FAO Regional Office for Africa

South Africa makes strides to tackle food and nutrition insecurity

Delegates at the "Indaba". Photo Credit: FAO/Steve Lazaro

Agriculture is a key source of food, income and employment in the Republic of South Africa. The country produces a variety of grains, vegetables, fruits and livestock products that are important in providing adequate levels of nutrition and food diversity.However, food insecurity and malnutrition are a significant challenge for the country.

The General Household Survey conducted by Statistics South Africa in 2015 found that 14.3 million people in the country had inadequate and severely inadequate access to food. This is up from 12.6 million in 2011. Up to 26.5 percent of children between one – five years are stunted and more than 45 percent of men and women above the age of 35 are either overweight or obese. 

Climate change is also threatening agricultural production with more frequent drought, flooding and pest and disease outbreaks. The For example, the 2015/16 El Nino-induced drought - the worst in 25 years affected 27 000 farming households and resulted in 253 000 livestock deaths.

Government committed to ending food insecurity and malnutrition

South Africa’s National Development Plan identifies Food and Nutrition Security as a key element of both poverty and inequality.

In 2013, the Government developed a Food and Nutrition Security Policy that aims to streamline, harmonize and integrate the diverse Food and Nutrition Security programmes in the country.

The Government has also rolled out a number of initiatives that address food insecurity and malnutrition, including school nutrition and social protection programmes.

The National Food and Nutrition Security Consultative Meeting (Indaba)

The Government is now developing an all-inclusive National Plan for Food and Nutrition Security (2017-2022).The Plan recognizes the important role and responsibility of the government in addressing nutrition security in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders.

From January 26 to 27, 2017, about 200 stakeholders from the agriculture, health, and education/research sectors and the private and social development sectors met in a “National Food and Nutrition Security consultative meeting or “Indaba” to review the draft implementation Plan, ahead of its launch in April 2017.

The “Indaba” also discussed the current food and nutrition security situation and status-quo of the country from a multi-sectoral perspective, drawing from empirical evidence.

The stakeholders were briefed about the “Right to Food”, in the context of the Republic of South Africa and how it could be enshrined in the National Plan for Food and Nutrition Security.

While speaking at the event that was co-organized by FAO and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), Lewis Hove, the FAO Representative, a.i, said the battle to end hunger and poverty must be principally fought in rural areas, where 70 percent of the hungry and poor live.

”To do this, we need to show a strong political will while also investing in the critical agents of change – the smallholders, rural women, fisher folk, indigenous communities and other vulnerable or marginalized groups”, he said.

Mr Mike Mlengana, Director-General of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said the government of the Republic of South Africa values partnerships in the war against food insecurity and malnutrition.

“Although Government has rolled out a number of programmes to improve food and nutrition security of the people, we need to work with partners to reduce the number of hungry people in the country”, he said.

The “Indaba” highlighted the need to improve and integrate the food and nutrition security information and reporting systems and to make agriculture more attractive to the youth. There was an appreciation of the fact that Food and Nutrition Security is multi-dimensional and spans the agriculture, trade, health, and social sectors. The “Indaba” also stressed the need for promoting “climate smart agriculture” in order to reduce the impact of climate change on farming. They called upon the government to ensure that the social protection programmes are intertwined with nutrition-enhancing agricultural programmes that empower the vulnerable population to produce food so that they are less dependent on aid.

FAO will continue supporting the government of the Republic of South Africa as it prepares to conclude the consultative processes by holding provincial “Indabas” before the Plan is launched in April 2017.