Today is International Women’s Day, a day which commemorates the movement for women’s rights. On the heels of the historic Women’s March in January, this year’s commemoration of women’s equality is more resonant than ever.
At first glance, food waste and women’s rights might not seem like natural bedfellows. But across the world, women play a key role in the food production cycle. They are primarily responsible for food production and for feeding their families.
In the global South, where one-third of all food is wasted before it leaves the farm, and in the global North where one third of food is wasted at the retail and consumer levels, women’s roles on the farm, in the factory and at home — including their empowerment — access to resources, and knowledge matters a lot. In sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, women farmers are responsible for a majority of the production, processing and storage of food. This means that engaging women on food waste reduction could go a long way.
Businesses empowering women on food waste
In recognition of the pivotal role women play in reducing global food waste, several social enterprises have sprouted up to support them in these efforts.
In Tanzania, in response to the high number of crops that are lost before they can be harvested, social enterprise Rift Valley Foods focuses on enhancing women farmers’ access to profitable markets. The organization developed a toolkit for post-harvest solar drying, handling and use of fruit and vegetable crops to be sold in East African markets. By using innovative solar drying technology, the project addresses a critical lack of food preservation and storage means and enables women farmers to sell more products widely. Ultimately, this helps reduce the amount of food that is wasted and enhances women’s livelihoods.
In South Africa, a women’s cooperative called Imai Farming Cooperative has partnered with both non-government and government institutions to increase and stabilize farmers’ incomes and reduce waste by processing surplus fresh vegetable produce into pickles. The program also encourages organic farming.
Nourished Planet – a woman-owned business
As a woman-owned business, Nourished Planet is proud to be among the more than 9.4 million firms owned by women in the United States. Altogether, woman-owned businesses employ nearly 7.9 million people, and generate $1.5 trillion in economic value. And women-owned firms account for nearly a third (31 percent) of all privately held firms in the country, contributing to 14 percent of employment and 12 percent of revenues.
At Nourished Planet, we view advancing equality as an important part of building thriving communities. While our primary mission is to create the highest possible economic and social value from food and beverage waste, this is all part of an effort to build stronger, more resilient communities. We want to drive change at the global level — wherever food and beverage waste occurs.