World Food Day: Leadership needed in SA’s fight against hunger | WWF South Africa

World Food Day: Leadership needed in SA’s fight against hunger



Posted on 16 October 2015
Our constitution recognises the right to sufficient food, yet large numbers of our population are severely affected by malnutrition.
© WWF-SA
Today is World Food Day – a time to reflect upon the hunger challenges that face South Africa. Specifically this year, the focus of World Food Day is on the role that social protection – for example, the policies and programmes designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability – must play in stimulating food production and local economic activity.

Our constitution recognises the right to sufficient food, yet large numbers of our population are severely affected by malnutrition. Ultimately it is the state’s responsibility to take measures within its means to ensure that all South Africans benefit from this right.

The constitution also recognises the right to social protection, which occupies a central role in the country’s National Development Plan with respect to eradicating poverty and reducing inequality.
But social protection alone cannot reduce hunger and address all of the failings of South Africa’s food system. Although the current social protection system is advanced and comprehensive, it, too, faces numerous challenges.

In an attempt to better understand these challenges, the Southern African Food Lab recently facilitated a process to construct scenarios about the possible futures of the food system. The resulting study revealed a number of crucial issues in the system, including that many households are unable to afford adequate nutritious foods to meet their dietary requirements because:
  • The open nature of South Africa’s market allows for international food price shocks to be transmitted to down to local wholesale and retail prices
  • Social policies and programmes can act as a safety net for the poor but they do not fundamentally alter the ongoing inability of households to afford food
  • The price of food has risen dramatically over recent years with food inflation reaching 10.3% between January 2011 and January 2012
  • Urban and rural households in lower income groups spend approximately 35% of their income on food.
These factors, taken together, mean that lower income households rely on getting nutrition from a shrinking and inadequate food basket. Additionally, their financial circumstances render them vulnerable to accessing excess calories and salt. Coupled with lifestyle changes from processes like urbanisation, these poor quality diets are associated with rising rates of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

These food scenarios suggest that a new emphasis is required on the governance of the food system that would inform South Africa’s emerging policy. It is necessary that leadership from across the food system acknowledge the writing on the wall and consider the serious implications of factors that affect the food system.

For more information: www.thefutureoffood.co.za

This article is adapted from an opinion piece authored by Tatjana von Bormann (Senior Manager: Policy and Future Unit, WWF South Africa) and Dr Scott Drimie (Director: Southern African Food Lab)
Our constitution recognises the right to sufficient food, yet large numbers of our population are severely affected by malnutrition.
© WWF-SA Enlarge
The Future of South Africa's Food System
© Southern Africa Food Lab Enlarge