Food security policy crucial to avert hunger catastrophe in SA

2009-10-28 13:53

ONE in four South African children under the age of five years

suffers from moderate or severe malnutrition – and this number could increase as

food becomes more scarce, says University of Cape Town environmental and

geographical science lecturer Gina Ziervogel.

Speaking at a Climate Justice conference in Malmesbury yesterday

Ziervogel said in South Africa, where about 30% or more of the population

regularly went hungry, widespread malnutrition could become common if nothing

was done about phenomena such as climate change, the breakdown of social

networks and the HIV pandemic.

She said while the general opinion was that people could be assured

of getting food if agricultural production was increased, climate change, market

prices, the size of grain reserves and the way in which food was distributed

could also affect whether or not people were able to get food.

She said that among some of the steps that could be taken to avert

widespread malnutrition were : altering cropping patterns; developing and

disseminating more heat tolerant seed varieties; recycling water for irrigation

and using simple moisture retaining land management practices such as


Investments also needed to be made in infrastructure to ensure

bridges and roads could withstand the increasing occurrence of extreme weather

events caused by global warming so as to ensure populations are not cut

off from access to markets. She cited the floods that severely

affected the Western Cape in 2008 as an example of how climate change could

affect people’s access to food.

She said at a government policy-making level climate risks needed

to be integrated into land management practices and planning; weather-related

insurance provision was required; the full cost of water needed to be calculated

and there needed to be aggressive support for water recycling and proper waste

management practices.

She added that the need for South Africa to develop a coherent food

security policy was urgent as scientists had predicted that by 2080, 40% to 50%

of all undernourished people were expected to be living in sub-Saharan Africa

and that agricultural yields were expected to decrease by as much as 50% by as

early as 2020.

The first step to creating a coherent national food security

policy, said Ziervogel, would be to create a high-level interdepartmental task

team with a clear mandate as food security could not be a concern of only the

department of agriculture.

The Climate Justice conference ends tomorrow. – West Cape


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