Close to 12 million people in South Africa suffer from hunger daily and need a critical source of nutrition. The agricultural sector has a key role to play in tackling hunger, more specifically child nutrition.
According to Tiger Brands chairperson Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, a more holistic approach is required when tackling hunger in South Africa.
Not only does she believe that food producers have a critical role to play in eradicating malnutrition, but Fraser is convinced that more and more South African families should be equipped in growing their own food.
She spoke to Food For Mzansi about their work in eradicating malnutrition, as well as food nutrition challenges in rural and farming communities.
Tiisetso Manoko: Geraldine, what are the biggest misconceptions around child nutrition in Mzansi?
Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi: Our targeted initiatives are built around maintaining South Africa’s status as a food secure country and improving household food security, which sees close to 12 million people in our country suffering from hunger daily.
A nutritious diet is required for a child to reach their full potential in every respect. A full stomach does not necessarily mean that hunger does not exist.
Many South African children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition which is inadequate energy and nutrients, low height for their age, low weight for their age, overweight or obesity.
Do you think support grants play an important role in curbing child malnutrition?
There is evidence to support that the grant is critical to addressing broader socio-economic challenges, including child nutrition. Any increase in narrowing the gap would be effective in addressing the challenge of child hunger.
Tiger Brands recently launched Isondlo, a child nutrition programme in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and their grassroots implementing partners. Through Isondlo 10 000 children and their families will receive monthly food hampers containing carefully selected food items that address the correct nutritional needs.
Also, included in the hamper is a vegetable food garden starter kit, as we encourage families to also grow food to help them care sustainability for their children’s nutritional needs into the future.
Farmers are already playing a key role in ensuring food security in South Africa. What are their responsibilities when it comes to child nutrition?
As a critical source of food supply and mass employer, agriculture plays a substantial part in maintaining South Africa’s status as food secure and in improving household security.
Agriculture is a critical source of nutrition. In South Africa specifically, more than 70% of our rural population alone is dependent on agriculture for food security and as a source of income.
For these very reasons, the sustainable development goal to improve food security hinges much of its efforts on supporting the sustainability of agriculture in communities across the world where poverty and lack of access to nutrition are a challenge.
What are some of the challenges that you have come across in rural and farming communities?
For me, the most prominent of the many constraints faced by these communities is access to resources such as water, energy and infrastructure, and services.
A good example of this is during the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, the school feeding programme was not able to run, exposing exactly how vulnerable children in communities were.
In terms of the farming community, there is a greater need to educate and upskill individuals so that they can participate more meaningfully in the agri-economy.
One of Tiger Brands’ enterprise supplier development programmes, the Agriculture Aggregator model, seeks to address some of these issues and look at how small-scale farmers can compete at a commercial level.
Is enough being done to curb child malnutrition in SA?
More can certainly be done if we consider the available research findings that more than 12 million people are affected by hunger every day and that children, especially those five and under, are vulnerable to succumbing to this reality.
Initiatives like Isondlo have an important positive impact on the challenges but there is an opportunity to amplify this through greater cross-sector collaboration and coordination.
This includes within government and between government departments, and between government and the private sector and civil society. As one organisation, we can have a positive impact, but we can bring the most effective change as a collective.
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