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World Food Day: Safeguarding our food systems through closing the loop on organic waste

It remains one of our biggest population challenges, an equitable supply of nutritional food resources. Many countries, including South Africa, have large percentages of their populations that are still faced with hunger, even though we have enough food resources to feed the country. It is the rising cost of food and prevailing poverty that keeps our hunger statistics high. With stressed natural resources, soil, and water specifically, the cost of natural resource usage and raw materials has increased, which increases the cost of food products.

World Food Day is celebrated on Sunday, 16 October 2022, and has become a global campaign aimed at increasing awareness around the issues that cause food insecurity. These issues include intensive resource usage, rising prices, climate change, and economic instability.

Having worked closely with South Africa’s food production and retail sector to manage food and organic waste, BiobiN South Africa discusses two focal areas for safeguarding our food systems and ensuring a long-term sustainable supply.

Circulating non-edible food waste to reach the soil

“Healthy soil systems support our food supply, it is important that we conserve this resource as much as possible,” says Küsel.  “Food waste and organic by-products that are not edible still hold a lot of value, not for human consumption but as a soil resource.” Diverting this organic waste stream from landfill is crucial as it decomposes to produce methane and carbon dioxide, two greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Converting this organic waste stream into compost is a great approach to conserve soil masses that are extensively worked to produce food.

“Having compost units on-site is a great way to create a circular system for organic waste and use it on farms,” says Küsel. “Compost supplies the soil with nutrients that are normally depleted when worked extensively. It is important to have a supply of carbon, nitrogen, and other micro-nutrients, that are all in our food waste, which becomes beneficial when converted to compost.”

Regenerative agriculture and working within the environmental carrying capacity

Every environment, including agricultural land, has a specific environmental carrying capacity. This means that the environment can only sustain a specific amount of crop and agricultural activity before it becomes resource-stressed and overworked. For sustainable agriculture it is important to understand a land’s carrying capacity so that land and surrounding natural resources are used responsibly.

While it is important to use land and soil within environments carrying capacity, regenerative agriculture focuses on restoring the ecological functioning of land and soil through practices like composting.

“We have been working closely with companies in the food production and retails sector and we can directly record the volumes of food and organic waste that is diverted from landfill,” says Küsel. “The output of this, high-grade organic compost, allows food producers to conserve the soil that they use to grow food. This is important to ensure a long-term sustainable use of land for agriculture.”

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