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Much to be gained from reducing food losses

Much to be gained from reducing food losses

By Máximo Torero Cullen.

Few issues have generated as much public interest in recent years as food loss and waste, widely agreed to be a moral and technical failure in a world where hunger and malnutrition have yet to be eradicated.

In 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ignited public awareness of this with a report, produced with the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, that estimated one-third of the food produced globally is never eaten. That figure and the research underlying it remain widely cited today.

That was eight years ago. FAO has been working hard since to tailor pilot programmes in the field and to improve practical understanding of how to make it possible to reduce food loss and waste as pledged in Sustainable Development Goal 12.3.

We have developed the Food Loss Index, which will allow countries to measure the amount of food lost after harvest and through storage, transportation and processing but not including the retail level – where loss formally becomes waste, which is under the remit of UN Environment. Solid and comparable data are needed, both to monitor progress and to identify best practices.

This year’s State of Food and Agriculture Report (SOFA) is devoted to mapping concrete and viable ways that we can actually cut food loss and waste rather than just decry them.

We have a new number, 14%. That’s the updated estimate for global food losses. Keep in mind that available data is quite fragmented and that as its quality improves –which it must – the estimate could be revised. This number should not be compared with the 2011 assessment as we’ve sharpened our methodology to include factors such as economic value and nutrition – it turns out that micronutrient losses due to food loss and waste are disproportionately high- rather than volume.

Also, food waste is not included in the loss estimate, and we know the figure for that can be very high, due largely to poor household management skills in wealthier countries and to energy and storage inadequacies in poorer countries. Estimates for food waste range from a few percentage points to as high as one third, depending on the country.

One striking fact revealed in the SOFA 2019 report is that food losses often occur in places where hunger is more prevalent. That points to a clear urgency in tackling its causes.

That said, there is no magic formula that relates food loss and waste to hunger. Access to food and its affordability, not availability per se, is a prime cause of undernutrition. Moreover, if lower loss and waste led to lower demand, rural smallholders could face further income restraints that would worsen their dietary situation. On this note, emphasis should be given to efforts and incentives to link reduced food loss and waste with improved food quality – such as reducing aflatoxin in maize – that can raise market price premiums and farm incomes.

FAO’s close review of what we know about food loss offers a reminder that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. For example, cassava, a staple in much of the tropics, perishes much more quickly than potatoes in temperate regions do.
Practically, it is wiser to formulate public interventions aimed at reducing food loss and waste to broader objectives, particularly goals related to natural resources and climate change. Agriculture has a major footprint in terms of the world’s water and land use and in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, so anything we produce but don’t eat has a negative impact beyond our dietary needs.

As SOFA outlines – with trends organized by region and food types – where food insecurity and natural resource strains are prominent, interventions early in the food-supply chain are more effective, while trimming waste at the consumer and retail level are the best strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

While FAO’s new Food Loss Indicator is a clear tool for making member states and stakeholders accountable, it is also designed to make it easier for all countries to draw a clearer picture of their local situations and identify value-chain bottlenecks and critical loss points where action can leverage the most efficient gains. Investments – think storage and logistic facilities but also a slew of coherent and integrated incentives and knowledge inputs – will be required.

We hope the indicator will also help catalyze the production of more data. Current estimates can vary enormously and cover too few food crops and types.

FAO’s goal is to help member states achieve their pledge and improve people’s lives. It’s time for action – and in particular viable actions – on SDG12 and the target of reducing food loss and halving food waste by 2030. There’s a lot of work to do, yet also a lot of collateral benefits to harvest.

Caption: The author is Assistant Director-General, Economic and Social Development Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.


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Following reverse listing, public can now acquire shareholding in Paratus Namibia


20 February 2020, Windhoek, Namibia: Paratus Namibia Holdings (PNH) was founded as Nimbus Infrastructure Limited (“Nimbus”), Namibia’s first Capital Pool Company listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange (“NSX”).

Although targeting an initial capital raising of N$300 million, Nimbus nonetheless managed to secure funding to the value of N$98 million through its CPC listing. With a mandate to invest in ICT infrastructure in sub-Sahara Africa, it concluded management agreements with financial partner Cirrus and technology partner, Paratus Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd (“Paratus Namibia”).

Paratus Namibia Managing Director, Andrew Hall

Its first investment was placed in Paratus Namibia, a fully licensed communications operator in Namibia under regulation of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). Nimbus has since been able to increase its capital asset base to close to N$500 million over the past two years.

In order to streamline further investment and to avoid duplicating potential ICT projects in the market between Nimbus and Paratus Namibia, it was decided to consolidate the operations.

Publishing various circulars to shareholders, Nimbus took up a 100% shareholding stake in Paratus Namibia in 2019 and proceeded to apply to have its name changed to Paratus Namibia Holdings with a consolidated board structure to ensure streamlined operations between the capital holdings and the operational arm of the business.

This transaction was approved by the Competitions Commission as well as CRAN, following all the relevant regulatory approvals as well as the necessary requirements in terms of corporate governance structures.

Paratus Namibia has evolved as a fully comprehensive communications operator in Namibia and operates as the head office of the Paratus Group in Africa. Paratus has established a pan-African footprint with operations in six African countries, being: Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

The group has achieved many successes over the years of which more recently includes the building of the Trans-Kalahari Fibre (TKF) project, which connects from the West Africa Cable System (WACS) eastward through Namibia to Botswana and onward to Johannesburg. The TKF also extends northward through Zambia to connect to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which made Paratus the first operator to connect the west and east coast of Africa under one Autonomous System Number (ASN).

This means that Paratus is now “exporting” internet capacity to landlocked countries such as Zambia, Botswana, the DRC with more countries to be targeted, and through its extensive African network, Paratus is well-positioned to expand the network even further into emerging ICT territories.

PNH as a fully-listed entity on the NSX, is therefore now the 100% shareholder of Paratus Namibia thereby becoming a public company. PNH is ready to invest in the future of the ICT environment in Namibia. The public is therefore invited and welcome to acquire shares in Paratus Namibia Holdings by speaking to a local stockbroker registered with the NSX. The future is bright, and the opportunities are endless.