People encouraged to grow their own food as poverty and hunger levels increase
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Cape Town - The need to encourage people to build and rely on their own food systems was highlighted when World Food Day was commemorated this week during a time where levels of hunger have increased due to the pandemic.
Unemployment in South Africa has risen to 14.1 million after 2.2 million jobs were lost in the second quarter of 2020, and many households have been faced with increasing poverty.
In a webinar hosted by the UWC’s Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies and the Centre of Excellence in Food Security under the theme: Food is our right - the struggle for equitable food systems, it was highlighted how the lockdown further aggravated hunger in poor households.
Activist with Rural Women’s Assembly Denia Jansen said: “In a country where 17 million people depend on social grants and where during Covid-19 the R350 relief fund was not enough to feed families, hunger continues to be a persistent problem.
“We live and work in communities where people experience hunger on a daily basis despite them working on farms or with produce daily, they still go to bed on an empty stomach.
“If we want a functional food system, we need access to seed, we need access to water. We need strategies to build food systems for the future.”
Professor Julian May, director of the Centre for Excellence in Food Security, said the issue of declining access to nutritious food was a growing concern.
“Food security does not equal access to proper nutrition. When the crisis hit a lot of attention was focused on distributing non-expensive items whose majority was not very nutritious,” he said. “South Africa has around 25% of its population, which is 14 million, living under the food poverty line; it is a staggering figure.”
The Western Cape Department of Social Development said through its work with businesses, faith-based organisations, NGOs and civil society groups, by August as much as 15 million meals had been distributed. More than 400 000 food parcels have been distributed and 8.5 million pupils received.
For community worker Joanie Fredericks, who launched the One Home One Garden project in Mitchells Plain on Friday to mark World Food Day, she said it was important to teach residents to be self-reliant by growing the little food they could at their homes and not depend solely on handouts.
“I have always been looking for sustainable ways for people to feed themselves and their families. Before Covid-19 hit we were providing meals to the elderly and children. After the lockdown, everyone could no longer work and earn an income,” she said.
“After six months of providing meals we came together to try and find sustainable means for people to grow food. With the launch of this project, I hope to see people going back to the barter system where after growing and harvesting they can sell what they can to get what they need.”
MEC for Agriculture Ivan Meyer, who was in Rietpoort in the West Coast on Friday to mark the day by handing over food gardens and chicken projects to beneficiaries, said these initiatives will go a long way to sustain residents.
“It is important that we migrate from food relief to food security. Part of the work of my department is to roll out community vegetable and food gardens because securing your own food provides dignity for you and your family,” he added.