by Taryn Springhall

Feeding on solutions

Aiming for an era where nobody goes hungry

Working together is the only solution to solving food security issues in SA

Subsequent reports continue to indicate that South Africa’s exports continue to grow. The Netherlands was South Africa’s largest agricultural export destination but a growing demand from Asia and the rest of Africa have helped to maintain South Africa’s status as a net agricultural exporter. 

The Global Food Security Index, conducted by the Economist intelligence unit,  ranked South Africa 40th out of 105 countries, with the United States in  first place and the Democratic Republic of Congo ranked the least.

The index also noted however, that countries in sub-saharan Africa and South Asia were the most vulnerable to high food prices, although the report classified South Africa as an ‘upper middle income’ country. 

A separate study by the SAIRR revealed that commercial farming was a staple to South Africa’s food security and accounted for 95% of the country’s locally produced food. 

The remaining 5% was made up from South Africa’s 220 000 emerging farmers and 1.3-million subsistence farmers. 

For many, the numbers are a clear indication that food security relies heavily on commercial farming but that the sector wasn’t without pitfalls. 

The study also estimated that there are 94.5-million hectares of agricultural land in South Africa but only 14% of this land was used to grow crops. The rest of the land is used for other activities such as grazing or mining.

Currently, the country’s 47 500 commercial farmers use only 36% of cultivated agricultural land and 5% of the total agricultural land available, indicating enormous room for expansion of commercial farming activities. 

According to AgriSA, South Africa’s largest farming body, farmers must adopt sustainable farming practices that make an impact not only on production costs and profits but also on the environment and maximising land use in an environmentally friendly way. 

Research conducted by the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) for the Maize Trust warned that a clash of interests between miners and farmers could cost the country millions of tonnes in maize production every year up to 2020.

The research was presented at the launch of BFAPs Baseline Agricultural Outlook 2012 to 2021 and aims to offer an outlook on southern African agricultural production, consumption, prices and trade for the period. 

Mpumalanga province was cited as an example of a productive mining area, rich in coal, gold, iron ore, chrome, alusite, magnetite and vanadium amongst others. Added to that, 46% of the country’s arable land, as well as wetlands and ecologically sensitive areas are located in the province and it is the heart of South Africa’s maize producing area.

In a pilot study of one small area in Mpumalanga, researchers estimated that mining activities could result in the loss of 400 000 tonnes of maize within the next 10 to 20 years in the same region. And while mining is more profitable in the short term, agriculture is more sustainable in the long term, leaving a huge concern over which will win out and what effect the result will have on food security. 

Currently, economists fear that the maize crisis will be felt globally, however not immediately and not as severely in South Africa as other neighbouring countries, but that the true impact will be felt in the households of the country’s poor. 

Despite the recent predictions, food security has been a priority for the government since 1994 and was an important component of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) in 1994 where both commercial and small scale subsistence farming were emphasised as part of a strong food supply.

The gaps in production and supply led the government to launch an integrated and more efficient food security programme, titled the Integrated Food security Strategy (IFSS). The goal of the IFSS is to eradicate malnutrition, food insecurity and hunger in South Africa by 2015. 

The strategic objectives of the IFSS include the increase of domestic food production and trading, to improve the generation of income and job creation in agriculture, to improve food safety and nutrition, to implement food emergency management systems, to improve information management and analysis of agriculture and food production and finally, to have stakeholder dialogues. 

One of the major steps in creating equal food security on a national and household level is the improvement of household food production and distribution to address rural food insecurity.

By increasing the number of households involved in productive agriculture, together with increasing access to small scale irrigation systems and training for farmers on green and sustainable technologies, the IFSS aims to eradicate food insecurity and empower marginalised groups to drive commercial food production in rural areas. 

Overall, the country is actively engaging in creating a food secure state, from empowering individuals and communities to harness commercial farming and export opportunities to build a healthy economy and a thriving nation. 

While working together is proving successful in overcoming food insecurity, it is still true that the country needs to strive towards an even more vigorous approach to planting the seeds that will lead to food security well into the future, affording us the opportunity to harvest a new era where no one goes hungry. 

The first part of this story can be viewed at: Harvest SA - On the knife edge



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Issue 46


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