Food Waste Around the World is a Food Circle project aimed at providing information and raising awareness about food waste. The project is designed as a series of interviews with students coming from different countries, with the aim of understanding how this issue is tackled and perceived around the world. This is made possible thanks to Sapient, the mother company of Food Circle, which, every year, offers internships to students from all around the world creating a unique multicultural environment.
Today we speak with Ronke, from Nigeria!
“I believe that [food waste would become a priority] at some point. I noticed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government tried to help some people without food by providing for them. I think that after some time they will recognize how big this food waste issue is and eventually create a proper program for tackling it.”
Hello Ronke! Welcome and thank you for participating in this interview series ‘Food Waste Around the World’. To start, could you tell me a bit about yourself and where you are from?
Hi, my name is Ronke Alao and I’m from Osun State in Nigeria. I was born and raised in the middle belt, and I moved to Lagos for my Master’s degree. I got my Bachelor’s degree in Estate Management, and my Master’s degree in Industrial and Labour Relations, so now I am a Human Resource Generalist. After my studies, I lived in Italy for a while before moving to Amsterdam a few months ago. In the future, I hope to be able to run my own consulting company to help match the right talents with their dream job.
Very nice! How would you describe the food waste issue in Nigeria? Is it a big issue?
Yes, it’s a very big issue. I found out from my research that between 30-40% of food produced, per year, in Nigeria gets wasted. This translates to a loss of 750 billion dollars annually. Most of the farmers and producers have limited access to electricity, which is why most of the waste is due to lack or inadequacy of storage and transport facilities, as most of the perishable food gets spoilt before arriving at their destination.
You said that you were living in Italy, how is the situation there in relation to the food waste issue?
I believe that in Italy there is a large quantity of wasted food, but less than in Nigeria. I remember when I used to go to the open market during the week, there were always fruits and vegetables being thrown away because they were left in the van for a long time or even left on the ground or just never sold.
Nigerians; usually the upper-class have special parties called ‘owambe’, during the weekends, where they prepare so much food that much of it is wasted.
Are you aware of any initiatives, NGOs, or organizations in Nigeria dealing with the food waste issue?
There are a number of non-governmental organizations. I know an application called Chowberry, created to help people in need and suffering from hunger, through connecting people to supermarket food that would ordinarily end up in the bin. This app allows retailers to share information about products that are about to expire. These products are well-discounted because the products are approaching the end of their shelf life. The food would ordinarily be thrown away by the retailers, but with this system, they have a way of saving their losses and, at the same time, NGOs are able to take this food at a very reasonable price and acquire more food for re-distribution. It has already been taken up by 35 retailers, NGOs, and other organizations in the country.
Also, we have the food bank in Lagos called Lagos Food Bank; rescuing food from supermarkets and redistributing to people suffering from hunger and malnutrition. I also read about the Rockefeller Foundation which is less popular, that is trying to extend shelf-lives.
Interesting! Who do you think tends to waste more food, younger or older generations?
I’d say young people because they don’t really care. Older people are more conscious of the importance of food. They put more effort into not wasting food. Also, the more you can afford, the less you care about wasting food.
That’s true. What about actions from the government, is it doing anything?
So far, I’m not seeing a lot of action from the government, even though there are a lot of people suffering from malnutrition while Nigeria continues to produce more than what we actually need. The government is aware of this issue, but they are not doing a lot to address it.
I see. Do you think that it will become a priority on their agenda?
I believe that would happen at some point. I noticed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government tried to help some people without food by providing for them. I think that after some time they will recognize how big this food waste issue is and eventually create a proper program for tackling it.
Yes, hopefully. Lastly, what do you think could be the next step taken by the population to tackle this issue?
I believe that by spreading knowledge and information about it, an increase in awareness would promote care and action within the population, so the organizations could increase and become even bigger. The difference would be significant.
I agree! It was very interesting speaking to you. Thank you very much Ronke!
Thank you for having me!
Interviewer: Andrea Di Bernardo
Interviewed: Ronke Alao
Editor and writer: Andrea Di Bernardo