In the fight against food inequality, the role of the media cannot be understated. This was the underlying sentiment powering an independent dialogue held in the run-up to the UN Food Systems Summit.
The dialogue, held last week, featured top speakers from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), and the ARUA Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Food Systems, amongst others.
It was hosted by SABC Education in partnership with Living Land on SABC2, Food For Mzansi, the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and No-Line Communications.
Food inequality in Africa
During the dialogue, Dr Brave Ndisale, the FAO country representative in South Africa, highlighted the devastating effects of the coronavirus on the African continent.
“As we speak today, in this moment, hunger has increased. In 2020, under the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, in Africa we have about 46 million more people that actually went to bed hungry [compared to 2019].”
She noted that the African population is estimated to double by 2050 to nearly 2.5 billion people.
“For this we require a radical transformation in how our food is produced and processed. We will require really bold measures to transform the food systems so that we can provide decent employment and a livelihood for our producers, our farmers, and every actor along the journey of food from the farm where it is produced to the table where it is consumed.”
Food system transformation
“I think it’s exciting that South Africa has seen it fit to convene and curate a session for our journalists. In most cases, they are gate crashers, they are left behind.
“But they always show up because it is their core business to inform the population,” said Professor Lindiwe Sibanda, director and chairperson of ARUA at the University of Pretoria. “I always believe it is even better when they show up with content and background information on the issues.”
Ndisale emphasised that the UN Food Systems Summit, to be held in New York in September, is a historic event, bringing together agricultural entities at an unprecedented level.
“People have come together, and it has been government, civil society, academia, private sector, farmers associations. And I am so pleased that the media has actually walked along, hand in hand with all these stakeholders, to share why food, and its journey from where it comes from on the farm to the table, matters and what must be done to correct [previous] wrongs.”
Ultimately, Ndisale said, it is the job of the media to raise awareness of food system transformation in the broader society. “It also plays an advocacy role to ensure that the challenges of the food system remain high on the political agenda, and also that solutions [to these challenges] are found.”