We in Bahrain are notoriously known for buying a lot of food and actually wasting most of it. Good for business, but bad for body, soul and the environment.
Sadly, even though this has been pointed out time and again through the print and social media, people think the problem isn’t alarming.
But in fact, the numbers are so big, an outsider looking at them would think Bahrain is some big country with a couple of million inhabitants and large swathes of agricultural land growing its own food. If anything, it’s the contrary.
According to estimates, some 400 tonnes of food find its way into the bin every day. This surges to a daily 600 tonnes in the holy month of Ramadan (figures quoted in this paper). The reasons for this in my opinion are many, but are not within the purview of this article.
Now imagine the mouths this food can feed, if properly utilised and managed. Hunger is an actual problem. Nearly a billion people around the world do not have enough to eat.
Also think of the environmental issues this wastage adds to. Bahrain’s only landfill site is in Askar, and that too is expected to reach its capacity within the next few years. If the problem of rising waste is not tackled soon, we could face a Beirut like problem.
The civil society in Bahrain is trying hard to shoulder its share of the burden, whether it’s the ‘Conserving Bounties Society’ that collects leftover food and distributes them to the needy, the ‘Saturday Biryani Party’, ‘Feed The Need’, or other local and expat initiatives.
But it simply isn’t enough and something needs to be done from the top down.
Could a national food bank be a solution, similar to the ‘UAE Food Bank’? A brainchild of Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Prime Minister and Dubai’s ruler, the project has since its inception in 2017, collected and distributed around 4,500 tonnes of food. The aim is to make Dubai the first city in the region to achieve zero food waste. And we all know the consistency with which the emirates does things, especially if Shaikh Mohammed is behind it. Dubai aims to expand the bank to underdeveloped communities in the region and around the world.
The sort of initiative from the Dubai government simply tells us the priorities of the higher-ups.
Not that Bahraini authorities don’t encourage charitable causes, and the Shaikh Isa Bin Ali Al Khalifa Voluntary Work Award is a prime example, as are any legislations to this effect.
If officials get their hands dirty, that sends a strong message that simply wouldn’t go unnoticed. Guaranteed, more people will follow.
The Bahraini society – both citizens and expats – is utterly generous. They have never held back from lending help when a call is given out. And this newspaper has been a bearer of many of those appeals.
It is true Dubai leads in construction, industry, innovation, or even providing a favourable field for startups, which have grown world-class. But social projects such as the Dubai Food Bank give a human face to those burgeoning, soulless concrete towers.
However, Bahrain with its deep-rooted and strong cultural values has an upper hand; and that’s its strong civil society. That distinctive trait is something that needs to be honed (for generations to come) before mindless urbanism takes it out.
Everyone of us has a role to play, starting from our homes. Whatever leftover food you have, give it to the security guard or gardener; or take your children on a weekend ride and distribute it to labourers on the roadside. Amplify this; gather friends and go to labour camps. Make it a regular feat.
Hunger is a social problem but it’s also the world’s greatest solvable problem as well. Ramadan should give us a clue of how hunger feels.
• Please note, the estimates are only about food wastage. Bahrain generates more than 1.2 million tonnes of solid waste a year. The daily garbage production exceeds 4,500 tonnes.
The writer is a Bahraini journalist and deputy editor of Gulf Construction magazine – firstname.lastname@example.org