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Achieving Zero Emissions by Reducing Food Loss and Waste

Often, carbon emissions resulting from agricultural productions occur during farming and food processing. Commercial scale farming often requires the clearing of chunks of forests and vegetation to accommodate the cash crop. Likewise, reports show that overstocking of livestock has significantly reduced vegetation cover in rural Africa and consequently increasing the quantities of carbon dioxide in the air. At the same time, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) estimated that 14% of physical quantity of food is lost during post-harvest, up to (but not including) the retail level. This renders a third or 30% of the world’s food lost or wasted each year.

With the world’s population increasing and climate change a continued reality, there is need for more efficient and transformative food production systems to feed the growing population and reduce carbon emissions. How does this work and how can it be achieved?

Proven methods of transformative agriculture have risen overtime. Many farmers particularly in Europe and North America have adopted to different technological and logical forms of farming to reduce carbon emissions and food loss and waste during farm production. 

Food waste is the decrease in quantity or quality of food along the food supply chain and it occurs at the retail and consumption levels (FAO), and reducing food loss and waste is one approach that can offset the amount of carbon released into the air during agricultural production. Food loss occurs along the food supply chain from harvest, not including the retail level.

Reducing food waste means making every product and by-product useful during agricultural input and harvest. For example, oats can be harvested for both human whole meals and added to animal feeds as a cereal ingredient thus reducing the amount of forage needed for livestock within an intergraded farm. When a farmer reduces food loss during on-farm production, it is likely that it will lead to increased supply and low prices along the food chain and consequently increase food security and reduce malnutrition through affordability.

SDG Target 12.3 seeks to half global food waste at retail and consumer levels, as well as to reduce food loss during production and supply. This is explained in a wide range of targets and indicators aiming to reduce the amount of carbon emitted within the agricultural production industry. 

Recently and in order to measure food waste and losses, two indices have been proposed: A Food Waste Index (FWI) being developed by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and a Food Loss Index (FLI) developed by FAO. These directories will tremendously set standards of measuring tons of wasted food per capita, considering other dimensions from food production, processing through to consumption level. Thus, the data will allow for a better measure of progress towards achieving the SDG 12, “Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns” and encourage sustainable food production by the UN members states through policy formulations and amendments.

Jacob Tukai

At Emerging, Jacob works as a Project Coordinator. Prior to joining the team, Jacob explored ecosystem financial values that natural ecologies and biodiversity hold and provided administrative and financial support for The Wildlife Foundation (TWF) in Kenya. In this capacity, Jacob worked on projects that resolve human wildlife conflicts and initiated sustainable land use planning in collaboration with pastoral communities living within and around wildlife dispersal areas in Kenya.  He supported the growth of several sustainable social enterprise models thus ensuring peaceful coexistence between humans and wildlife, hence safeguarding a balanced ecosystem. Jacob is credited with the successful inception of The Wildlife Foundation Centre field conservation education camp program, an initiative that brings local and international students for summer camps in Kenya. 

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