According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted. This is equivalent to the same amount of food produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, one in every seven people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of five die daily from hunger.  Hence the theme for this year’s World Environment Day celebrations is Think.Eat.Save, an anti-food waste and food loss campaign to encourage us all to reduce our foodprint.

The enormous imbalance in lifestyles and the resultant devastating effects on the environment gave rise to Think.Eat.Save which further aims to inspire more awareness of the environmental impact of the food choices we make and empower more informed decisions.

“Making informed decisions include purposefully selecting foods that have less of an environmental impact, such as organic foods that do not use chemicals in their production process, or choosing to buy locally so that foods are not transported long distances, resulting in less carbon emissions, or lower food miles,” says Founder of Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA), Jeunesse Park.

FTFA teaches schools and communities to grow their own nutritious, organic food using sustainable and environmentally conscious practices, through their EduPlant, Food Gardens for Africa and the Farmer Eco-Enterprise Development (FEED) Africa programmes. In all FTFAs work emphasis is placed on the Permaculture principle “produce no waste”, which looks at valuing and making use of available resources , so nothing goes to waste. This pertains to all waste, not just food waste.

The impact of food waste is not just financial. Environmentally, food waste leads to wasteful use of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, more fuel used for transportation and more rotting food, creating more methane – one of the most harmful greenhouse gases exacerbating climate change. Methane is 23 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas and the vast amount of food going into landfills thus impacts climate change.

FTFA teaches communities to reuse this waste to produce compost and to feed earthworms, which are one of the most effective recyclers of organic materials. They consume plant and animal ‘waste’ into valuable plant food. Through their effective school greening and food gardening EduPlant programme, currently funded by Engen and the Woolworths Trust, FTFA will host workshops for clusters of schools.” Educators, learners and community members will learn how to improve their soil,” says FTFA Ecopreneur Daniel Chitungo. “Healthy soil equals healthy plants, healthy people and a healthier planet.”

Another World Environment Day event in June 2013 will take place at the Sustainable Organic Farm in the Rethabiseng village in Bronkhorstspruit, that won the “Farmer of the Year – 2012” award for the category “Formal Markets” in Gauteng.

This extraordinary farm was established with funding support from AfriSam SA, one of SA’s largest Cement producers, who are concerned about their carbon footprint and giving back to communities. It currently produces four hectares of organic vegetables for formal markets using sophisticated growing methodologies such as, tunnel farming, open field drip irrigation as well as sustainable recycling and earth-worm composting. FTFA is training, mentoring and providing sustainable employment for 35 new organic farmers from the Rethabiseng community and the World Environment Day event here will showcase how healthy produce can be farmed with minimal waste and environmental impact.