In the next 40 years, it is projected that the world population will grow from seven billion to nine billion. However, for many different reasons, one billion people currently still do not have sufficient safe and nutritious food to eat. United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, reiterates this sense of urgency as he states that “in a world of plenty, no one, not a single person, should go hungry. But almost 1 billion still do not have enough to eat.” Demand is rising while resources are dwindling. As many students are members of the “born free” generation in South Africa, they have come of age concurrently to the coming-of-age of an equal, democratic South Africa. However, food security and nutrition remains a primary barrier in achieving overall equality in South Africa and the world.
The 1996 World Food Summit defines food security to be when “all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy life”. According to the World Health Organisation, food security is built on three pillars. Firstly, availability of food requires that sufficient quantities of food are accessible on a constant basis. Secondly, access to food requires that individuals have adequate resources to obtain the appropriate foods for a nutritious diet. Lastly, the use of food requires that individuals have sufficient knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as sufficient water and sanitation. In South Africa’s case, the population falls victim to a lack of access and resources in obtaining food.
According to Statistics South Africa’s (StatsSA) General Household Survey in 2011, 21% of South African households had limited access to food. Moreover, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) estimates 35% of the South African population to be vulnerable to food insecurity, with a quarter of children below the age of six suffering from malnutrition. Further evidence by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) proves that the majority of citizens purchase staple foods from commercial suppliers as opposed to producing it themselves. This indicates a dependency on access to money. Therefore, inadequate access to food rather than a shortage thereof has resulted in food insecurity within the country. Paul Bulcke, the CEO of Nestlé, states that in order to ensure access to food at affordable prices, this must be done through “improving logistics, infrastructure, and transportation systems to ensure those who need food are supplied with it.”
The Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information Management System (FIVISM) of 2006 describes the most food insecure South Africans to be poor rural populations, HIV/ Aids affected families, the disabled, elderly and children below the age of five. FIVISM further emphasises their deprivation of basic needs and inequitable resource distribution to reinforce long-term food insecurity within South Africa. “The quest for food security can be the common thread that links the different challenges we face and helps build a sustainable future”, states José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General. These “different challenges” contribute to global insecurity within vulnerable households. The primary and most crucial factors affecting food sustainability in South Africa are rising food prices and the negative impact of HIV/Aids.
Rising food prices, together with trade policies and restrictions result in increased global prices, thus increased food prices, the FAO suggests. Greg Page, the CEO and Chairman of Cargill, states that “governments must encourage open trade and a fair, transparent, rules-based system to everyone’s gain.” He goes further in describing how “companies that are directly or indirectly in the business of feeding the world have a responsibility to promote trust-based free trade.” South African inflation reflects considerably on the citizens of the country. Inflation results in a lack of affordability in purchasing food and therefore disables the vulnerable in having purchasing power. The Integrated Food Security Strategy of South Africa states that a lack of purchasing power is due to rising food prices and is accelerated by inadequate work opportunities, specifically in rural areas.
Furthermore, HIV/Aids increase South Africa’s vulnerability to food insecurity. The virus attacks healthy, able-bodied individuals. Due to an ill individual’s inability to work, their families are at an increased risk of poverty and malnutrition. Also, rural households are often dependant on wavering incomes. With the family breadwinners are falling victim to HIV/ Aids, funds are spent on medication for the ill as opposed to spending the money on purchasing food. HIV/Aids affect worldwide populations and whole countries’ economies. The disease threatens social and economic development. The FAO stated in 2010 that “as infection rates continue to escalate around the world… the pandemic is significantly impacting food security and nutrition”.
There is an urgent need for South Africa to develop a comprehensive food security and nutrition strategy. Policy-makers and non-governmental bodies need to work together to alleviate poverty and inequality in vulnerable communities.
Heads of state, UN officials, private sector and civil society leaders gathered to discuss numerous sustainable development issues. This took place at the Rio+20 Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and at the G20 Conference in Los Cabos, Mexico in June of 2012. Many of these leaders recognized that agriculture unites the diverse efforts in order to meet the needs of a world population in 2050. Furthermore, there exists numerous global youth conferences in which students gather to discuss and debate these significant food issues, on a local and global level.
On 24 to 28 August 2015, young leaders from around the world will gather at the Global Youth Ag-Summit to discuss ideas, develop a vision and deliver action against global food insecurity. The Youth Ag-Summit movement started in Canada in 2013.The goal was to share perspectives and create an open dialogue on how the global agricultural community will be able to feed a worldwide population of more than nine billion people by the year 2050. Former participant from Zimbabwe, 23 year old Rodney Kurai Mushongachiware, states on Youthagsummit.com that “the summit gave [him] the opportunity to share [his] ideas towards youth, agriculture and security.” “We are stewards of the world resources… we are capable of doing what other great names… have done”, says Mushongachiware.
Photo: Charlotte Bastiaanse