As we’ve established in previous blogs, food is at the centre of everyone and everything. We can’t possibly begin to talk about sustainable development or smart cities without considering how people access food. However, there is such a disjoint between progressive food policies and the implementation thereof. While this is true of many policies in South Africa, there continues to be significant energy, effort and resources behind developing food-centric or food-adjacent policies at municipal, provincial and national government levels.
Examples of institutions and groups behind such efforts include government actors themselves (Dept. of Social Development; Dept. of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; municipal directorates etc.). They have, over the past few decades, consulted widely to put together ambitious policies with intentions to update them in the near future. The DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security is one of the major academic custodians of research and knowledge in food security and is consistently engaging with multistakeholder groups (both governmental and non-governmental) to identify policy levers and other interventions.
The non-profit sector has been at the coalface of food insecurity for many years, and the urgency is only increasing with pressures of Covid, climate change and our socio-political system. Calls for food security to be taken much more seriously are echoing throughout different interest groups, and government is (rightfully) under immense pressure to respond to the crisis. Of course, an enabling policy environment is just one piece of the food security puzzle: these policies must be responsive to on-the-ground realities, they must be integrated across departments, they must be properly resourced, they must not be subject to political whims, and there must be accountability measures in place.
Until these conditions are met, food security interventions will continue to be rolled out ad hoc, often relying on volunteers and the benevolence of donors. We need to have a serious conversation around how we make sense of and enable food security in this country: without good policy, practice is hindered but policy must be tethered to implementation.