Food insecurity in South Africa
Food insecurity in South Africa has been an ongoing issue throughout the 21stcentury.The Food and Agricultural Organization estimated in 2002 that South Africa had the highest prevalence of malnutrition.South Africa is clearly the center of one of the great crises of our time. Food insecurity in South Africa is linked to socio-economic inequalities most prominently.Inadequate food access was indirectly attributed to global financial stress and environmental stress.
Firstly, I will discuss how the 2008 Food Price Crisis impacted South Africa’s food insecurity. Many scholars have asserted that this event had a definitive impact of South African’s access to affordable food.Food prices are rather volatile. Meaning, they are very reactive to economic shocks (natural disasters, energy prices, trade policy, etc.). Due to the financial crisis of 2007-’08, food prices shot upward, dramatically. According to the Oakland Institute, this resulted in “the total number of hungry people to over 1 billion.”At the time, this was approximately 1/6thof the world’s population. South Africa in particular was impacted dramatically by the food prices crisis. Ever since the crisis, food prices have been steadily increasing.However, this increase cannot be attributed to the economy “overheating” due to the fact that South Africa’s GDP growth was -1.5% in 2017.This prolonged increase in food prices caused severe stress and struggle for low income South African households.Lower income households were impacted most because those households usually spent the majority of their funds on food. So, the increase in food prices meant that they would have to buy less food and have the same amount of money saved or for other spending needs, or they would have to buy the same amount of food, but of less nutritious value. The result was a bit of mixed bag. However, both results are examples of food insecurity.
The second cause of food insecurity in South Africa is climate change. More generally, about 17% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP, is derived from agriculture.Some studies have shown that “reductions in yield in some countries could be as much as 50% by 2020.”These yield losses could be attributed to sever droughts that the region experienced more recently. Specifically, in 2017 and 2018 South Africa had a serious drought. According to the Ney York Times, Cape Town, South Africa was considering turning off taps in homes until it rained again, after a strenuous three-year drought.On January 14, 2018 the Theewaterskloof Dam, which is the source of about half of Cape Town’s water supply, was at 13 percent capacity.Unfortunately, this means that Cape Town, and surrounding towns, have almost no capacity to produce adequate amounts of food. Water supply has to be concentrated on drinking supplies, rather than agricultural growth. Therefore, fewer crops are being grown, and in turn the price of food increases. In effect, this leaves low income households most vulnerable to food insecurity. The less privileged families who cannot afford to pay exurbanite amounts of money for nutritious food. The result is similar to the last: families either end up with less food or less nutritious food.
Clearly, a new solution should be adapted to combat increasing food prices in South Africa, as well as the ongoing drought that have both left thousands of people hungry and nutrient deprived.
Previous Relief Efforts
In 2010, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations attempted to educate South Africans on nutrition.The organization enlisted the help of teachers, and created a nutrition education program, that was implemented into universities’ curriculum. The organization offered a four-month course that, “mainly uses tutorial teaching method, which emphasizes practice and experience, focusing on students’ active participation by making them the main actors of their own learning process.”The course helped university students understand “nutrition behavior change.”The FAO cited that the feedback was generally positive from students, helping them understand the importance of nutrition in policy creation, and that the course made students feel prepared for intergovernmental work. The FAO called for a scale up in nutrition education in other universities.
I found a few major flaws with the FAO’s nutritional education course. Firstly, it was only offered to university students. However, those most impacted by malnutrition and food insecurity are low income individuals, who cannot afford to attend university. Therefore, the program proved to be directed at the incorrect individuals because those that would benefit most from the courses most do not have access to them. Similarly, I am unsure if nutritional education courses would be best suited to fight food insecurity in South Africa because people cannot benefit from nutritional education courses if they do not have access to nutritious food.
Another previously attempted solution to food insecurity in South Africa was adapted in 2002 by the South African government, and was called the Integrated Food Security Strategy for South Africa (IFSS).The goal of the new program was to “attain universal, physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food by all South Africans at all times.”Its objectives included increasing household food production and trading, improve income generation, provide capacity building, etc.. It mainly focused on a developmental approach.
Since the IFSS was implemented, about 22 percent of the South African population still experienced poor to severe access to food.The IFSS failed in provide adequate food safety nets, providing nutritional education, and the poor use of land.The program determined that the government should direct its attention to the poorer members of society. Overall, if the government were to implement a similar program, it should focus solely on poorer communities, as those are the households most dramatically impacted by food insecurity. Both of these campaigns failed in similar ways: they targeted the wrong individuals and were poorly directed.
“FAO Promotes Healthy Diets Through Nutrition Education Training,” Food and Agriculture Organization, 2010, http://www.fao.org/in-action/fao-promotes-healthy-diets-through-nutrition-education-training/en/.
“FAO Promotes Healthy Diets Through Nutrition Education Training.”
“FAO Promotes Healthy Diets Through Nutrition Education Training.”
Department: Agriculture, “The Integrated Food Security Strategy for South Africa,” 2002, 383–93.
Prof JF Kirsten and Prof M McClachlan Prof HC Schönfeldt, “Country Policy Analysis Nutrition Impact of Agriculture and Food Systems Thailand,” UN System Standing Committee on Nutrition Country Study for the Second International Conference on Nutrition, no. August (2013), https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-411455-5.50010-3.
Prof HC Schönfeldt.
Alison A. Misselhorn, “What Drives Food Insecurity in Southern Africa? A Meta-Analysis of Household Economy Studies,” Global Environmental Change15, no. 1 (2005): 33–43, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2004.11.003; Labadarios, June-rose Mchiza, and Patricia Steyn, “Food Security in South Africa- a Review of National Surveys.”
FAO, “Food Insecurity in the World 2000,” 2000, 1–31.
Misselhorn, “What Drives Food Insecurity in Southern Africa? A Meta-Analysis of Household Economy Studies.”
Anuradha Mittal, “The 2008 Food Price Crisis: Rethinking Food Security Policies,” United Nations Discussion Papers, no. 56 (2009): 1–40, https://doi.org/UNCTAD/GDS/MDP/G24/2009/3; Labadarios, June-rose Mchiza, and Patricia Steyn, “Food Security in South Africa- a Review of National Surveys”; Misselhorn, “What Drives Food Insecurity in Southern Africa? A Meta-Analysis of Household Economy Studies.”
“High Food Price Crisis,” The Oakland Institute, 2018.
Paul Adams and Edward Paice, “The ‘Silent Crisis’ of Food Price Inflation in Africa,” Africa Research Institute, 2017.
Diana Liverman, “Assessing Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability: Reflections on the Working Group II Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” Global Environmental Change18, no. 1 (2008): 4–7, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2007.09.003.
Adams and Paice, “The ‘Silent Crisis’ of Food Price Inflation in Africa”; Misselhorn, “What Drives Food Insecurity in Southern Africa? A Meta-Analysis of Household Economy Studies.”
Wolfram Schlenker and David B. Lobell, “Robust Negative Impacts of Climate Change on African Agriculture,” Environmental Research Letters5, no. 1 (2010), https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/5/1/014010.
Liverman, “Assessing Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability: Reflections on the Working Group II Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”
Norimitsu Onishi and Somini Sengupta, “Dangerously Low on Water, Cape Town Now Faces Day Zero,” The New York Times, 2018.
Onishi and Sengupta.