Experts caution cause for alarm in future of SA food industry
“There are a number of critical concerns regarding production of food in South Africa in the coming years,” says Scott Drimie, Director of the Southern Africa Food Lab (SAFL).
“Hunger and malnutrition remain serious problems in South Africa but the underlying causes are complex and interrelated; spanning environmental, health, economic, socio-political and agro-food issues. These include increasing unemployment, food price volatility, HIV and AIDS, drought conditions, a decrease in government support for agriculture and persistently high levels of urban and rural poverty. These challenges make it difficult to achieve the constitutional right of all South Africans to adequate food, despite national and international commitments to meeting these rights.”
“The only way to tackle these issues constructively is by prompting a more coherent conversation about an effective food system for South Africa. Such a conversation would require engagement at an individual, institutional and sectoral level subsequently delivering a shared response and corrective action in managing the interlocked challenges of water, energy and food security. It is hoped that this report will provide the starting point.”
This thinking was the driving force behind a Transformative Scenario Planning process. The process was convened by SAFL at Stellenbosch University in partnership with WWF South Africa and Reos Partners.
“Transformative Scenario Planning helps bring together teams of stakeholders – often with divergent views – to create stories about what could happen in their problematic situation and what options are available to deal with it,” explains Colleen Magner, Director of Reos Partners. “Transformative Scenario Planning enables participants to construct shared understandings, stronger relationships, and clearer responses to change the current reality.”
The scenarios – which deal with plausible threats to natural resources, food production, the impacts of the political economy and nutrition issues – were developed through a structured set of activities including research and workshops with participants from across the food system, and a focus on influential leaders. These leaders included policy makers, regulators, producers, intermediaries, NGOs and consumers.
“As the food system presents us with an unprecedented level of complexity influenced by so many drivers, existing strategies fail to adequately address the food security challenge. Recasting the current trajectory requires a multi-level, multi-sectoral and multi-actor response,” explains Tatjana von Bormann, Programme Manager: Market Transformation at WWF South Africa.
“In recent weeks, it has emerged that South Africa is set to harvest its smallest maize crop in eight years owing to severe drought conditions in large productions areas,” she says “The knock on effects of this include higher food prices in the short term as the grain is a basic input for the production of red meat, poultry, eggs and milk.”
“This precise event is actually predicted in one of the scenarios we developed and serves to illustrate, in a very basic way, how uncertain the future of food is. We have this confluence of risk factors impacting an already complex system. Are we considering what might be? And are we ready? The scenarios are the first step in such thinking.”
For further information on the Transformative Scenarios process, visit http://www.southernafricafoodlab.org/transformative-scenarios-process.html.