Food waste represents a loss of economic value throughout the supply chain. Farmers lose revenues, consumers waste money, businesses incur costs while governments invest resources to manage it all. Imagine if everyone could contribute their excess. Pooling resources through organised efforts could make a huge difference, writes Bereket Balcha (

As I was about to reach the Abrehot Library last weekend, the rumble in my stomach reminded me of my skipped lunch. I glanced at the clock – nearly 6 PM. Since I had left my reading glasses at home and browsing the stacks without them proved to be difficult, I decided to treat myself to a late meal.

Craving something hearty, I steered towards Mesqel Square, hoping to find Kitfo, a spicy minced meat dish. As I debated options near the area, a familiar steakhouse from my university days, "Girgiro Ajejo Siga Bet, was spotted. A wave of nostalgia washed over me with the restaurant's logo featuring prime Harar bovine at the now-demolished Arat Kilo location. I decided to give it a try.

The restaurant buzzed with anticipation as the Arsenal-Manchester United match loomed. A friendly waiter confirmed my order, and I settled in with a bottle of sparkling water to watch the game. The Kitfo arrived shortly after, with a grand presentation for what I thought would be a simple meal. Lifting the lid of the traditional basket (Moseb), I was surprised by the massive portion, generously adorned with cheese and minced kale.

The portion was immense, far larger than I had seen before. However, I knew it would not be possible for me to finish it all so I decided to set aside a portion of it to avoid leftovers. My usual distaste for leftover meals lived with me for years as a self-imposed value. I believe one should only consume what is necessary.

While conserving resources is one important aspect, leftover foods also account for frequent visits by rodents and unwanted insects in households.

Wasting this well-prepared meal felt wrong considering a third of food wasted globally each year. According to the Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO), nearly 1.3 billion tons of all food produced for human consumption worldwide is lost or wasted annually.

With a full stomach and a takeout box in hand, I set off to find someone who could use the meal on my way home. My initial attempts near Urael Church and Sahlite Mihret area proved fruitless. Recent construction had displaced the usual spots. The streets towards the Ayat area were deserted. I spotted a young woman in tattered clothes by the roadside. Perhaps this was my chance.

But as I lowered the window and approached her erratic movements and gestures gave me pause. I drove on, a heavy heart replacing the earlier disappointment. Just when I had nearly given up hope, a hazy silhouette of a person clad in a white shawl caught my eye around the roundabout near the Mekedonia area. The man seemed to be packing up for the night. It was a profile I had been searching for. With renewed hope, I lowered my window and greeted him.

His enthusiastic response was a welcome change. Hesitantly, I offered the Kitfo asking if he could stand to receive it or needed further assistance. He fumbled slightly to his feet, then limped slowly towards the car. Relief and gratitude washed over the man's face as he accepted the takeout box. For him, the aluminum package was more than food; it was a small gesture that resonated deeply. He said that it was not his plan to stay in that spot but understood why he lingered.

The moment lasted long after I drove away. It prompted me to explore wastefulness.

While food waste is usually associated with developed nations, the per capita statistics tell a different story. China and India produce more household food waste worldwide at an estimated 92 million and 69 million tons every year, according to Statista, an online platform. This is unsurprising, considering both countries have by far the largest populations globally. However, per capita food waste production is estimated to be highest in Western Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa while Ethiopia ranks a shocking 10th. Post-harvest losses, transportation and storage issues contributed majorly.

It felt wrong to learn this in a country where people are facing severe food insecurity. Food waste represents a loss of economic value throughout the supply chain. Farmers lose revenues from unsold produce, consumers waste money on food they never eat. Businesses incur costs associated with disposing surplus or expired food while governments invest resources in managing waste.

The world has enough resources for everyone. It is a matter of awareness, sharing, and organising effectively. The government school feeding programs are a shining example of where it is possible to make a real difference. Kids are getting the nutrition they need, which allows them to focus on their studies and live healthier lives. Seeing this success makes me wonder – what if similar programs could be implemented more widely? Communities, religious organisations, and volunteer individuals could all play a part in tackling food insecurity.

Although everything starts at a personal level, I realise that one meal would not fundamentally change the situation. Things should be done on a larger scale as well. Raising consumer awareness is a start. Meanwhile, improving food distribution systems, implementing better storage and preservation techniques, and developing policies and regulations to incentivise waste reduction are necessary.

I envisioned a systemic address, like the one in the UK, where surplus food is redistributed from restaurants and supermarkets to those in need. Imagine if everyone, individuals and institutions alike, could contribute their excess. Pooling resources through organised efforts could make a huge difference.

PUBLISHED ON May 18,2024 [ VOL 25 , NO 1255]

Bereket Balcha works in the aviation industry and is passionate about fiction writing and can be reached at (

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