The global industrialised food system has failed. Globally, nearly one in every three people do not have access to adequate food, says Rose Williams, director of Biowatch South Africa, an environmental justice non-profit.
Williams notes the 2021 UN report on the state of food security and nutrition, which found that up to 161 million more people around the world were facing hunger in 2020 than in 2019, partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Of the nearly 6.5 million people in South Africa, a staggering 11% suffer from hunger, reports The Borgen Project.
“When people see these staggering statistics, the assumption is that there is not enough food being produced around the world. The ‘solution’ seems obvious – produce more food. However, this is not so,” warns Williams.
She believes it is a falsehood that is skilfully perpetuated by big business and corporate interests to hoodwink us into subjugation to “an industrialised food system and its poisons – chemicals, pesticides, malnutrition, hunger, biodiversity destruction, air and water pollution, the climate crisis … the list goes on.”
An uncomfortable truth
The truth, according to Williams, is that in a world that produces enough food to feed its entire population, it is unacceptable that more than 1.5 billion people cannot afford a diet that meets the required levels of essential nutrients. More than 3 billion people cannot even afford the cheapest healthy diet.
The UN Food Systems Summit on 23 September should have been a key space to deal with this crisis, adds Vanessa Black, Biowatch’s advocacy, policy and research coordinator.
“Instead, the summit drew wide and active international criticism and condemnation for seeking to further reinforce the gross power imbalances that corporations hold over our food systems. This merely reinforces the crisis.”
Mvuselelo Ngcoya agrees. In this week’s episode of Good Food Conversations with Biowatch, the agroecology farmer and associate professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, says the crisis lies in the industrialised food system which is harmful, inadequate and precarious.
Ngcoya, who is also a Biowatch trustee, adds that the crisis lies in the industrialised food system which is harmful, inadequate and precarious.
“Most of our food (in South Africa), it is claimed, is produced by some 40 00 commercial farmers. That’s not food sovereignty; you are not a food sovereign nation when your food is dependent on the wills and the whims of such a small number of people,” he said.
“How can we secure food sovereignty in the face of looming ecological and social crises?” asks Lawrence Mkhaliphi, Biowatch’s agroecology manager.
“Farmer-led seed systems can and do make a critical contribution in responding to current global ecological and social threats through adaptation to climate change, enhancing agricultural biodiversity, strengthening food security and sovereignty, increasing dietary diversity, and recognising and honouring indigenous knowledge and the key roles of women.”
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.