If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him; the people who give you their food give you their heart
Cesar Chavez

To a lot of people food is much more than a nourishing substance that is eaten; to them it is a communal, almost religious experience. Various cultures all over the world consider the sharing of food to be an experience that fosters camaraderie.

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), every year 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain, from the initial agricultural production down to the final household consumption. In high and medium-income countries food is to a significant extent wasted at the consumption stage, meaning that it is discarded even if it is still suitable for human consumption. In low-income countries, food is lost mostly during the early and middle stages of the food supply chain; much less food is wasted at the consumer level. The causes of food losses in low-income countries are mainly connected to infrastructural and technical limitations in harvesting techniques, as well as poor storage facilities, and lack of packaging and marketing systems. On the other hand, the causes of food losses and waste in medium and high-income countries are mainly due to consumer behaviour, as well as to a lack of coordination among the various actors in the supply chain. What low, medium and high income countries have in common, however, is that they all waste large, obscene amounts of food.

World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5th every year. The theme for this year’s World Environment Day celebration is Think.Eat.Save. Reduce your foodprint. Think.Eat.Save is an anti-food waste campaign that encourages us to reduce our individual and collective foodprint. In sub-Saharan Africa, at least 265 million people are hungry. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger. In a world of so much starvation, food wastage is a crime.

World Environment Day 2013 is being hosted by Mongolia, a country that is prioritizing a Green Economy shift across its major economic sectors such as mining and is also promoting environmental awareness among the youth. Mongolia is among the most vulnerable nations in the world to global warming, and she is facing enormous challenges including growing pressure on food security and water supplies as a result of the impacts of climate change. Yet its government is determined to meet these challenges and seize the opportunities of a less-polluting and more-sustainable future. The government has put a halt on all new mining, pending improved environmental regulations and plans to become a renewable energy power-house and exporter of clean energy regionally, thus demonstrating that when leadership, vision, smart policies and political will are translated into action, change is indeed possible.

As I prepare to go to Mongolia, I am in an ebullient mood. I look forward to seeing some of the over two million trees planted across Mongolia’s vast desert regions since 2011, as well as how Mongolia is using renewable energy by exploiting its huge solar power potential, particularly in the sparsely populated Gobi region. Being a lover of food, I am also very eager to eat Mongolian food and experience the culture of the Mongolian people through the window that food provides. I am very keen to try “borts” (a traditional Mongolian delicacy which is basically concentrated beef equal to the protein of an entire cow but condensed and ground down to the size of a human fist!) This explains why Mongol Empire troops in ancient times could travel huge distances seemingly without supplies.

Finally, I look forward to hopefully meeting Mongolia’s President Tsakhia Elbegdorj, who was named as one of six recipients of UNEP’s Champions of the Earth 2012 award for leadership that had a positive impact on the environment. So, hello Mongolia!

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