The key to combatting food insecurity is the creation of sustainable community-based food supply chains, argues Refilwe Pico, communications officer at the Seriti Institute. This non-profit is a developmental facilitation agency that helps communities and social partners reach their goals by delivering innovative, sustainable and comprehensive solutions to enhance socioeconomic impact.
2020’s Covid-19 hard lockdown exposed the reality of South Africa’s long-standing levels of inequality, deep poverty and food insecurity. And for many, the country’s current economic crisis promises no change in these bleak affairs for at least the next few years.
According to an article in The World Bank which was released on 16 July 2021, the Agricultural Commodity Price Index has risen by 30% since January 2020. Maize prices are 43% higher, wheat prices 12% higher and rice costs 10% more than in January 2020. These figures, coupled with the stark reality of the high unemployment rate and slow food relief systems in South Africa, paint a dire picture of the situation most South African citizens find themselves in.
According to an analysis released in September 2020, 20% of the South African population, that is 11,8 million people, were expected to fall into the “crisis” level of food insecurity by March 2021. This means that urgent action is required to reduce food gaps and protect livelihoods, especially considering that food insecurity causes chronic malnutrition in children which increases their risk of stunting, diseases and death, ultimately, threatening our future.
The challenges are significant, but the need to intervene is too great to ignore. Over the years, civil society organisations have played the role of trying to fill these gaps with varied interventions such as skills transfer, food relief and community development projects, but they cannot close these gaps fast enough and on such a large scale. To do this, we need community-based organisations that are empowered enough to impact the lives of their own marginalised communities.
Some of these civil society organisations are experiencing the ripple effects of their interventions. We recently saw this in Bela-Bela, where two communal gardens, after receiving inputs incorporated with training on how to start and maintain a food garden, evolved to being providers of food relief to their vulnerable community members.
One such case is the Reamogetswe Centre for Disabled Adults which does not only grow enough vegetables for their own consumption but are now also able to provide a nearby Early Childhood Development Centre with vegetables.
This gives the neighbouring centre a guarantee of healthy and nutritious food which improves children’s mental development, prevents stunting, and increases their physical activity. Furthermore, the Reamogetswe Centre for the Disabled provides women and children from underprivileged backgrounds with access to food.
Another example is the Development Skills and Community Project which underwent the same training programme and received the same inputs for implementation and has recently opened a feeding scheme that caters to destitute children, women and the elderly in their community. This garden also makes provision to neighbours, relatives, and those dependent on social grants.
By partnering with community-based organisations, civil society organisations assist community-based organisations to reach their goals, deeply impact their communities and create a sustainable synergy for development. The key to combatting food insecurity is the creation of sustainable community-based food supply chains, which have the potential of generating work opportunities and improving incomes and food security by supporting household production and selling fresh vegetables to the local market.