World Food Day 2021: Global leaders identify challenges and solution for food wastage

By Abimbola Mohammed

As the world celebrates World Food Day, global participants have noted that the challenges of global hunger, climate crisis and COVID-19 pandemic remain formidable. There is also a new momentum and energy behind efforts to transform Agri-food systems, making them more fit for purpose.

This year’s event with the theme, “Our actions are our future- Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life”, marks the second time countries around the world are dealing with the effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic, while coming together to celebrate the World Food Day.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Food Day is one of the most celebrated days of the UN calendar and the essence of the day is to promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer hunger and for the need to ensure healthy diets for all.

Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, QU Dongyu, noted that this year’s World Food Day finds the world at a critical moment, despite difficulties caused by the pandemic.

His words: “In the past year, we have also witnessed the resilience and strength within each of us. In particular, we paid tribute to all our Food Heroes around the world who continued to work against all the odds to ensure we had food to eat.”

Dongyu said even before COVID-19, hundreds of millions of people worldwide were afflicted by hunger and that number has increased in the last year to 811 million. That’s despite the world producing sufficient food to feed everyone. He also noted that 14 percent of food is lost, and 17 percent is wasted.

Speaking on the momentous challenges humanity faces on food wastage, Pope Francis noted that more than three billion people do not have access to good food. “We are currently witnessing a real paradox in terms of access to food: on the one hand, more than three billion people do not have access to a nutritious diet, while on the other hand, almost two billion are overweight or obese due to a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.”

Italy President, Sergio Mattarella in his messages to the World Food Day event said: “The state of global food security has significantly worsened. The international community needs to make sure we follow through properly on the recommendations of the recent Food Systems Summit, making use of the natural synergies of the UN system and the competencies of the Rome-based UN agencies.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in his address: “The way we produce, consume and waste food is taking a heavy toll on our planet. It is putting historic pressure on our natural resources, climate and natural environment and costing us trillions of dollars a year. But the power to change is in our hands.”

In the same vein, Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said there is need for partnership to encourage small-scale farmers. “To build more fair and equitable food systems, we need to listen to the voices of small scale producers and rural communities. We need broad-based partnerships that ensure small-scale farmers are fairly rewarded for their labour. Major priorities are pricing systems that reflect the full and true cost of production, and deploying more finance to neglected and vulnerable rural communities.”

David Beasley, World Food Programme Executive Director said: “We’re facing unprecedented challenges to global food security right now. We’ll only succeed in ending hunger if we ensure our global food systems are fit for the twenty-first century. That’s why, at WFP, we’re working to strengthen food systems so they support healthy diets for everyone, especially the most vulnerable communities.”

Speaking further on the challenges of food wastage in Nigeria, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Mohammed Abubakar, during a media briefing as part of activities to mark the 2021 World Food Day at the Ministry’s headquarters in Abuja said to identify waste and insecurity as the challenges we face in Nigeria presently.

Hear him: “One of our greatest threats to food security in Nigeria is food wastage from farm to table. To address this menace we have launched the ‘Zero Reject’ programme aimed at improving the quality of our domestic production to both local and international markets standard. Zero Reject production would guarantee the nation an increased supply of food to the people and revenue from export activities.”

“Government will always protect the harvest of farmers because that is the way to help them continue to produce and make the country food-sufficient.”

The minister mentioned that research and development will be a paramount issue that his administration will focus on to boost the sector. “We are engaged in research and development and even more in terms of intra and inter-national and international levels, even here we have been engaging with them, and we intend to push that to a higher level because there are various crops and seeds we can improve on to increase yields.”

“So definitely, that is a big priority in achieving that, and this goes in line with mechanization to achieve food security.”

However, the Minister was optimistic that with the National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP, there will be an adequate supply of quality meat for domestic consumption and for export.

“It is our hope that the National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP, would address all the problems associated with our livestock production activities and guarantee adequate supply of quality meat for domestic consumption and export for foreign exchange earnings.”

World Food Day is celebrated on 16 October every year to commemorate FAO’s founding on that day in 1945. Collective action across 150 countries is what makes World Food Day one of the most celebrated days of the UN calendar. Hundreds of events and outreach activities bring together governments, businesses, NGOs, the media, and the general public. They promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure healthy diets for all.


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