Abstract: Szoke


Feeding The 9 Billion, Well

26-28 August 2014



Conference home


Watch your Waste: Lose Less, Consumer Sustainably, Feed More

Dr Helen Szoke
Chief Executive
Oxfam Australia

The world already produces enough food to feed the world, yet over 800 million people are hungry. Further to this paradox, increasingly we are aware of the potential negative impacts that expanding agriculture can have. Valuable ecosystems and carbon sinks may be lost or threatened, while vulnerable people – particularly women, children and Indigenous peoples – can be forced off their land as we see increasing levels of competition for arable land.

Curbing waste in the food system is critical to more sustainable natural resource use and reducing agriculture’s contribution to climate change. Addressing food waste can also bring social benefits at the family level – supporting smallholder farmers to retain more of their crop and household consumers to spend less on food purchases.

The dynamics of food waste also differ between communities. In smallholder agriculture, up to 40% of food produced can spoil, rot or be diseased before it reaches the plate. Reasons for such losses can include a lack of post harvest storage facilities or locally appropriate options for pest management. This can have dire impacts for communities with limited access to water or land, and for those facing the stress of adapting to a rapidly changing climate. Yet in long-chain agriculture, food is similarly wasted –up to 20% of Australian household food purchases could be discarded – contributing heavily to Australia’s already weighty carbon footprint.

This presentation explores some of the ways that Oxfam Australia approaches curbing waste in the food system – drawing on our analysis of trends in global agriculture, as well as work on the ground in smallholder agriculture and public education efforts at home.