role of cities
SA and the GCR
green initiatives
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energy efficiency
water and sanitation
mobilising the region
what can we do about food?

The food system – including food production, distribution and consumption – forms a critical but often undervalued component of any economy.

A functional and sustainable food system:

  • creates jobs – and benefits large numbers of dependents
  • stimulates the economy through foreign exchange earnings and forward and backward linkages with other sectors
  • ensures food security
  • sustains the environmental resource base.

Without food, the rest of the economy cannot function. But the industrialised and unregulated nature of the modern food system has led to many adverse impacts, including:

  • environmental degradation
  • climate change
  • a high dependency on fossil fuels
  • the marginalisation of small farmers
  • high levels of food insecurity linked to unfair global trade.

The key sustainability objectives which are promoted through a regional food system include:

  • community resilience and food security
  • increasing ecosystem services and environmental capital through sustainable production methods
  • the potential for reduced greenhouse gas emissions through reducing food miles
who in the GCR is food-insecure? respondents who said that there were times in the previous year that they did not have money to feed their children
GCRO (2009) ‘Quality of Life’ survey

food insecurity is a reality for a large number of people in the Gauteng city-region

  • The GCRO’s 2009 'Quality of Life' survey revealed that 13% of respondents with children experienced occasions in the year before being interviewed of being unable to feed children because they lacked money to buy food
  • 42% of households in the City of Johannesburg have recently been classified as food insecure.

As the map makes clear, food insecurity is highest in the townships and homelands created by apartheid as ghettoes for African citizens, areas which by design could not sustain local economic activity and would force people to migrate and sell their labour in order to survive.

The legacy of apartheid, in this context, remains alive and well. And it is an important reminder that sustainability includes building decent human settlements and sustainable local communities – this is key in the struggle against the scarred landscape left by apartheid.
Gauteng might be an economic powerhouse, but we’re importing our food

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Compiled from Statistics South Africa (2006); Statistics South Africa (2007); Nel and Steyn (2002); Harvard School of Public Health (2009); University of Michigan Integrative Medicine Clinical Services (2009); USDA (2009)

Gauteng currently consumes far more food than it produces, and is heavily dependent on imported food produce. In Gauteng
618 000 tons of food are produced per annum compared to 5 193 260 tons of total food consumed.

Food insecurity critically undermines the capacity of households to ensure their own livelihood security and is an immediate impediment to poverty alleviation as well as the development and growth of the region.
what should we be doing?
As we can see from the graph, Gauteng residents should increase their intake of fresh vegetables, fruits and milk.

A key area for intervention therefore to promote food security is to increase the availability of fresh food produce to the residents of Gauteng, with a strong focus on urban food security measures.

Gauteng should address food security by increasing the production of food within the province whilst simultaneously generating significant employment and building a stronger regional food economy through diversification and value-adding initiatives.

Opportunities exist for promoting food and livelihood security through:

  • food production in cities, focussing on the poorest and most vulnerable households on underutilised land, building on existing initiatives and leveraging government support across departments and through strategic public-private partnerships

Increasing production of key food produce – specifically vegetables, fruit and nuts as well as chicken, fish, milk and eggs – through programmes to assist local communities and emerging farmers with access to land, resources and support is critical for promoting food security but also presents a significant employment opportunity. This has tremendous value and potential in the urban context.

Investment to support an extensive urban agriculture programme would include ensuring adequate access to land and water, basic infrastructure for production and market access, training and capacity building and ongoing support.

  • a strategic land reform programme for food production aimed through networks of small and diversified farms and building stronger rural-urban linkages
Land reform has the potential to create jobs, promote rural development and ensure food security for Gauteng, but this will require extensive support to be successful and investment should be considered in the context of hidden subsidies that other forms of large-scale agriculture currently receive.
  • the regionalisation and diversification of the food value chain to identify opportunities for increasing efficiencies, promoting sustainability across the sectors and realising new jobs through regional investment.
Land reform to increase regional production in rural and peri-urban areas would also secure food for regional consumption whilst creating employment and stimulating the regional economy further. Key produce that could be focussed on for peri-urban and rural farms include grains, vegetable oils and livestock as well as vegetables, fruit and nuts. Farms producing for regional consumption are typically more diversified and concentrated in the production of food.

if those are the interventions, what policy changes are needed to realise them?

The following key policy recommendations are based on a compilation of several recent studies on the state of agriculture and food security in South Africa in the move towards a renewal in the South African food system:
  • Ensuring uptake of social grants by all eligible households
  • Implementing measures to improve dietary diversity, food safety and food quality
  • Implementing a provincial urban agriculture policy, and incorporating food security into integrated development plans
  • Strengthening and supporting the role of the private sector in food security initiatives
  • A provincial commitment to a regional procurement programme, supporting regionally produced food products where possible and actively encouraging the building of a strong regional food economy
  • Accelerating land reform and affording greater priority to currently successful small farmers as beneficiaries
  • Targeting farmer support services at those who need it most, especially farmers in remote rural areas
  • Improving the efficiency of the supply chains that bring farm inputs to the farm and that take farm products to the final consumer, whether domestically or internationally
  • Developing a thoroughgoing understanding of the food pricing mechanisms, including benefits and costs to farmers, input suppliers, and small and large operators in the supply chain.
  • Continuing with application of competition policy along the supply chain
  • Developing and implementing a research and action agenda to promote sustainable agriculture development across the range of farming types in South Africa
  • In the context of the developmental state approach, broadening the definition of infrastructure to include soil as part of infrastructure that attracts investment.

McLachlan (2009) 40-42