Economic growth key to stabilising food security

economic growth

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana says the economic growth remains the main vehicle for reducing poverty, food security and job creation.

Speaking at the National Assembly on Tuesday on job creation in agriculture, Minister Zokwana said over the last 20 years, the dominant policy approaches to alleviating food insecurity or addressing agrarian transformation have been mainly based on increasing production in order to increase the availability of food in the market.

“Economic growth is the main vehicle for reducing poverty, food insecurity and job creation. But for this to work, income distribution becomes equally important.

“In many circumstances, growth in the agricultural sector has been an important ingredient in the formula that connects economic growth to the poor,” said the Minister.

About 13.8 million South Africans go to bed hungry every day, according to an Oxfam report entitled ‘Hidden Hunger in South Africa: the faces of hunger and malnutrition in a food secure nation’.

The State of Food Insecurity (SOFI) report indicates that over 226 million Africans are undernourished and that approximately 24.6 percent of the undernourished citizens in the world are found in sub-Saharan Africa.

Rural households are generally more vulnerable and South Africa is no different. About 40 percent of South Africa’s underprivileged population reside in rural areas and are dependent, either directly or indirectly, on land for their livelihood.

However, Minister Zokwana said vulnerability to food insecurity was not exclusive to rural communities as it has become very pronounced in urban areas due to high levels of rural-urban migration in search of employment and livelihoods.

“One of the reasons most households are regarded as food insecure in South Africa is due to the fact that people are net consumers of purchased food, rather than producers. Access to food becomes a function of household cash income and thus cash deficit households continue to experience inadequate access to food.

“We need to inculcate a culture of planting household food gardens. The department has gone on a national campaign to distribute fruit and vegetable seeds to communities,” he said.

Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP)

Through the department’s Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP), smallholder producers are assisted with implements and support so they can also become commercial producers.

“We realise that our relationship with provinces needs to extend to more than just disbursing funds. We need to urgently get involved, through mutual, friendly relations and ensure that we hold provinces more accountable for funds we allocate to them.

“Being a small-scale farmer does not categorise you as a type of farmer – it’s merely a stage in the development of farming. We are going to be making some changes to CASP allocations in order to reflect our goals,” said Minister Zokwana.

He said up-skilling youth was one way in which they can create employment, while investing in the agriculture sector. –