Dignitaries feast on ‘rejected’ Kenyan food

Delegates attending the Governing Council of Unep sample green salad grown by Kenyan farmers but rejected by UK supermarkets due to cosmetic imperfections, at the UN agency headquarters in Nairobi on February 19, 2013. PHOTO | AFP 

Cutting food waste went a notch higher Tuesday evening as world ministers at the ongoing Universal Session of the UNEP Governing Council and Global Ministerial Forum (GC-GMF) in Nairobi were treated to a feast of Kenyan foodstuff rejected by UK supermarkets.

The food served was from Kenyan farmers rejected by UK supermarkets due to cosmetic imperfections.

Farmers have been silently complaining about stringent standards imposed by such markets over appearance or orders being changed after vegetables were harvested.

Experts say that about 40 tonnes of food was lost in Kenya per week. The figure could be unacceptably high in other African countries.

Unep believes that much as the UK supermarkets were on the spot in Kenya, similar practices were happening in many parts of the developed, and increasingly in parts of the developing world.

One farmer who spoke to the Africa Review on condition of anonymity for fear of losing market in Nairobi, pointed out that a local supermarket once rejected his French beans because they were ‘too fat’.

Therefore, the dinner was an attempt by conservationists to highlight the problem of food losses, through waste which is increasingly becoming a major concern in Africa and beyond. 

This zero-waste reception was organised in support of Think Eat Save Reduce Your Foodprint – an initiative launched in January by Unep, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and partners such as Feeding the 5,000 and Messe Dusseldorf to reduce food loss and waste along the entire chain of production.

Hungry people

Speaking to the Africa Review in Nairobi, Mr Tristram Stuart, the food waste author and founder of Feeding the 5000, stated that he visited producers across Kenya to get around 1,600kg of unwanted fruit and vegetables for the meal and for donation to local charities.

“The waste of perfectly edible ‘ugly’ vegetables is endemic in our food production systems and symbolises our negligence,” he said.

Mr Staurt also urged consumers and food retailers to cut the 1.3 billion tonnes of food lost or wasted each year – which aside from the cost implications and environmental impacts, increased pressure on the already straining global food system – and helped shape a sustainable future.

“It’s a scandal that so much food is wasted in a country with millions of hungry people; we found one grower supplying a UK supermarket who is forced to waste up to 40 tonnes of vegetables every week, which is 40 per cent of what he grows,” he pointed out.

It is estimated that 1.3 billion tones of food were either lost or wasted annually against the backdrop of sordid tales of hunger in Africa and beyond with FAO recent report pegging the number of chronically undernourished people at 870 million.

Another data released by FAO estimates that at least one-third of all food produced, worth around $1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems globally.

According to Unep, 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.

Email: ajotieno@ke.nationmedia.com / Twitter: JanetOtieno

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