The lost third: A window of opportunity?
Approximately 1/3 of the food produced globally is wasted- that is it either never makes it to the food supply or it is thrown out rather than consumed. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), this amount is the equivalent of 2.8 trillion pounds a year, or enough to put food in 3 Billion mouths. Ironically the percent of food wasted is the same percent of deaths in children under age 5 associated with undernutrition. While the under age mortality rate has been on the decline thanks to unified global efforts like the Millennial Development Goals initiative, as many as 5.9 Million children under age 5 are still dying every year. Sadly, most of these children die from lack of access to preventable health services and adequate nutrition. That's right, about 16,000 kids are dying every day- 30-45% of them for lack of access to food .
What if there was a way to address both of these issues with the same solution?
Well it turns out there are actually numerous proven solutions. Governments in less developed countries could of course go a long way in minimizing both problems by substantial investments in infrastructure such as roads, electricity and water. While we are waiting for this to happen, smaller scale solutions to post harvest losses such as improved grain storage and low cost food processing techniques can be implemented. Many of these solutions are in use now throughout the world yet are still underutilized in the poorest communities. Simple solutions such as the the triple bag technique depicted below could easily be taught and implemented in both large and small scale farming projects.
When farmers implement improved grain storage practices like that seen above, they are often able to double their income by selling when commodity prices are high rather than during the immediate post harvest period when market prices are at their lowest. Raising household income results in greater opportunity and well being for families. PHI is looking for ways to introduce solutions like these where they are needed most. Want to learn more on this fascinating topic? You can start here or here.