A Research Report Produced by the Human Science Research Council in Partnership with the National Development Agency

Type Journal Article
Title A Research Report Produced by the Human Science Research Council in Partnership with the National Development Agency
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
URL http://nda.soundidea.co.za/home/43/files/Research Reports/2.FOOD_SECURITY.pdf
Purpose and scope of the research
The purpose of the research was to investigate the food security system and how resources of a
household determine its access to food and nutrition. The focus was to assess the role of civil
society organisations participation in improving household food security in South Africa. The
outcomes of the research would contribute to the National Development Agency (NDA)?s food
security strategy focused on supporting civil society organisations to enable them to help the
food security status of poor households in South Africa. Furthermore, the outcomes would
encourage policy debates on food security and identify areas for more research in order to have
holistic understanding of household food security in the country.
The scope of the research as agreed with the NDA Research Unit was to explore the following
1. Government role in ensuring and improving access to food security – programmes,
policies and coordination
2. Food security definitions, measurements and recent initiatives in South Africa
3. Models of food security interventions for the poor people and communities
4. Gendered dimension of food security including the impact of food security on
marginalized groups such as women, children, youth, people living with HIV and people
with disabilities.
5. Households? ability and access to secure nutritious food
6. Role of private sector and business in ensuring household food security
To address the objectives of this research, the analyses presented were based on
desktopreview and discussion of relevant scientific literature and a scan of grey literature (policy
documents, reports, web resources, etc. including resources provided by the NDA Research
Unit. The analyses were also based on literature from previous HSRC research projects and
publications. In addition, the project used international published data on food and nutrition
security, models of food security etc. The research process involved continuous sharing,
exchanges and meetings between the HSRC research team and the NDA Research Unit.
Findings and recommendations
Definitions and measurements of food security: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations defines food security as a condition which exists when all people, at all times,
have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their
dietary needs and food preferences for an active and health life. The dimensions for food
security are multiple and complex making measurement a challenge. While South Africa has
several national instruments which measure different dimensions of food security it lacks a
national survey that measures all the dimensions of food and nutrition security. As a result the
extent of food insecurity at household level in South Africa is incomplete. This has serious
negative implications for policy and targeting.
1. There is need to establish a common food security target for South Africa. The
motivation for a national food security target would to enable more effective pro-poor
policy responses and to ensure efficiency in fiscal spending in relation to food and
nutrition security interventions (Jacobs, 2009). Civil society organisations (CSOs) have a
key role to play in advocating for a clearly defined food security target to be established.
2. The state must be prevailed up to urgently establish a proper monitoring and evaluation
system including impact assessment ex-post for the food and nutrition security
programme which can feed in to policy development, programme design and learning.
3. CSOs capacity to engage with food security policy, definitions and measurements of
food security needs to be strengthened to facilitate local community communication.
Better understanding of these issues will also ensure that CSOs engage at the same
levels with government and other stakeholders.
4. The role of civil society in actively lobbying for improvements to current national
instruments is recommended. The NDA is urged to consider providing strategic support
to CSO?s in advocacy around the development of a national monitoring and evaluation
5. Investment in Qualitative In-depth Studies is required to help us understand how
households respond to different contexts, including shocks. CSO?s, particularly those
who have the capacity for research need to be supported to engage in such types of
Government’s role in ensuring food security:Government has since 1994 prioritised food
security as reflected in policy, programming and resourcing around specific elements of food
security. The government recently developed an overarching food security policy for South
Africa led by the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). However, much
more needs to be done to integrate the various policies and programme development initiatives
which are also focussed on addressing food security. The institutional location for coordinating a
national response, within the DAFF limits the possibility of a holistic multi-dimensional response
emerging. Clearly a holistic and comprehensive approach to food and nutrition security requires
the engagement with and coordination of multiple ministries and it remains unclear how a
Directorate within DAFF would achieve this.
1. There is need for more coordinated planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation
of food security policies and programmes.
2. CSOs need to actively engage with government as well as providing monitoring services
to government plans, programmes and resource allocations to ensure that food security
interventions effectively meet their goals.
Models of food security interventions for the poor: Interventions for food and nutrition security
are important and several efforts have been made by both developed and developing countries
to develop the relevant models for interventions. Some interventions have focused on policies
and programmes, agricultural production, value chains, market regulations, and land security.
This led to food security and nutrition focus on rural agricultural approach, with limited and no
focus on urban areas, which are equally affected by food insecurity. The list of CSO
participation (and models used) in food security and nutrition issues at the global level is
endless and impacts differ from country to country, based on prevailing conditions in the
countries where projects are undertaken. However, the challenge for food and nutrition security
clearly shows that governments alone cannot tackle this issue without local interventions where
CSOs can play a significant role. In South Africa, a number of CSOs, non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) and community based organisations (CBOs) are playing significant roles
in driving the food and nutrition security agenda in various parts of the community. Most
interventions in South Africa are guided by policy initiatives and relevant strategies on food and
nutrition security, where to some extent, CSOs work in close cooperation with government or
through government institutions like the NDA. However, a smooth coordination and healthy
relationship between CSOs and government remains the main challenge towards the successful
implementation of food security projects and programmes, especially at the community levels.
CSOs seem to have various platforms at which they can articulate for policies and other
strategic interventions in food security, both globally and nationally depending on the prevailing
conditions in each country. However, while CSOs can participate in the global framework on
food security agenda, some of the suggestions made by CSOs at the last 39th session of the
Committee on World Food Security (CFS) show the need for action and the seriousness to
tackle the core issue, which is “the right to food security”. Among the suggestions made, the
following are worth noting:
1. The CSOs call for the need to be treated as partners in all initiatives and at all stages of
action, through active collaboration and coordination between government, CSOs,
agencies, communities and other relevant institutions.
2. They argue that for strategies to be effective, they should be community driven and
include marginalised groups, such as women, children, youth, small holder farmers,
indigenous peoples, pastoralists and fisher folk.
3. The CSOs can facilitate community organisations through the support of empowerment
and capacity building to address structural challenges of food insecurity.
Overview of the gendered dimension of food security: The Food and Agriculture Organisation
defines four main dimensions of food security: availability, access, utilization and stability. While
the four dimensions are crucial to understanding food security at the household or community
level, the gendered dimension of food security needs to be highlighted as a cross cutting issue
in all the dimensions, given the role played by women towards food security for their
households. Women are key role players in ensuring that every individual in the household have
access to food and consumes all the nutritious food required for a healthy lifestyle as well as
improving the food security status of any household. Traditionally, women have little or no say in
the economic affairs of a household, such as food provision through farming, labour income or
other sources, stemming from the male dominance of men as heads of households. Most men,
particularly in the rural areas are the decision makers on household economic affairs, while the
women„s responsibility is centred around preparing the food and caring for the vulnerable
members of the family, especially children. Findings from the literature show that relatively high
proportions of both female headed and/or female-centred households are more vulnerable to
poverty and, hence to food insecurity. Women become more and more vulnerable to food
insecurity because they often have limited access and control of resources, which restricts them
from producing their own food and acquiring the necessary resources in order to become self
sufficient and this compromises their food security status.

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