuan pepper, to sustain themselves for centuries. These highly fertile soils have been significant in China’s history and played a crucial part in the survival and wellbeing of its civilisation.

People living here are dependent on these rich soils. Farmers are very much attuned with the land with its properties and needs, agriculture here is planned. Terracing has provided a way to control soil erosion and the resultant loss of land. Land which is sloped into a series of successive planes provides a way to control sediment flow which then flowed into downstream (TheWorldBank, 2007).  Also, herders cannot leave their herds to wander freely around grasslands and graze wherever and as much as the animals would like. Other measures include sustainable water management, increased vegetation cover, and this was all reinforced with policy.

This is what land degradation looks like.

This however has not always been the case, actually it was quite different before 1994. Planned sustainable agriculture was an outcome of WWF’s project entitled the ‘Loess Plateau Watershed Rehabilitation project’ (TheWorldBank, 2007). Its aim was to attain sustainable living among residents by revisiting agricultural practices in the area. Farming here was exhaustive, acres of trees were cleared to make space for agricultural land, crops were planted on steep sides of the valley, grasslands were exhausted by herds of goats, and most importantly people did not own the land but they could just farm it (Liu, 2005). These practices went on for centuries while people did not really think ahead, and so the land started to turn to sand and wild plants and animals disappeared.  People were left without a source of food or income causing poverty within the region.

Land degradation refers to the diminished value of land from disturbances, either caused by natural phenomenon or human activity. These changes or disturbances negatively impact the ability of land to function as part of the ecosystem and hinder its ecosystem services, i.e. the absorption, storing, and recycling of water, energy and nutrients (FAO, 2013). Such natural phenomenon as extreme weather, drought, or salinization from coastal surgance can cause for land to dry up and erode. However, the causes of land degradation are mainly anthropogenic and agriculture related. The increasing and combined pressures of our modern-day agriculture and livestock production include; overcultivation, overgrazing, forest conversion, deforestation, pollution and urbanization (FAO, 2014).

  • Globally the total amount of food wastage in 2007 occupied almost 1.4 billion hectares (this is significantly larger than the size of Canada), equal to about 28 % of the world’s agricultural land area.
  • While the major contributors to land occupation of food wastage are meat and milk, with 78%of the total surface.

The way we produce and consume food requires us to slash acres of trees, destroying natural habitats, displacing numerous species, and in so doing jeopardizing biodiversity. This conversion from natural vegetation to agricultural land tends to go beyond the soil’s natural ability to recover. The industrial agricultural method intensively grows a single crop within a region, this is known as Monoculture. This drastic shift depletes the nutrients from the soil which is normally used to the richness of biodiversity. Additionally, the improper use of fertilizers, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus contaminate and pollute the soils making it more acidic and less fertile.

When it comes to live stock, this requires huge amounts of land, as a place to keep the animals but also vast agricultural land to grow their feed crops i.e. alfalfa (FAO, 2013). Besides land occupation, livestock production is also responsible for over grazing, where pastures are exposed to constant intensive grazing over long periods of time.

It’s not just the way that we produce our food, it’s also the rate. The land’s resources are consumed much faster than they can replenish and this fails to ensure the long-term sustainability of land. Which can eventually lead to desertification, meaning that a piece of land dries out, losing its water sources and wildlife and becomes a desert. (Fertile Crescent)

All these negative implications of the present food supply chain, and faults in the industrial agriculture methods illustrate the repercussions which the natural environment is subject to. However, these repercussions extend to our communities and economies.

On the environment

Soil is also an excellent source of water, green water that is. This was already highlighted in a previous blog post on the implications of food waste on our water sources. Poor agricultural practices and poor land management also leads to the contamination of waterways and groundwater (FAO, 2013). This mostly happens because of the irrigation method that is used, the pesticides which are either discharged into freshwater creating deposits in river banks or leak into groundwater.

On our communities

The constant and increasing pressures on land to extract as much food as possible is actually backfiring. Nutrient less soil produces poor quality crops which negatively impacts our health. Loss of land means that there is less space to grow food, which is a huge issue for a growing population already dealing with food insecurity. It also means loss of livelihood for those who are dependent on this land, farmers risk their income or even their own meals and fail to provide for their families. Once soil is degraded it turns into sand and dust which is swept away by the wind, increasing particles in the air and creating greater respiratory problems for us all (FAO, 2013).   

When we then realise that one third of all the food produced for human consumption is then being wasted, this continues to make less and less sense.

Once we take a few steps into the journey food makes to get to us, we start to gather all the ‘invisible’ resources that are necessary. When talking about food waste, we can not only talk about the food that is wasted, though this is an excellent starting point. We have to look at where this food comes from, who is producing it and why these resources and long hours of labour than end up in landfills decomposing. However, very much like in the Loess Plateau there is potential. Here, land was allowed to regenerate resulting in vegetative cover increase by 17 up to 34%, crop production was more stable ensuring a secure food supply for the inhabitants (Liu, 2005).  By protecting their natural resources 2.5 million people were lifted out of poverty as employment opportunities increased and they could provide for themselves once again.0

Now, this may seem like a story of a distant place that has nothing to do with us but we know that our food is global, and so is our food waste. Borders and distances in kilometres mean nothing to nature and our eco system’s biodiversity. We’re all in this together (un)fortunately. In our local efforts to reuse food, reduce food waste, and recycle what’s left we are actually contributing to a much larger effort.

Source

Ahlquist, M. (n.d.).

FAO. (2013)

FAO. (2014).

Liu, J. D. (2005)

TheWorldBank. (2007)