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Kenyan celebrities campaign against food waste

05 June 2013, 19:11 Christine Lagat and Peter Mutai

Nairobi - Prominent Kenyan women drawn from the world of entertainment, politics, business and civil society pledged on Wednesday to spearhead the campaign against food waste in the country.

Led by the UNEP National goodwill ambassador, Suzanna Owiyo, the female celebrities vowed to use their star power to raise awareness on the challenge of food waste at the national level.

"Food waste is slowly becoming a national crises and urgent interventions are needed to tackle this challenge that threatens health of humans and ecosystems while undermining our progress," Owiyo said during the World Environment Day Cerebrations in Nairobi.

Owiyo was among dozens of female celebrities, who turned up at Wakulima Market in down town Nairobi to raise awareness on the importance of proper food storage and handling to minimize waste.

Owiyo has enlisted a host of Kenyan female artists, politicians and grassroots leaders to spearhead a national campaign against food waste dubbed Soko Bila Waste "Everything Counts".

Kenya joined the international community to cerebrate the World Environment Day whose theme was Think.Eat.Save.Reduce Your Foodprint.

About one-third of all food produced globally, worth around 1 trillion U.S. dollars, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems, according to data released by FAO recently.

Food loss occurs mostly at the production stages – harvesting, processing and distribution, while food waste typically takes place at the retailer and consumer end of the food-supply chain.

"This unconsumed food, much of which can be cut out through simple measures, wastes both the energy put into growing it and the fuel spent on transporting produce across vast distances," according to the UNEP.

The UN agency has teamed up with FAO to launch the Think.Eat. Save. Reduce Your Foodprint campaign in support of the SAVE FOOD Initiative to reduce food loss and waste along the entire chain of food production and consumption.

The UNEP said hundreds of thousands of people are gearing up across the globe to take part in WED which is the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action.

Kenya is currently grappling with a growing challenge of food waste due to rapid urbanization and changing lifestyles, poor storage and distorted markets that lead to glut.

Influential Kenyan women regretted that food waste has ballooned across the entire value chain from the farms, storage, retail and consumer level.

"We cannot ignore the challenge of food waste more so when tones of fresh produce and grains are rotting in the farms due to poor storage facilities. Even when vegetables and cereals reach the market, the challenge worsens because vendors lack modern storage infrastructure," said Owiyo.

The Kenyan musician added that participation of women is critical to reduce the magnitude of food waste in Kenya.

"Kenyan rural women contribute 70 percent of food production. Likewise; it is women who interact with food most of the time. They handle staples in the market and buys them all the time to feed their families," Owiyo said.

Owiyo, through her Soko Bila Waste campaign, had invited women personalities to Marikiti Market for a vending and clean-up exercise that backs the goals of the campaign.

These prominent women traded places with female vendors to show their appreciation for the role of the stall holders in ensuring that farm produce reaches consumers.

During the clean up exercise, Owiyo urged policymakers to recognize the role of women in reducing food waste at all value chains.

Modernizing storage facilities alongside equipping women with handling skills will help reduce food waste in Kenya.

Experts and female opinion shapers who spoke to Xinhua in Nairobi stressed the need for the government to integrate women in national programs to curb food waste.

"There is no denying that Kenyan women feed not only their immediate families but the entire society," said a leading Afro- fusion artist, Achieng Abura.

"It is crucial therefore to empower women with skills that boost their capacity to handle staples in the farms, kitchens and the markets."

The UNEP said significant amounts of the powerful greenhouse gas methane emanate from food decomposing on landfills, while livestock and forests cleared for food production contribute to global warming.

The Think, Eat, Save, Reduce Your Foodprint campaign was launched in Geneva on Jan. 22 and make fresh appeal to consumers and retailers to embrace innovative measures that could dramatically reduce food waste at all levels.

According to FAO, one third of all food produced globally and worth 1 trillion dollars is lost or wasted in the production and consumption systems.

The UN agency said that food loss occurs at the production stages including harvesting, processing and distribution, while food waste is pronounced at the retailer and consumer end of the supply chain.

- Xinhua

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