FAO in Sri Lanka

FAO and the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development launch project on food waste reduction in Sri Lanka. Join in!

Inception workshop in Colombo (c)IWMI/Sampath Ranawaka

Colombo, Sri Lanka - Food waste is a global challenge. Rapid urbanization, expansion of retail chains, and changes in diets and lifestyles are usually identified as the key drivers for food waste generation. Data for Sri Lanka is still scarce on food waste. However, a 2016 study reports that 63.6% of the 700 t/day Municipal Solid Waste in Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) area is short term biodegradable and a high proportion of this waste could be food waste.

The Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development (MoMWD), supported by FAO and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), has launched a project on “innovative approaches to reduce, recycle and reuse food waste” that is implemented from June 2019 to February 2021. Food waste refers to the removal from the food supply chain of food which is still fit for human consumption. This is done either by choice or after the food is spoiled or expired due to poor stock management or neglect. This happens primarily at distribution, food services, and at the household level of the food system.

The project addresses food waste reduction taking into consideration the need for approaches and interventions tailored to the Sri Lankan context, including also specific challenges encountered by urbanization. The main objective of the project is to facilitate, through knowledge generation and training, the prevention, reduction, and management of food waste for households, catering services, food businesses, retail and wholesale. Solutions are already available.

Reducing food waste is critical to reduce hunger and poverty

Globally, an estimated 30% of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted somewhere along the food supply chain. This is happening in a backdrop where world population is increasing, creating more strain on the limited natural resources for food production. It also comes at a time where the number of hungry people in the world has been on the rise with the number standing at over 820 million people.

Food waste causes serious negative implications with huge costs for all actors along the food supply chain. In Sri Lanka, like elsewhere in the world, it is an economic cost for businesses and for waste management, an environmental cost for the country due to limited landfills capacity, and it is a social cost for the food supply chain actors and the final consumer.

Bringing people together

The project on food waste reduction funded by FAO in Sri Lanka, brings together key stakeholders: wholesalers, supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, schools, consumers and the waste management system. The collaborative approach is aimed at:

  • Awareness raising on the impact of and solutions for food waste. Enabling stakeholders working on food waste in Colombo.
  • Collaboration and coordination of stakeholders for data collection on food waste in Colombo and estimates on its socio-economic and environmental impacts.
  • Drafting an evidence-based National Strategy on Food Waste Prevention, Reduction, and Management in Sri Lanka, for which consultations with the public sector, the private sector, and civil society will be held.

Efforts are already underway in Sri Lanka to reduce food waste. The inception workshop of the project held in June 2019 was a platform to highlight practical solutions to tackle the problem.

One such initiative is that of Soup Bowl, a local charity that is working with a supermarket chain to collect and redistribute foods that are discarded but are still safe and nutritious for human consumption. Private companies shared implemented good practices, including monitoring canteen and cafeteria food waste. The University of Ruhuna provided quantified data it had gathered over the past 5 years on food waste which were used for awareness programmes in schools and Divisional Secretariats in the country. The inception workshop also highlighted the need to intervene at wholesale level, where significant food waste occurs due to lack of packaging and poor food handling practices.

The project will facilitate an enabling environment for this wide range of stakeholders and partners to continue their efforts to reduce and prevent food waste. It will also review existing polices and laws relevant to the issue. The “Innovative approaches to reduce, recycle and reuse food waste” project implemented by MoMWD with support from FAO and IWMI, reaches out to interested parties to join the fight against food waste. 

Contact us for more information on how you could join in.