Food Wastage: Do We Care? – Nivibo Y. Sumi, Assistant Professor, Dept. Of Sociology

“There are nearly one billion malnourished people in the world, but the approximately 40 million tonnes of food wasted by the US households, retailers and food services each year would be enough to satisfy the hunger of every one of them”Tristram Stuart

Food Wastage: Do We Care?

Studies and research over the year have shown that 10% of rich countries’ Greenhouse Gas Emissions come from growing food that is never eaten. According to a recent report by UNEP and the World Resources Institute (WRI), about one-third of all food produced worldwide, worth around US $1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. When this figure is converted to calories, this means that about 1 in 4 calories intended for consumption is never actually eaten. In a world full of hunger, volatile food prices and social unrest, these statistics are more than just shocking; they are environmentally, morally and economically outrageous. Now, as a Naga nothing gets wasted and there is a saying “Anything that creeps, crawl, move, flow, swim or that has life” is edible for a hardcore Naga. In fact unlike the Western Societies or for that matter even other states in India, when we scrape off our dishes after a large meal, say in a wedding or major events involving food, too full to finish, we rarely pause and think about the significance of our action, because the wastage or the leftover in a plate is often food for the pets or the pigs or your neighbor’s pigs. Nothing, I mean, absolutely nothing, is wasted. So why is there a need to get stuck with this issue when we can discuss some other social issue relating to politics, ethics, economics or any other relevant “Social Existentialism?”

In Goldin’s TED talk, he discusses about the “collapse in biodiversity, climate change” due to rapid globalization. Indeed, excessive food consumption in rich countries has resulted in food wastage. The excessive killing of animals for human consumption has contributed to the collapse in biodiversity. The carbon footprint from the food wasted also occupies almost 30 percent of the world’s agricultural land area, indirectly leading to global warming. This phenomenon and its consequence is the result of the lack of awareness towards food wastage, even among the richest countries in the world today.

As stated earlier, globalization has been the main driving force behind the rapid expansion of many developmental activities in cities of both developed and developing economy and the trend is catching up even in our small cities of Dimapur and Kohima.Our salaried state economy is literally undergoing a major phase of “economic boom.” The characteristic trend of the developed cities in and around the country and world are fast gaining its steady foothold here, even in our mini city itself. And as a country or a state gets richer, it invests more and more in getting surplus into its shops and restaurants. But have we ever given a thought, when so much food is being imported from the neighboring states of Assam, Meghalaya and others. What about our resources? Our State’s inability to produce food for our very own consumption has made our economy dependent. When so much amount of money is invested in buying food from green chilly to that of rice and fodder for our livestock, the money that is supposed to circulate among our people is literally invested in our neighboring states. Hence we see so much development taking place even in the KarbiAnglong District of Assam, which is considered the backward area in Assam. Where have we gone wrong? The present condition of our State’s economy is pathetic but we love to tag that weakness to that one name “corruption” “ministers” “MLA’s”. Now they might not be “Holier than Thou” bunch of people, but the absence of the civic responsibilities among our people has also led to our downfall in terms of economy.

“Wastage in terms of food here is not a waste at all”
 The explanation to this statement is already justified, or is it? Recent studies show that the amount of leftover food ata Naga wedding or major event, particularly in Dimapur and Kohima, does not always land up in the pig sty or “Doggie, Brownie, Guard, Tiger’s Plate”. Most of these food, thus wasted, end up in the gutter, partly because the job to wash a huge amount of dishes lay in the hand of the migrants who end up washing off almost everything and in turn a huge loss is incurred not only to individual but compiling all these losses leads to severe food-economy dependence to the aforementioned neighboring states. There are also cases where every day people walk into restaurants and food chains and often leave huge chunks of food unfinished, for various reasons.It’s not a shame to ask the waiter to pack the food thus unfinished.

“The end is just the beginning here” – Weekly bazaars infamous for second hand clothes and cheap food stuffs are also a part of it. Every alternative day, there is this weekly bazaar, from NotunBosti to Chumukedima. Food waste which can be a good alternative for animal fodder at the end of the day, are discarded or thrown into dustbins or areas meant for waste disposal. Rotten potatoes and tomatoes, which of course is not fit for human consumption, is piled up into a mini mountain and is often the main source or content of this food-waste. No doubt some of these are collected, but the majority of this is simply wasted and this vicious cycle continues where everyday food stuffs are imported and as a result contributes a huge amount of money to our neighbors. No doubt, there is an existence of food being brought from Peren, Wokha districts, and places like Tseminyu, Lazami (Pughoboto) and the neighboring villages around Kohima and Dimapur, yet it constitutes just an average of hardly 15% of the food being imported into Dimapur and Kohima.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Our cause here is not entirely contribution towards greenhouse gas emissions, as in developed countries, but in our civic sense and attitudes which hurt our economy. There is a need to start eating responsibly,especially when eating out. There is a need to start encouraging our local entrepreneurs at a micro level; there is a need to create an awareness among the people about food management which may seem insignificant to many.There is a need, if our society wants to projects itself towards that “Utopian Model.” There is definitely a NEED to be aware of our responsibilities and actions.
“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:”

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