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

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

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
Advertisting

South Africa has been junked

Treasury says the credit ratings downgrade “could not have come at a worse time”, as country enters a 21-day Covid-19 lockdown with little money saved up

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories