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The right to food in South Africa: SPII launches report

As of last year, there were 14 million South Africans who had inadequate or severely inadequate access to food. Hunger is a reality that many South Africans will face unless the right to food is realised soon. The Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII) launched a report on the right to food in South Africa, earlier this week. The report, authored by Daniel MacLaren, Busiso Moyo and Jared Jeffery, highlights the need for the implementation of a legislative framework that will allow all government, civil society and other stake holders to work together to combat the growing issue of hunger within the country.

The right to food has long been a contentious issue and is the only socio-economic right listed in the Constitution that does not have an Act that gives content to the right. In addition to a legislative deficiency, policy that is meant to ensure realisation of the right to food is inadequate both in content and in the way in which it has been rushed through political processes without consultation.

The report

In the SPII report, MacLaren reveals that South Africa has more than enough resources to feed the country’s population. However, despite this, one in four South Africans face hunger. Moreover, the poorest of the poor spend more than half (at least 60%) of their income on food.

The SPII report was created using a 3-step methodology which looks at firstly, policy analysis which assesses the policy effort. Secondly, budget analysis which looks at resource allocation and expenditure, and finally  indicators  which monitor and evaluate attainment of the right. Under policy analysis, the report finds that there has not been a sufficiently coordinated policy effort from government to end hunger and ensure the right to food and that policies that do exist suffer from an accountability and implementation deficit. The authors’ recommendation is that a participatory process of drafting framework legislation be initiated, backed by increased political will, and that the discourse on the right to food be shifted away from a narrow production and rural development paradigm. The report finds in analyzing budgets made available for the realization of the right to food that insufficient resources have been made available and that there are significant problems with some of the main programmes identified as contributing to food security.

Government policy plans going forward

Sibongiseni Ndimande, a representative of  the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries who attended the launch, said the draft policy for the framework of the right to food was in motion. The government is looking to ensure that the 14-million people currently identified as vulnerable to food insecurity, and who have inadequate or severely inadequate access to food, will have access to food by 2023. Government currently spends R7,913 billion on food. This figure is spread across spending in  prisons, hospitals and for other social needs.  The intention is for this spending to be directed at small farmers to support these farmers who struggle to access traditional markets and value chains.. SECTION27’s question about the plans to address concentration in the market rather than merely creating a parallel market for small farmers went unanswered.

The problematic food value chain

A number of attendees at the launch of the report raised concerns about the concentration of power in the food value chain. The value chain is dominated by, at the producer level, white farmers with large farms and further up the value chain, a small number of large companies. Small-scale black farmers struggle to access agro-processing facilities and markets due to historical reasons, a closed agro-processing sector and a lack of capacity to produce the volumes required by purchasers. “Often when we buy 200 butternuts from a small farmer, that’s it. I can’t come back tomorrow and buy more,” said Muzi Nkala of the Department of Social Development. There appear to be few plans to remedy this.

Ndimande announced that the draft policy and implementation plan food security would be finalised by the second week of September during a meeting for the national plan of operation Phakisa. Civil society representatives that attended the launch stressed the need for government to consult with affected people in the development of the policy and implementation plan, both as a constitutional imperative and to ensure that the policy framework meets the needs of the country.

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