In North Africa, the slow awareness of waste during Ramadan

In North Africa, the slow awareness of waste during Ramadan

From year to year, the subject returns, each time a little stronger. Why do we throw away so much food during Ramadan, in a North Africa hit hard by shortages and inflation, when Islam disapproves of food waste?

Once again, the president of the Tunisian Consumer Orientation Organization, Lotfi Riahi, took up his pilgrim's staff while speaking to the national press agency TAP to raise awareness of the phenomenon. He recalled the sad record produced by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations): his country ranks third among the Arab countries which waste the most food in restaurants and hotels, behind Egypt and Morocco. Households are unfortunately following a comparable trend. The expert once again calls on Tunisians to “rationalize their consumption” and to “teach children” this responsible culture.

The month of Ramadan breaks all records for uneaten food. Especially bread, which alone represents 113 tonnes of waste in Tunisia, or 16% of all wasted products. In Morocco too, the information site Le360 deplores garbage dumpsters “full to the brim” in the streets of Agadir and other large cities of a kingdom where food consumption increases by 50% during the fasting period.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has just confirmed the phenomenon in its 2024 report. Tunisia wasted 2.1 million tonnes of food in 2022, Morocco 4 million, Algeria 5 and Egypt 18 million! The authors point out that the phenomenon is global: more than a billion tonnes have gone to waste. They also emphasize that this waste is not reserved for “rich countries”, since its level varies by only 7 kg per capita, depending on whether you live in high, medium or low income states.

Awareness campaigns

There remains the religious and cultural enigma. Food waste is not at all in the spirit of the fourth pillar of Islam, points out the Maroc Diplomatique website: “The “Syam” or action of fasting in its meaning refers to the concept of abstinence in search of elevation of the spirit. » Initiatives have therefore multiplied to limit excesses. Government campaigns are multiplying. Some NGOs go so far as to advocate for an “ecological Ramadan”. This is how the “Ummah for Earth” alliance, a global project coordinated by the Middle East/North Africa branch of Greenpeace, has been inviting imams since 2021 to raise awareness in mosques in favor of “more balanced and thoughtful daily decisions”.

This will not be enough, indicates consumption expert Lotfi Riahi, who lists a series of obstacles to be removed: lack of tradition of recycling food, error in preserving and storing products, quantity management, priority for in-store discounts to the detriment of real needs… If he notes a slight drop in waste this year compared to previous years, he attributes it mainly to the difficult economic situation. The rise in prices of fruits and vegetables and cereals would be to blame. Not yet the change of habits and culture.

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