SA needs a food system that nourishes people and protects the environment



The fragility of South Africa’s food system is evident in the country’s high rates of poverty and malnutrition. Malnutrition, whether in the form of stunting, wasting or obesity, continues to affect large parts of the population, especially those living in poverty.

Commissioned by the Ministry of Social Development report The paper, published on 6 October 2023, entitled ‘Reducing child poverty, examining child poverty and the value of child support subsidies’, states that a staggering 8 million children in South Africa It was found that the children lacked proper nourishment and nutrients. An estimated 27.5% of children are stunted due to malnutrition. “Poverty rates rose sharply in 2020 and 2021 as a result of lockdowns and job losses,” the report said.

World Food Day is celebrated around the world on October 16th every year Raise hunger awareness and encourage action for the future of food, people and the planet. It is also an opportunity to draw attention to the The harsh reality of food insecurity in South Africa and the urgent need for transformative approaches to food systems.

The root causes of South Africa’s hunger problem are complex and range from politics to outdated laws and technology to climate change. Our country’s unique agricultural landscape, characterized by ultra-arid regions and limited arable land, requires innovative solutions. We must move away from intensive agricultural practices and monocultures that undermine the resilience of ecosystems.

South African farmers frequently share their experiences of climate change having a direct and growing impact on their livelihoods, and many who do not enjoy insurance privileges are unable to protect the environment. We believe in the need to adopt sustainable and regenerative farming methods. Protect the present and promote long-term productivity.

But that’s not enough. Transforming food systems and fighting hunger cannot be achieved by any single effort. It requires a unified, cross-disciplinary approach that addresses different aspects of the problem. The only way forward is through collaboration, bringing together diverse stakeholders, including smallholder farmers, governments, NGOs, businesses and communities, to forge a path towards a more just, resilient and sustainable food system.

Wozanami Project

For example, Wozanami Project In Inchanga, KwaZulu-Natal. The purpose of this project was to demonstrate the impact of dietary changes on health. Through the support and collaboration of municipalities, clinics, cooperatives, NGOs, and homesteaders, a strong value chain is built to connect farmers and communities to deliver locally produced, nutritious and culturally appropriate food. We make sure that you can get it.

To date, 110 small-scale farmers have been trained to embrace agroecological farming methods, which have also withstood the floods that hit the region last year. They now sell their produce directly to the community at the hub’s monthly market.

Through Woza Nami, Inchanga Agrihub has been enhanced with cultivation tunnels, chicken coops, demonstration beds, water tanks, and nurseries. Seventy-five local youth were employed to help with agroecology and nutrition training, greening efforts, and managing the hub’s facilities, but external support will be essential to scale out the project.

Although often overlooked, smallholder farmers play a critical role in fostering sustainable food systems. Supporting these farmers not only benefits vulnerable populations through informal markets, but also promotes agroecological practices that are essential for future food production. We work to establish local agricultural standards that improve production practices and ease access to markets, and advocate for policies that support farmers in their vital role.

When South Africa does well, it does so because of dialogue. The food system is no exception. Creating deliberative spaces that bridge social gaps ensures that all voices are heard and considered. Such dialogue leads to actionable change at both local and national levels, resulting in social innovations that drive food system progress. Connecting these local efforts with decision-makers will further expand their impact.

Looking to the future, South African Food Research Institute remains committed to building trust, driving innovation, and transforming lives through action. Our mission extends beyond our organization. We are here to support others with the same goals.

South Africa needs a food system that nourishes people and protects the environment. Together, through dialogue, cooperation and action, we can overcome the challenges plaguing our food system and build a South Africa where no one goes to bed hungry and where food is a source of health and strength for all. And you must. DM

Dr Scott Domie is the Director of the South African Food Research Institute. Founded in 2009 to foster creative responses to hunger through multi-stakeholder dialogue and action, food security initiative At Stellenbosch University.


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