Today is World Food Day. The day is celebrated on the anniversary of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organisation in 1945 but in South Africa, a country with a constitutionally protected (albeit far from realized) right to food, it is much more than an anniversary. Instead, it is a call to action. Recent data suggests that 26% of the country is hungry and another 28% is at risk of hunger. These numbers fly in the face of a right to food and to adequate nutrition.
So what should be done? The characterisation of access to food as a right is a useful one. It allows us to draw parallels with other rights and the way in which those rights have been given content and meaning in legislation and by the courts. It allows us to demand certain things – for example that the state prioritise programmes that realise the right and that companies that violate the right of access to food, through anti-competitive behavior, excessive profits or the unlawful annexing of productive land be brought to book.
Freedom from hunger and malnutrition is a basic component of dignity (as well as a health and economic imperative both for the individual and for the country as a whole). The right of access to food gives us a tool with which to forge a society that protects that dignity. It is a tool that we urgently need to take up.
For more discussion on World Food Day, please see the following publications produced by some of our partners:
Oxfam has published a fascinating booklet entitled Hidden Hunger in South Africa: the faces of hunger and malnutrition in a food-secure nation – access it here
Daniel McLaren of SPII writes about indicators on the realization of the right to food and areas of action. See his article here
See COPAC’s statement on food sovereignty here