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Over 820 million people worldwide are hungry- FAO

A recently released report by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO says over 820 million people across the world are going hungry. It says, for decades, the world was making progress in the fight against hunger.

Now, the number of undernourished people is on the rise again. Unhealthy diets have now become a leading risk factor for disease and death worldwide. There is an urgent need to make healthy and sustainable diets affordable and accessible to everyone, the report said. It designated that 149 million children under five are stunted, while over 49 million are affected by wasting. Furthermore, the report specified that 670 plus million adults and 120 plus million children are obese, adding that 40 million children under five are overweight.

Unhealthy diets, combined with sedentary lifestyles, are the number one risk factor for disability and death from non-communicable diseases. It alleged different forms of malnutrition can co-exist within the same household and even the same individual during their lifetime and can be passed from one generation to the next. The report said people who experience moderate levels of food insecurity or worse, including those who do not have regular access to enough nutritious food, are at a greater risk of various forms of malnutrition.

It says malnutrition affects one in three people and van take the forms of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, stunting, wasting, and overweight and obesity. An unhealthy diet is the leading risk factor for deaths from non-communicable diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. The report indicated that health problems linked to obesity are costing national health budgets up to 2 trillion US Dollars per year.

Why is this happening? According to the report, in the recent decades, people have dramatically changed their diets and eating patterns as a result of globalization, urbanization and income growth. They have moved from seasonal, mainly plat-based and fibre-rich dishes to high calorie diets, which are high in refined starches, sugar, and fats, salt, processed foods, are often marked by excessive consumption of meat.

People spend less time preparing meals at home, and consumers, especially in urban areas, increasingly rely on supermarkets, fast food outlets, street food vendors and tae-away restaurants. In much of the world, the report stressed that guaranteeing availability and access to healthy diets remains an enormous challenge. This can be true of people with limited financial resources, including smallholder agricultural producers and families in crisis situations caused by conflict, natural disasters and the impact of climate change. Some people, due to where they live, do not even have the option to purchase fresh and nutritious food.

It however highlighted that the way of producing, supplying and consuming food has to change. From the farm to the plate, it said food systems currently favour production of high-yielding staple crops. In addition to the impact of diets, intensified food production, combined with climate change, is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity. Today, only nine plant species account for 66 per cent of total crop production despite the fact that, throughout history, more than 6 thousand species have been cultivated for food. The world currently rely on only three crops, wheat, maize and rice, to provide nearly 50 per cent of the global dietary energy supply. A diverse variety of foods is crucial for providing healthy diets and safeguarding the environment, the report said

There are many ways in which governments can help to reduce hunger, improve nutrition and transform food system by addressing the root causes of malnutrition in all its forms, the report indicated. Government should increase the availability and affordability of diverse and nutritious foods for healthy diets by setting, enforcing and regularly updating national dietary guidelines and nutrition standards.

Design and implement nutrition-sensitive policies and programmes in line with national guidelines, as well as strengthening legal frameworks and strategic capacities to support this. It noted that work across sectors to improve food and agricultural policies, including those which support school food and nutrition programmes, food assistance to vulnerable families and individuals, public food procurement standards and regulations on food marketing, labelling and advertising.

Governments should enable consumers to make healthier food choices through mass-media, public awareness campaigns, nutrition-education programmes, community interventions and nutrition labelling. The report underlined that there is need to support solutions rooted in food production to reduce malnutrition, increase dietary diversity and improve nutrition for a healthier and sustainable future.

 Meanwhile, globally, around 14% of food produced is lost from the post-harvest stage. Reducing food loss and waste is widely seen as an important way to reduce production costs and increase the efficiency of the food system, improve food security and nutrition, and contribute towards environmental sustainability. Growing attention to food loss and waste is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals SDGs. SDG target 12.3 calls for halving per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reducing food loss along production and supply chains by 2030.

Reducing food loss and waste also has the potential to contribute to other SDGs, including zero hunger goals, which call for an end of hunger, the achievement of food security and improved nutrition, and the promotion of sustainable agriculture. The expected positive environmental impacts from reducing food loss and waste would also affect, among other things sustainable water management, climate change, marine resources, terrestrial ecosystems, forestry, biodiversity and many other SDGs.

While the reduction of food loss and waste appears as a clear and desirable objective, actual implementation is not simple and its complete elimination not be realistic. This report acknowledges the need to reduce food loss and waste, presents new insights on what is known and what is not, and provides guidance on how to target interventions and policies depending on policymaker’s objectives and the information available.

Deciding on concrete actions, interventions or policies to reduce food loss and waste requires answers to a number of questions: In which locations and stages of the supply chain is food lost or wasted and to what extent? Why does food loss and waste occur? How can it be reduced? What are the costs involved? And, ultimately, who benefits from reducing food loss and waste, and who loses?

Responding to all these questions will require access to proper information. When considering actions and policy options, the report argues that food loss and waste reduction should be seen as a way to achieve other objectives; notably improved efficiency in the food system, improved food security and nutrition, and improved environmental sustainability. How policymakers prioritize these different dimensions, and the information available on how food loss and waste affects them, will shape the most appropriate mix of interventions and policies to reduce food loss and waste.

According to the report, the notion of food being lost and wasted is deceptively simple, but in practice there is no commonly agreed definition of food loss and waste. The various definitions often reflect the different problems that stakeholders or analysts focus on or associate with food loss and waste. Consequently, analysis of food loss and waste is hampered by this lack of definition. FAO has worked towards the harmonization of concepts related to food loss and waste, and the definitions adopted in this report are the results of consensus reached in consultations with experts in this field.

To gain further insight into location and extent of food loss and waste, FAO has also conducted a meta-analysis of existing studies that measure food loss and waste in countries all over the world. It illustrates how food loss and waste various across stages in the food supply chain, as well as between regions and commodity groups. The meta-analysis finds a wide range of values for percentage losses at each stage in the food supply chain.

This highlights the need to measure losses carefully for specific value chains to identify concretely where significant losses occur, so as to better understand where to intervene. Generally, levels of loss are higher for fruits and vegetables than for cereals and pulses. However, even for the latter, significant levels are found in sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, while they are limited in Central and Southern Asia. Studies on waste at the consumer stage are confined to high-income countries; they indicate that waste levels are high for all types of food, but particularly for highly perishable foods such as animal products and fruits and vegetables. 

Cause of food loss and waste differ widely along the food supply chain, according to the report. Important causes of on-farm losses include inadequate harvesting time, climatic conditions, practices applied at harvest and handling, and challenges in marketing produce. Significant losses are caused by inadequate storage conditions as well as decisions made at earlier stages of the supply chain, which predispose products to a shorter shelf life. Adequate cold storage, in particular, can be crucial to prevent quantitative and qualitative food losses.

During transportation, good physical infrastructure and efficient trade logistics are of key importance to prevent food losses. The report indicated that processing and packaging can play a role in preserving foods, but losses can be caused by inadequate facilities as well as technical malfunction or human error. According to the FAO report, the causes of food waste at the retail level are linked to the limited shelf life, the need for food products to meet aesthetic standards in terms of colour, shape and size, and variability in demand. Consumer waste is often caused by poor purchase and meal planning, excuse buying, confusion over labels and poor –n-home storing.

The report stressed that the broader case for reducing food loss and waste looks beyond the business case to include gains that society can reap but which individual actors may not take into account. It noted that there are three main types of societal gains which justify interventions to reduce food loss and waste beyond the pure business cases, namely; increased productivity and economic growth, improved food security and nutrition as well as mitigation of environmental impacts and wasting food, in particular in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as lowering pressure on land and water resources.

The last two societal gains, the report said are typically seen as externalities of reducing food loss and waste. It underlined that each of the three societal gains being pursued has specific characteristics that can provide insights on the most appropriate types of interventions. Further, the report highlighted that food loss and waste has the potential effects on food security and nutrition through changes in the four dimensions of food security: food availability, access, utilization and stability.

However, the links between food loss and waste reduction and food security are complex, and positive outcomes are not always certain. Reaching acceptable levels of food security and nutrition inevitably implies certain levels of food loss and waste. The report communicated that maintaining buffers to ensure food stability requires a certain amount of food to be lost or wasted. At the same time, ensuring food safety involves discarding unsafe food, which then gets counted as lost or wasted, while higher-quality diets tend to include more highly perishable foods.

It also conveyed that the impact of a reduction in food loss and waste will go beyond the immediate location of the reduction as the effects ripple through the supply chain- leading to lower prices- and more broadly through the economy. However, the exact impact will depend on how closely markets are integrated and how effectively price changes are transmitted. A key factor, according to the report is distance or proximity to the location of the reduction.

Reducing on-farm losses on small farms in lower-income countries may have a strong local food security impact. On the other hand, reducing food waste among consumers in high-income countries is unlikely to have the positive food security effects generally expected. The increased availability of food locally in these settings does not mean that these surpluses are available for poor and food-insecure people in a distant country with high levels of food insecurity.

The prevalence of food security, according to the report, can be relevant for determining food loss and waste reduction strategies for a given country’s food security challenges. In lower-income countries, where food security is often severe, increasing access to food is critical, and access itself is likely to be closely associated with availability. Preventing food losses at the local level in smallholder production can both alleviate food shortages and increase farmer’s incomes, thus improving access. It was said that if reductions in losses are large enough to affect prices beyond the local area, the urban food insecure could also benefit.

At the other extreme, in high-income countries, the problem of access is relevant for a much smaller share of the population; for many, the priority is nutrition and quality of diet. A broad campaign to reduce food waste is unlikely to benefit the small proportion of people facing food insecurity in high-income countries. For these countries, more targeted interventions, such as food redistribution, can contribute to access to food; however, eliminating remaining levels of food insecurity will also have to rely on a broader set of social policies.

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The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Central Committee (CC) meeting, chaired by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi late last month, resolved that the party’s next Secretary-General (SG) should be a full-time employee based at Tsholetsa House and not active in politics.

The resolution by the CC, which Masisi proposed, is viewed as a ploy to deflate the incumbent, Mpho Balopi’s political ambitions and send him into political obscurity. The two have not been on good terms since the 2019 elections, and the fallout has been widening despite attempts to reconcile them. In essence, the BDP says that Balopi, who is currently a Member of Parliament, Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, and a businessman, is overwhelmed by the role.

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Moitoi’s application follows the Secretary-General’s launch of the third edition of the Global Call for Heads and Deputy Heads of United Nations Field Missions, which aims to expand the pool of candidates for the positions of SRSG) and their deputies to advance gender parity and geographical diversity at the most senior leadership level in the field. These mission leadership positions are graded at the Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General levels.

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