2030 Development Agenda: Reducing Food Loss and Waste for SDG2

  • 2017/07/20     Dresden, Germany

    Image: DavorLovincic/istockphoto

    Image: DavorLovincic/istockphoto

    Reporting by Camille Le Ho, Intern, Communications & Advocacy Unit

    Today, the human population consumes and uses up natural resources at a rate exceeding the planet’s carrying capacity. One of the unsustainable patterns is the issue of food losses and waste (FLW). One-third of all food produced for human consumption is either lost or wasted, amounting to a total of 1.3 billion tonnes per year.

    Sustainable Development Goal 2 at the UN High-Level Political Forum

    At the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), which comes to a close in New York today, top officials gathered to track the progress of specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This year, under the theme of Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world, the Forum focuses on six out of the 17 goals, one of which is SDG 2 (End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture).

    Within the context of growing food demand, reducing food loss and waste can be a solution.  By putting a stop to discarding food fit for human consumption, or by improving the technologies and infrastructures in the food supply chain, food availability is expected to increase, thereby eradicating hunger in many forms.

    “By 2030 ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters, and that progressively improve land and soil quality.”

    – SDG 2, Target 2.4

    Addressing the audience at the HLPF, UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted that climate change is one of the main stressors on the world, eventually having an impact on other global megatrends such as food insecurity and water scarcity.

    Food Loss and Waste Reduction Necessary for the Environment


    In a newly launched publication, which is an outcome of the Dresden Nexus Conference jointly organised by UNU-FLORES, TU Dresden, and IOER, The Post-2015 Development Agenda: How Food Loss and Waste (FLW) Reduction Can Contribute Towards Environmental Sustainability and the Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (2016) provides explanations and examples of how an emphasis on less waste in food production has positive environmental side effects.

    FLW results in huge wastage of water resources and constitutes one of most important issues in the context of increasing water scarcity. FLW reduction would improve water-use efficiency in the agricultural sector and decrease risks of water scarcity.

    Moreover, food systems consume about 30 per cent of global available energy and 38 per cent of this is lost or wasted. Consequently, reducing FLW presents a relatively cost-effective opportunity for energy saving and to improve efficiency. This saved energy can be used instead for more productive purposes, such as the storage of the fresh products, particularly in developing countries (see example in box below). However, it is important to avoid technologies related to fossil fuel combustion to generate electricity and to instead upscale access to clean technologies (solar, wind, hydro resources).

    Improved Fish Smoking with the FTT-Thiaroye Processing Technique: An Example of Addressing FLW challenge

    Fish smoking and drying techniques, used in small-scale fisheries, present an opportunity to reduce food losses by significantly increasing shelf-life for up to six months. However, these techniques based on open kilns using mangrove wood as the main source of fuel are energy-consuming and are responsible for the loss of more than 40 per cent of mangrove forests.

    Image: Placebo365/istockphoto


    By trapping heat and smoke, the FAO-Thiaroye processing technique improves fuel-efficiency by using 50 per cent less wood fuel compared to traditional open-type smoking techniques.

    Reducing mangrove wood harvesting benefits ecosystems and biodiversity because mangrove ecosystems are nursery grounds for many aquatic and marine species, thereby contributing to climate change mitigation.

    This example is one of the best illustrations of how improved technologies can help reduce losses while having a positive contribution to the environmental objectives of the SDGs.

    As a major contributor to and at the same time victim of climate change, agriculture and food production have important consequences on the environment. Activities in both sectors have impacts on soils, forests, nutrients, and freshwater, among others. Agricultural and food production processes produce greenhouse gases, too, where there is intensive use of fertilisers and deforestation. Efforts that reduce FLW are therefore welcome for the mitigation of climate change.


    Wieben, Emilie (2016). The Post-2015 Development Agenda: How Food Loss and Waste (FLW) Reduction Can Contribute Towards Environmental Sustainability and the Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. DNC Working Paper. United Nations University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES).