SA will have to produce 50% more food by 2050 or face crisis — WWF report

South Africa faces an impending food security crisis if there isn’t urgent action to correct unsustainable practices, says environmental organisation World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). 

According to the WWF, South Africa will have to produce 50% more food by 2050 to feed an estimated population of 73 million people. 

“We need to understand that our current approach to food production is by no means benign. Both globally and in South Africa, agriculture is the largest land use and has the heaviest impact on land transformation and biodiversity loss. Soil degradation, for example, results in a net loss of arable land every year,” Agri-Food Systems: Facts and Futures report author Tatjana von Bormann told media.

Farming in South Africa needs comprehensive reform in order to meet the needs of a growing population, says the 56-page report.

‘Resilient and secure food system’

The report reads: “Until a few years ago, WWF focused on the impacts of agricultural production, which are by far the most significant environmental impacts.

“However, focusing on farms only will not bring about the necessary structural transformation that is needed for a resilient and secure food system.

“If we want to achieve this shift within a complex adaptive system, we need to follow a socio-ecological approach, where the social, economic and political dimensions (the actors) are embedded within the ecological component (nature).

“This approach hinges on understanding all the possible interconnections and feedback loops so that, in intending to fix one thing, we do not create another unintended consequence.”

The report argues that, while South Africa has kept undernourishment below 5% since 1990, there are still significant challenges, with half the population still living below the poverty line.

“Paramount among these [challenges] are diet-related health problems, such as the growing prevalence of obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and the persistence of hunger, nutrient deficiencies and stunting,” says the report adding that women, children and the poor are most vulnerable.


Food insecurity is a global problem, despite commitments to ensure food security and poverty alleviation.

Malnutrition

According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), 45% of deaths of children under five can be attributed to malnutrition as an underlying cause, and two billion people worldwide suffer from vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

The WWF report cited a number of challenges to food security in South Africa: smallholder farmers without support; market dominance squeezing out smaller players; and the cost of healthy food as key hurdles to food security.

In addition, the impact of climate change, population increase, and food demand was likely to place serious demands on the food system.

“There will be a doubling of demand for certain products — meat and dairy included — by 2050. How will we meet this? It can’t just be about more production. We need a complete transformation to a system so that it nurtures human health and the environment,” said Von Bormann.

The WFP said that its Fill the Nutrient Gap tool was being used to engage with stakeholders on nutrition strategies in terms of market access and offers, dietary practices, nutrient intake gap of key target groups and affordability of a nutritious diet.

The organisation’s 2018 Global Nutrition Report puts stunting (chronic malnutrition) at 27.4% for South African children under five (2015 statistics).

That report also found 5.6% of children under five in SA were wasting.

The WWF said that progress in food security was not limited to the actions of any single role player.

“Progress must be cross-sectoral and made on all levels more or less simultaneously. WWF advocates that the necessary transformative change will be driven by inclusive regenerative farming, optimal water use, responsible sourcing, reducing food waste and dietary shift,” said Von Bormann.

Climate change

South African policy highlights the risk of the impact of climate change on food security.

“Climate change has the potential to reduce food production and the availability of potable water, with consequences for migration patterns and levels of conflict,” says the National Development Plan Executive Summary.

It adds that the effect of climate change will have a disproportionate impact on “the poor, especially women and children”.

The NDP has the goal of creating a food surplus, with one-third of supply produced by small-scale farmers.

A spokesperson for the department of agriculture, fisheries and forestry was not immediately available to comment on the report on Tuesday. — News24

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Duncan Alfreds
Duncan Alfreds
Content Producer, News24 and Tech News Writer, Fin24.com
Advertising

Two dead in new ANC KwaZulu-Natal killings

A Mtubatuba councillor and a Hammarsdale ANC Youth League leader were shot yesterday near their homes

Inside Facebook’s big bet on Africa

New undersea cables will massively increase bandwidth to the continent

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread

Engineering slips out of gear at varsity

Walter Sisulu University wants to reprioritise R178-million that it stands to give back to treasury after failing to spend it
Advertising

Press Releases

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations