One of the first lessons we learned as kids was not to throw away food. Our family comes from a humble place. Our childhood includes stories of immigration, poverty and discrimination. Our parents’ restaurant was a lesson in generosity, hospitality and solidarity. Our mom discreetly took any leftover stews and dishes through the back door and gave them to neighbours who could not afford the menu.
Today, we continue to maintain these values, and build on them by focusing on sustainability. By reducing food waste, we can advance critical conservation efforts and help fight for food security worldwide.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that one-third of the world's food production (1,300 tonnes) is lost or wasted. In developed countries, food wasted by households, distribution industries and the catering sector releases large amounts of greenhouse gases. Pests, defective storage structures and inefficient supply chains also contribute to food loss.
This reality is especially painful given that nearly 800 million people are hungry. It also comes with a loss of labour, water, energy, land and other inputs used in food production. If we could save just a quarter of the food that is currently lost or wasted around the world, we could feed all people suffering from food insecurity.
As part of our commitment as UN Goodwill Ambassadors, we have been involved in the "Food Africa" project of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG Fund). This initiative is trying to improve the lives of the people of Kaduna, an agricultural region in northwest Nigeria. In Kaduna, the production of tomatoes and vegetables is vital to feed the population, as well as to generate employment and income. Unfortunately, the lack of adequate storage facilities and limited access to markets translate into losses of 70 percent of the crops each year.
Along with a number of UN agencies (FAO, ILO and ITC), the regional government, local entrepreneurs and farmers’ cooperatives, we are working to introduce sustainable practices when growing tomatoes, and to reduce crop losses and boost smallholder farmers’ profits. The programme will build an agro-processing facility that will help with these efforts and provide training on food security, new business planning and produce diversification.