Importance of Creating Food Sovereignty & Food Sustainability in South Africa

In South Africa, we suffer from a severe lack of access to food. The South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2016 found that nearly 25% of South Africans were being deprived of food, while another 25% faced the risk of going hungry in the near future.

Some of the major causes of the hunger crisis in South Africa [link to Ladles of Love blog] centered around infrastructure and access. Many families that are below the poverty line, also have limited access to the mechanisms and policies of food production and distribution in the country. 

Reliable access to food is a human right recognised by South African and international laws. This right grants human beings the right to access food and feed themselves, by producing or buying their own food. This right is linked to an individual’s right to life and dignity. It requires that food be available, adequate and accessible without discrimination at all times. 

The issue of hunger in South Africa is a serious injustice that needs to be solved sustainably and requires urgent developments in food sovereignty and food security to take place.

What is Food Sovereignty and Food Security?

Food sovereignty is a food system in which the people who produce, distribute, and consume food also control the mechanisms and policies of food production and distribution. This stands in contrast to the present corporate food regime, in which corporations and market institutions dominate the global food system.

Food sovereignty is a system that can be put in place to ensure that food is more accessible to at risk communities, and focuses on principles of sustainable farming and sustainable food supply in communities across South Africa.

In the current food landscape, large corporations and market institutions control the mechanisms and policies associated with food production and distribution. However, food sovereignty represents a shift toward communities being responsible for food production and distribution whilst also controlling the mechanisms and policies associated with food production and distribution (particularly localised distribution).

The goals are to provide more reliable food sources to poorer South African communities while ensuring that they also have the knowledge and tools in order to farm sustainably.

The need for sustainable farming solutions in South Africa for greater food security

In recent times there has been a substantial decrease in a reliance on subsistence farming. Urban and rural households have relied more and more on market purchases for food. This increase means that for low-income households they are spending up to 60-80% of their total income on food.

Urban areas struggle the most

In sub-Saharan Africa, food insecurity is often worse among the urban poor. They are most dependent on the market, unlike individuals in rural poorer communities who may be able to utilise natural resources to produce food for sale and consumption. 

Despite the opportunity to produce their own food in rural areas, many individuals move to cities in order to create income for themselves and their families. Urban areas are seen to provide more economic opportunities.

Sadly, though in a country like South Africa, when people arrive in a city they find life a lot harder than initially expected. There are fewer work opportunities than expected and affordable living locations are still far from most opportunities. Negatively impacting the ability to earn an income for a poorer individual.

The ability to earn an income in an urban area is a key factor influencing food security. People move to urban areas for the greater availability of better paying jobs than in rural areas which can help improve food security, however in South African urban areas, this isn’t always the case. In most South African cities poorer individuals are pushed into the outer limits of the city and thus have worse access to jobs and food supplies than even in rural areas.

Some important factors affecting the cost of food for urban households are:

  • Access to public and private transfers – Those in poorer areas have a lesser access to buy food. They need to factor in transport costs, and the time it takes to buy food. This ultimately makes buying food overall more costly. 
  • Purchasing patterns – The way in which a market spends their money affects what is in stores and how much those products cost. This can have a negative impact on the cost and availability of food for poorer communities. For example if the overall purchasing of bread decreases, the cost will then most likely go up. For poorer individuals where bread is all they can afford, this severely limits their access to other food and the affordability of those foods
  • The efficiency of distribution systems – An inefficient system can result in an unnecessary price increase, when this impacts the cost of food, it can make it all the more difficult for poorer individuals to access this food.

We believe that in order to solve these issues, individuals will need to learn to generate their own food source and utilise subsistence farming.

Urban, subsistence farms offer a solution to food security issues

Due to a lack of access to various food sources, and a lack of sufficient income for many individuals the best solution is to grow their own produce. Through this they can circumvent poor infrastructure and inefficient distribution systems. 

We believe that this is a practical solution to solve food security for someone in a lower income area. Producing their own food, which they can use for their own food security and turn into a source of income or food security for their communities. 

This is called subsistence farming. Individuals are taught to grow their own produce, which can help feed their household and provide a continued source of income. A continued source of income will also ensure that they are able to purchase food products and byproducts that they cannot produce on their own.

In our mission to solve this issue, we have partnered with Lavender Manor to create a sustainable farming training program.

Lavender Manor & Open Foundation Urban Farming Partnership

Lavender Manor and Open Foundation are working together to formulate and understand how to create a harmonious relationship betweens all kingdoms, while helping provide for those in need. 

We have partnered together to create space we can train up individuals in South Africa to take of themselves through sustainable subsistence farming. Helping those in need have food on their plates every night, that they are able to provide themselves. 

We are hoping to influence various areas within communities to help feed the hungry through sustainable farming. At the same time we do not want to forget about the nature that provides the resources for us to eat. Which is why we are adamant on sustainable farming methods. 

In our partnership we believe that we are the custodians of the earth and all it’s kingdoms from the two legged to the winged, the insects, and the elements; and we need to come back to remembering that. This is a big inspiration behind the farming project.

Sustainable Farming Methods

Lavender Manor bases it’s farming practices on two modalities. Those are biodynamic agriculture and permaculture:

  • Biodynamic agriculture refers to farming in an integrated way, seeing the farm or garden as a whole, living organism. This organism is then made up of different elements; plants, animals, soils, compost, people, and the spirit of the place.  
  • Permaculture is the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.

The sustainability of the programme is of the utmost importance. Limited resources and poverty sadly have a correlation. Lavender Manor has noted that over planting, or using mono agricultural methods depletes the soil and does not create sustainability. These methods are avoided so that they are able to provide sustainably for communities.  

The partnership believes that if we train the youth to have an awareness and vision of sustainable farming methods, we can change the relationship with the earth and secure a brighter future. 

We believe that by producing sustainable and healthy produce we can help curb the challenge of malnutrition in our communities.

Sustainable skills training

At Lavender Manor we are training individuals how to form a sustainable way of existing in Cape Town. This training will help individuals in the area understand how to create a sustainable vegetable garden in the area. They will also gain knowledge to sustain themselves using subsistence farming. 

Lavender Manor believes that in order to succeed in their mission they will need to place their team in further training of permaculture design. This training will further help develop the symbiotic relationship with the land. From there the goal is to apply the same model to other spaces.

Farming for home and commercial use

The training program enables individuals to create gardens in or near their homes in urban areas, where they are able to feed their family with the food from the garden. At the same time this enables the individuals to sell their produce to their community. 

Creating local, sustainable food networks and markets.

When individuals are able to sustain themselves through subsistence farming and sell their produce, they are able to to start creating a small sustainable economy in their community. This should develop a local food network and markets in the community. This makes food more accessible and affordable to the community as a whole. 

At the same time this should help reduce unemployment, and provide further education opportunities. Now those who have been taught to farm sustainably can teach others in their community.

Providing food for our feeding programme

A massive benefit of our partnership with Lavender Manor is that we work with the farming project to provide food for our feeding programme. This makes our work more affordable, and further contributes to feeding communities in need.

Our feeding scheme has made more than 500 000 meals and serves 5000+ meals a week – which is a lot of food! This is why the farming project is of the utmost importance.

Every meal we serve needs to be healthy and sustainable. Providing the appropriate nourishment for those we are feeding while helping the environment. 

The farming methods and ethos used by Lavender Manor to farm the produce is in alignment with our feeding programme, as we aim to make healthy meals for those we feed. We want to not only feed communities but also see people becoming healthier and the way that Lavender Manor is run supports this vision. 

Our programme currently feeds people in various areas around Cape Town, these include; Khayelitsha, Joe Slovo, Wallacedene, Bloekombos, Fisantekraal, Elsies River and Scottsdene. We are aiming to continue expanding, and provide food to more communities in the area.

How you can help

We are hoping that the farming project will help solve food insecurity in our communities. We believe that it can. If you believe in our vision and want to help, there are a few ways you can do so. 

You can help by simply donating to the project. If you are a farmer, or have agricultural knowledge we would love your help to further develop our sustainable farming project. If you want to volunteer, we are always looking for extra hands.

As a final thought; to help develop sustainable economies and farming practices in South Africa, you can curb your spending habits. Instead of buying mass produced products, instead choose to buy from local and smaller farmers. Every action we take can help!

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