Securing food for all

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​The FirstRand Foundation last week held the fourth in its series of CSI that Works breakfasts — focused on the South African food security paradox.

The Farm & Garden National Trust’s Rob Small. (Elvis Ntombela)

The breakfast was hosted by Sizwe Nxasana, the Chairman of the Foundation and attended by executives from corporate entities, foundations and trusts, civil society organisations and government departments.

According to research commissioned by FirstRand and conducted by Tshikululu Social Investments, South Africa produces enough food to feed its population and yet 54% of the population is at risk of hunger, experience hunger or is food insecure. 

“Food insecurity is prevalent in rural areas (37%) and urban informal settlements (32%),” the research found. “Hunger is more prevalent among Black Africans (30.3%) and the Coloured population (13.1%). Household vulnerability to food shortages affects children more severely than adults. About a third of children under the age of five are stunted as a result of malnutrition,” the research noted. 

“The economic and social costs of malnutrition are very high,” according to the research report. “Malnutrition renders children susceptible to diseases and impaired cognitive development. These children are likely to have less education, earn less and rely more on government grants as adults.”

According to the research, “Addressing hunger and food insecurity requires a multi-sectoral approach to bring systemic change.”

According to Nxasana: “The National Development Plan (NDP) clearly articulates the commitment by government to address food insecurity in the country. However, government alone will not be able to address this paradox. All stakeholders should make a contribution guided by the NDP.”

The research highlighted lessons learnt through the implementation of CSI interventions in agriculture and food security: 

  • Shift funding from food relief programmes to training and skills development interventions;
  • Promote initiatives that promote gender equity in agriculture and the food security sector;
  • Support the design and implementation of educational programmes linked to community development;
  • Support the use of technology in improving monitoring and evaluation of food security programmes;
  • Engage in structured public-private partnerships to optimise impact; and
  • Support small-scale commercial farmers linked to the business supply chain.

In their respective presentations, speakers highlighted these and other lessons learnt through their experiences in the sector.

International development expert, consultant and Wits University lecturer Dr Danny Simatele says that food security, as defined by the 1996 and 2009 World Food Summits, “exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.

“Food security has four aspects,” he says, “availability, access, utilisation and stability.” Availability refers to the existence of food. Access refers to households having the needed resources to obtain appropriate food, while food utilisation has a socio-economic and biological aspect, referring both to how households distribute food amongst members and the ability of the body to take food and turn it into energy. The last — stability — refers to the temporal aspects of food security.

“Despite the political and economic advances made since 1994,” Simatele says, “South Africa continues to experience major challenges of poverty, unemployment and, more recently, steep increases in food and fuel prices, energy tariffs and interest rates. These adverse conditions have placed ordinary South Africans, already struggling to meet their basic household needs, in an ever more vulnerable situation. 

“For example: 57% of South Africans still live below the poverty index line, 26% of South African households experience hunger, 12-million people go to bed hungry and 28.6% are at risk of hunger.”

CSI is an avenue to alleviate these problems and to help establish food security, he says. Corporates can assist with skills and knowledge training, help build adaptive strategies not just coping strategies, facilitate market access and ensure they align their CSI initiatives with government policy to maximise effectiveness through the “Triple P approach” — policies, programmes and partnership. 

One such partnership that has yielded positive results is that between the Tiger Brands Foundation and the department of basic education.

The Tiger Brands Foundation (TBF) was established in 2010, and has a budget of R14-million annually.  It has embarked on a schools feeding programme as well as building kitchens in schools that lack infrastructure. “The government’s National Schools Nutrition Programme fed about 9-million children daily, 201 days per year in 2013/2014, the TBF complements that programme,” says Glen.

In partnership with the department of basic education and in conjunction with the education departments in Gauteng, Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, North West, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, TBF provides a hot breakfast to some 40000 children in 62 schools.

“Government’s programme only feeds children after 11am,” Glen says, “and it provides protein, vegetables and starch. However, for some of those children the last time they ate was 11am the day before (or later). You cannot expect them to focus and learn from 7:30am if they’re hungry.”

TBF thus complements government’s efforts. It provides a mobile monitoring system too so it knows exactly how many meals have been served to how many children and teachers, what food wastage there was, if there were problems such as no water at a school and so on, enabling it to build up a repository of data.

The monitoring system also positively impacts behavior (children eat at the table with teachers and learn social skills and table manners), school attendance and absenteeism, nutrition, contributes to whole school development and enterprise development, skills development, infrastructure and provides valuable data that can be used to shape the future of school feeding and develop a replicable PPP model.

A venture making an impact of a different kind was presented by Rob Small from The Farm and Garden National Trust (F>). The problem with food security in South Africa, says Small, is that South Africans across the board — rich, poor, urban, rural, private sector or public sector, have given up on small family farming as a viable means of sustaining a family and earning an income. 

“They all want an education for a 9 to 5 job.” Small says only in South Africa do you see people sitting on land, with access to seeds and water, complaining that they are hungry and asking to be fed.

Previous programmes to address food security have failed, he says, but the F> believes its model will rectify that. The Abalimi model, says Small, rests on four pillars — the first is to supply resources (seeds and manure) to people affordably, on an ongoing basis. The second is to provide extension services like ongoing mentoring and training. The third is to provide them with a dedicated, guaranteed market. And the last is to make start up capital available, at the right time in the business’ development.

Using this model, he says, the F> has empowered 4500 micro family farmers each feeding five people. Micro farmer entreprenuers are selling 400 food boxes a week to a growing number of consumers who want ethical produce (not green wash) and Small says they could sell 2000 boxes a month if they had the produce. 

Currently operating only in Cape Town, Small says the project’s farmers can make up to R3 500 per month, after costs, on a 500m2 piece of land.

Small says the project has proven that it is possible to avoid starvation and hunger if people are given a little bit of land (100m2 for a family of five), seed and water and that employment can be created by giving them a bigger piece of land.

This article has been paid for and approved by the FirstRand Foundation.

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