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Reducing Food Wastage through Youth Participation and Dialogue by Tina Armstrong-Ogbonna

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HEDAThe United Nations Environment Programme UNEP, states that a million tonnes of food worth an estimated one trillion dollars from annual global food production is lost due to food wastage. This problem is more acute in Nigeria and other less-developed countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America, where average food production does not meet required quantity and quality.

It is against this backdrop that the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) organized a meeting of entrepreneurial youths and Agriculture stakeholders in Lagos to discuss the issues of food wastage, deliberate on possible solutions to these problems and the opportunities inherent in them.

Speaking at the occassion, the Assistant Director of the Lagos State Ministry of Rural Development Mr.Shakiru Onilude, said that the Lagos State Government was well aware of the immense economic and social benefits of investing in Agriculture,which was what led to the creation of the Ministry. Despite the banner of Lagos being a Mega-city he said, the state government realized that its rural environments were an integral part of the system and Agriculture was a viable tool for its rapid development both for the environment and its inhabitants.

Mr. Onilude said the Ministry wasn’t aware that such amounts of wastage was occuring and was appalled at the statistics on global food wastage that was shared at the event. He applauded HEDA Resource Centre for inviting the Ministry and promised to work with HEDA Resource Centre on its Development Project.

During the course of the programme, the participants were involved in dialogue-groups to discuss and share ideas on the issue of food wastage. Some of the issues raised during the discussions included;

1. Inefficiency and lack of technical know-how of the Man-power employed on farmsresulting in wastage of planting seeds.

2. Poor transportation system for getting food products to the markets resulting in rotting or rotten foods.

3. Middlemen aiming to make profit by hoarding food products and causing artificial scarcity and inflation, discouraging food buyer and resulting in more rotting or rotten foods.

4. Consumers’ care-free attitudes resulting in food wastage as seen at parties.

According to Mr. Afioluwa, an Agricultural Expert, the job opportunities inherent in the agricultural sector are numerous especially for Entreprenuers. He pointed out that a transportation business focused on the distribution of farm produce was a lucrative idea, as people will always eat have food to eat thereby ensuring food security. He suggested that professional writers could tap into the Agricultural sector by publishing for sale vital information gotten from the wealth of experience of local and international farmers. He expressed hopes that the media would play its part in the advocacy for reduction in food wastage and youth participation in Agriculture.

In an interview the Executive Secretary of HEDA Resource Centre, Mr. Suleiman Arigbabu, explained that the programme was initiated as a platform where young people, policy makers, experts as well as captains of industry can meet to share information and ideas that influence and promote good governance. Also exploring the use of social media and the participation of well reputed youth icons from the media, entertainment, sports, government and business sectors to increase reach and participation. He said HEDA had a #HungerPalava campaign, that is a monthly social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook that seeks to broaden the space for social dialogue through social media platform as example of such efforts.

The event with the theme “The Youth and Policy Dialogue Series” had in attendance, the Lagos State Ministry of Rural Development, Youth Voices for Food Security (YVFFS), Oxfam GB, youth farmers (Agriprenuers) from International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Ibadan, Agricultural experts and Journalists.

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