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Welcome to the ‘Safeguarding Food and Environment in Qatar’ (SAFE-Q) project site!

SAFE-Q is a three-year joint research project involving Georgetown University in Qatar, Cranfield University and Brunel University in the UK and the Western Sydney University in Australia. The project is  implemented through a research grant from Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) and explores the issue of food waste in Qatar.

On this website, you can find our bi-weekly blog to update you on the progress of our research as well as other related information and follow up on social media!

Help us identify what food items are wasted: Food Waste Survey

11 February 2018

Over the past two weeks we have focused on disseminating our work more widely and increasing the impact of SAFE-Q Research. We prepared a Word Search Puzzle for you. You can download it from Emel’s web site under Cranfield and you can send us the secret message after you solve the puzzle at emel.aktas@cranfield.ac.uk. Hope you enjoy!

We have also worked on visualising the food imports. Qiongyu developed this nice web page that shows you the origins of five products that are imported to Qatar. Again, you can see this nice web page in Emel’s web site under Cranfield as we could not find a way to run JavaScript in WordPress.

We have also confirmed the date of our Local Dissemination Event, to be held in Georgetown University Qatar in March 2018. Our event will be running from 6pm on 19th of March and we will share with you all our findings in SAFE-Q over the past three years and invite you to participate in a panel discussion on minimising food waste and increasing food security in Qatar. Please send us an email at emel.aktas@cranfield.ac.uk if you wish to receive an invitation to this event.

28 January 2017

We are so excited to report you about our awareness raising activities as part of dissemination and stakeholder engagement activities in the SAFE-Q Project. This semester Georgetown University Qatar’s Facilities Team, in conjunction with the GU-Q Student Sustainability Club and SAFE-Q, and assistance from Qatar Foundation is launching several sustainability initiatives.

The activities kicked off with the Food Waste Reduction initiative that aims to tackle the food waste problem at the GU-Q’s canteen. We hoped to have a sustained impact on the food culture of this close-knit community at Georgetown University Qatar. Once the great slogans and daily plans were set, we began working with the relevant departments at the university to finalize the logistical facets of the initiative. The sustainability team featured in the below photo is enthusiastic about raising awareness around food waste.

From left to right: Lina Noureldin, Salma Hassan, Lolwa Al Saigh, Mehaira Mahgoub, Suzanne Sixon

The team collects data on incoming food, consumed food, and left-overs. A simple yet powerful way of checking flows:

Next came the survey design, for the people dining in GU-Q Canteen. As part of the SAFE-Q Project, we already did an extensive survey of factors leading to food waste at home and in the supply chain, which were then underlined by primary data from Qatar. In this instance, we focused only on reasons that might be applicable at the time of dining and leaving food on the plate. For that purpose, we used a simple, single-click survey to be filled in by only those who could not finish the food they purchased for lunch:

We invited people who had not finished their food to select up to three options in the above survey to tell us the reason why they had left-overs on the plate, as they were on their way out of the canteen. The survey was simple and direct: It explores the conscious and unconscious reasons for food waste here on our campus, with portion sizes having been chosen by many participants. We have identified portion size as a significant factor contributing to food waste in the SAFE-Q project before, and now we see it manifest again in our canteen as a major issue:

We collected 125 over the past few days. Excluding missing data, we analysed 123 valid responses to identify the top reasons for food waste in GU-Q Canteen, but probably applicable to other dining places. We have no reason to believe the respondents to this survey would be different than respondents elsewhere.

In all nine options we offered to people to choose, seven of them have been chosen as the motivations of throwing away extra food. As mentioned above, portion size is the biggest reason for food waste and 38 people chose it as to why they had left-overs. This finding has immediate policy suggestions: We are calling the canteen to use smaller portions or offer diners multiple portion sizes to minimise food waste. This is also connected to another frequently chosen reason: ‘Did not want to carry left-overs around with me’. It can be understood that people are not interested in carrying left-overs, hence smaller portions can help reduce what is left on the plate.

The second most chosen option, ‘Did not like the taste of the food’, also leads to important conclusions. Qatar is a multinational, multicultural country. Hence food offered to people has to cater for different tastes and preferences. So introducing variety to the offerings may help with this cause. Nevertheless, we need to highlight the caveat: the more options will mean the more difficult it is to forecast the demand. In the food system many decisions are connected and have implications on other decisions; hence, a food preference survey can be undertaken before making a decision to diversify the food offered in the canteen.

Other reasons, where we encourage people to write down their own opinions, including personal reasons such as too spicy food and extra reasons like lack of sauce or bread.

Gathering the leftovers during lunch was an insightful experience for all involved. Many people commented verbally on reasons for why they wasted food. Many complimented the initiative and demonstrated admirable interest. Many had made a serious effort to waste less food ever since our team had been gathering leftovers.

In line with the GU-Q values, SAFE-Q objectives, and Qatar National Vision 2030, we hope GU-Q will continue to be a leader in Qatar when it comes to reducing waste and conserving resources.

Emel Aktas, Hafize Sahin, Qiongyu Lu

14 January 2018

As part of our benchmarking study of food waste, we have been investigating country-level food waste data published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation. We considered the latest data available, from 2009 to 2013 in the European Union’s 28 countries and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Seven food categories are used to measure food loss and waste in the respective countries and areas. Every year, the loss and waste of each food category remains a high percentage of the total quantity (FAO, 2017):

  • cereals (30%),
  • dairy products (20%),
  • fish and seafood (35%),
  • fruits and vegetables (45%),
  • meat (20%),
  • oilseeds and pulses (20%), and
  • roots and tubers (45%).

In FAOSTAT database, though there is a different way to classify food groups, data collection is based on the above commodity groups. The food groups that are used for data analysis are Cereals (Excluding Beer), Starchy Roots, Pulses, Fruits (Excluding Wine), and Meat.

The comparison regions are European Union and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. However, the data is not available for all members of the GCC countries: the data for Bahrain and Qatar are unfortunately missing in FAOSTAT.

The most recent data which can be tracked is from 2013, the data collection chooses last five years from 2013 to observe the latest trends in food losses of target countries. The collected data and analysis are as ancillary materials for the future research.

Food – Data refer to the total amount of the commodity available as for human consumption during the reference period. Data include the commodity in question, as well as any commodity derived therefrom as a result of further processing. Food from maize, for example, comprises the amount of maize, maize meal, and any other products derived therefrom available for human consumption. Food from milk relates to the amounts of milk as such, as well as the fresh milk equivalent of dairy products (FAO, 1986).

Losses – Amount of the commodity in question lost through wastage (waste) during the year at all stages between the level at which production is recorded and the household, i.e. storage and transportation. Losses occurring before and during harvest are excluded. Waste from both edible and inedible parts of the commodity occurring in the household is also excluded. Quantities lost during the transformation of primary commodities into processed products are taken into account in the assessment of respective extraction/conversion rates. Distribution wastes tend to be considerable in countries with hot humid climate, difficult transportation and inadequate storage or processing facilities. This applies to the more perishable foodstuffs, and especially to those which have to be transported or stored for a long time in a tropical climate. Waste is often estimated as a fixed percentage of availability, the latter being defined as production plus imports plus stock withdrawals (FAO, 1986).

European Union contains 28 countries, usually is seen as a developed area. The data of food and losses from food balance sheet in FAOSTAT are relatively comprehensive. For instance, in 2009, the percentage of starchy roots loss (14%) is the highest among the selected food groups. However, the average loss of cereals per capita is higher than any other food group at 11.89 kg/person. Fruits and meat are two food groups that are in high demand apart from cereals, but the loss of meat is below than fruits.

Food (1000 tonnes) Losses (1000 tonnes) Food Loss (%) Average (kg/person)
Cereals – Excluding Beer 63258 5997 9% 11.89
Starchy Roots 36713 4982 14% 9.88
Pulses 1347 98 7% 0.19
Fruits – Excluding Wine 52495 3861 7% 7.65
Meat 42112 74 0% 0.15

We can see the food loss by category in the last five years below:

From 2009 to 2013, the loss of cereals, fruits, pulses, and meat groups remains stable in the EU. The loss of meat is particularly in a stable index around 0%. The loss of starchy roots has decreased from 2009 to 2010, then remains around 11% till 2013.

However, in GCC countries, the data which can be used for analysis are much fewer than that of the EU28. Data sets that can be used for comparison (achievable data) are limited within two food groups which are cereals and fruits. There is no data recorded in of starchy roots in Oman. Kuwait and Oman both lack data for pulses. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait do not have any data for meat. In general, the food data of the United Arab Emirates are more complete than that of the rest of the GCC countries.

The average food loss and waste in cereals is consistently higher in the GCC at an average of 14% than it is in the EU28 with an average of 10%.

The food waste situation in fruits is slightly different. Whilst it was high for GCC countries in 2009 and 2010, they then reduced the food waste in fruits to EU28 average in 2011 and even lower in 2012 and 2013.

Between two groups (cereals and fruits) which can be compared among GCC countries and EU28, the average loss of fruits is equal between two groups around 7% approximately. GCC countries keeps a high percentage of loss in 2009 and 2010, but decreases later in 2012 and 2013. However, the loss of cereals has a huge difference between these two areas. GCC has more loss in cereals than EU28 at all the time but the loss stays steady. The reason of this difference can be seen below.

It can be observed that the United Arab Emirates has a high percentage of loss in cereals compared to the rest of the GCC countries. Though from 2011 to 2013, the loss decreased by about 10 percentage points; however, it is still much higher than the loss in the rest of the GCC countries for which we have data.

According to the comparable data between GCC and EU28, cereals are the main food group with high loss in the GCC countries, and the loss in fruit group is basically at the same level in these two areas. It is interesting because GCC countries have subtropical desert climate, it is believed that there will be more loss in perishable products.

From the data collection process, it is difficult to find official data for each GCC country especially those small countries with smaller populations. However, the United Arab Emirates can be considered a reference point since data on cereals, starchy roots, pulses, fruits, and meat are available.

References

FAO (2017) Food loss and waste facts. http://www.fao.org/resources/infographics/infographics-details/en/c/317265/ (Accessed at: 27, Nov, 2017).

FAO (1986) The ICS users’ manual: Interlinked Computer Storage and Processing System of Food and Agricultural Commodity Data. Rome.

Authored by Qiongyu Lu, Edited by Emel Aktas

31 December 2017

Happy New Year and welcome to 2018, from all of us at SAFE-Q Project! We hope this year will be full of joy and success for all, and for our part we will continue working to achieve our research goals and complete our project.

Since winter’s arrival, Qatar residents have been enjoying the beautiful weather and spending more time outdoors. Visiting the local farmers’ markets in Doha has become a popular weekend activity. Over the years, The Ministry of Municipality and Environment has launched several initiatives to promote local production. Three farmers’ markets are now located at Umm Salal, Al Khor-Dhakhira, and Al Wakrah, and are open for farmers to sell their products directly to customers. The Peninsula reported that in 2016-2017 the winter markets sold 5,113 tonnes of vegetables, 919 tonnes of fruits, and over 142 tonnes of fish. The three markets began selling products in October 2016, and closed at the end of April 2017.

Recently, two additional markets opened to provide both a space for community gathering, as well as further opportunity for local farmers and entrepreneurs to sell their products directly to consumers. In November 2017, Torba market opened in Education City and now operates every Thursday and Friday. The name “Torba” is derived from Arabic origins, and is said to mean “the pure soil that feeds, nourishes, and nurtures.” For further information please visit: http://www.farmersmarket.qa.

Al Mahaseel Souq opened in Katara and will operate Thursday to Saturday, from 9 am to 10 pm until the end of March 2018. The market features Qatari farms selling a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, and ornamental plants, high quality selections of local dates, and natural honey produced by Qatari farms. It also features local companies offering food produced from livestock.

Such initiatives are important as farmers’ markets provide customers an opportunity to purchase fresh and high-quality, locally grown food at affordable prices. They also allow farmers to sell their food locally, thereby avoiding the process of having the food packaged and trucked across the country. This in turn helps reduce food waste in Qatar. Thus, supporting farmers markets is beneficial for both the farmers themselves and the consumers who enjoy their products.

Authored by Hafize Sahin, Edited by Emel Aktas

17 December 2017

SAFE-Q researchers participated Qatar National Research Fund Research Outcome Seminar on December 6, 2017 to present our research at the Qatar Science and Technology Park.
The seminar was a great success and researchers from Qatar University also shared their QNRF-funded research in food safety and food nutrition. This seminar enabled QNRF senior management, researchers and policy makers to come together to discuss the development of future research agenda in food security.
Indeed, the round table discussion addressed the need for inter-disciplinary work in food security. Government, private sector, and research organisations should be working together and their research in food security will contribute to better informing the development of future research agenda, research community, public, policy makers and other relevant stakeholders on their path to making communities more food secure.


We also participated in the Mesaieed International School’s Model United Nations (MISMUN) Annual Conference. The theme for the 2017 conference was based on Sustainable Development Goal 2, which is Zero Hunger. The conference aims to bring awareness and create solutions to end hunger, achieve food security along with improved nutrition and also promote sustainable agricultural activities. The conference had over 500 students from 20 schools.
Dr. Amir Sharif from the SAFE-Q team delivered the keynote address explaining what SAFE-Q aims to do and the importance of food in our society. Following the opening ceremony, Mr. Ali Rafaqat, the Director of MISMUN invited Professor Amir and Ms Hafize Sahin to present to the directors of the schools in further detail the SAFE-Q project and its research methods.
The SAFE-Q researchers will continue to attend important events to share research outcomes and build on the awareness and engagement that has been generated in the project to date.

Authored by: Hafize Sahin, Edited by: Emel Aktas