Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wasting Away

A survey around Kampala's urban markets, retialers and restaurants unveiled the stack reality that while food prices are soaring and many people are dropping dead or are going to bed hungry every night, unimaginable huge quantities of food are thrown away.

Food wastage is not unique to Uganda. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says one-third of all food produced worldwide for human consumption is lost or wasted, amounting to some 1.3 billion tonnes per year. In Italy alone, one of the countries with the highest levels of wastage, food worth $53 million is thrown away every year. This would translate into 753 million meals enough to feed the entire East Africa for two years.

Kalerwe is Kampala's largest food market. Located three kilometers north of the city, the place is where many urbanites both rich and poor gather to buy affordable food items. Many city dwellers from the adjoining slums walk up to two kilometers to buy cheap and yet quality food. Even residents from upscale Kololo, Ntinda and Nakasero drive to this market mostly on weekends to buy food. Yet despite the huge turnout of shoppers, some food remains and is either sold cheaply or thrown onto garbage skips.

"Carrots, potatoes and cassava have a short shelf life and so we increase the quantities sold to attract customers" Mr Simon Mukasa who operates a stall at Kalerwe. "If you fail to sell cassava by evening then you can only throw it onto garbage skips." Yet cassava is one food item that easily be dried and processed into flour.

East African Business Week witnessed a lady throwing away tomatoes she said were rotten. "Nobody can buy these," she lamented as the reject joined a pile of ripe bananas, cabbages and stale cassava. In the city, many households especially in the slums keep some cattle and goats and one would think they would struggle to get grass and other feed supplements.
Ironically in the urban townships, many cattle farmers in the neighbouring Wakiso District that surrounds Kmapala city buy a sack of banana peelings at UGshs 3000 ($1.2). This is so because there are many cattle in the villages competing for feeds while in the city, they are just thrown away on skips.

It is estimated that about 80% of restaurants in Kampala throw away at least five kgs of food everyday. "It is easier to just throw it food away in the dustbin than to store it" said Miss Jackie Achieng who runs Palms Restaurant in Nankulabye, 3 km north west of Kampala city. She admitted that she throws away food almost every day.

The problem of postharvest losses is very crucial especially in rural areas. This is due to lack of proper storage facilities and better processing methods to prolong the shelf value. Until serious efforts are made to ensure that global food production is matched with adequate storage, transportation and processing, this life-giving resource will continue to be wasted. Amid such situation it is inevitable to conclude that worldwide hunger is simply a figurative creation rather than a reality. What is at stake is the failure to manage and equitably distribute our food resources.

In the words of Shakespeare: "Distribution should undo excess and each man have enough."

from here

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