Commemorating World Environment Day

05 Jun 2013

image Makoni farmers exhibit their products on World Environment Day, 5 June 2013/Photo UNDP

With a simple message on the ‘return to basics’ of food consumption—and conservation-echoing throughout the event, nearly 40 institutions and groups took part in the World Environment Day commemoration held in the country’s capital, Harare on June 5, 2013.

Comprising government, UN, private sector, academic and NGO representatives, the meeting was a culmination of the ‘Environment week’ celebrated under the theme Think. Eat. Save. Reduce your Foodprint.

“Why do you keep your television sets running in the bedrooms, dining rooms and guest wings when it is clear that you cannot watch them all at once?” posed the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources Management. Mr. Francis Nhema. “Let us remember those little things that we do that have an impact on energy and the environment.”

The minister said that in Zimbabwe, 150 tonnes of domestic waste is generated annually with food waste accounting for 70 per cent of this figure. “It is indeed sad to note that while a lot of people in Zimbabwe do not have adequate food, the bulk of waste on our dumpsites is organic,” said the minister.

“Our economy cannot afford to continue with this wastage,” underlined Mr.Nhema, whose ministry organized the event through the Environmental Management Agency (EMA).

Setting the tone of the event, UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Alain Noudehou called for a change in behaviour in the way individuals relate to food items. “Simple steps such as smart shopping, understanding expiration dates and requesting for only the portion that you are able to consume at restaurants could go a long way in minimizing your foodprint,” he said.

The RC observed that at least a third of everything we grow on this planet is lost between the field and the consumer. “It is an ethical, economic and environmental issue given the enormous waste of energy, water, fertilisers and other inputs as a result of food that is produced but never eaten.”

Quoting from the message of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the UN Resident Coordinator said: “By reducing food waste, we can save money and resources minimize environmental impacts and most importantly, move towards a world where everyone has enough to eat.”

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted in the food production and consumption systems. This is equivalent to the same amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger (FAO). 

In Zimbabwe, the commemoration included a “green bag” discussion on the World Environment Day organized by UNDP on 4 June as well as an exhibition at the home of the UN in Arundel Business Park, showcasing best practices in waste management, organic farming and traditional foods. This was undertaken by representatives of community-based organizations. In addition, EMA organized a similar event at the Africa Unity Square on 5 June, 2013.