Women at the centre of the food cycle - webinar on food security post-Covid-19

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Samantha Lee-Jacobs
  • A virtual dialogue looked at the important issues surrounding food security pre- and post-Covid-19.
  • Several challenges to food security were highlighted that further perpetuated inequality.
  • Dialogue revealed access to food does not take place in a vacuum but rather in the politics around it.

A virtual dialogue looking at the important issues surrounding food security pre- and post-Covid-19 revealed among other things that women are at the centre of the food cycle.

"As an organisation, we have been supporting women [mostly] in rural areas around security of land because we recognise women are at the centre of the food cycle," the executive director at Hlanganisa, Bongiwe Ndondo, said on Tuesday.

"From farms, to factories, to the packaging down to the cooking in our homes - women are very instrumental," she added.

Ndondo was speaking during a webinar titled Post-Covid: Strengthening communities to end poverty and inequality.

She was joined by researcher/facilitator for the Women and Democracy Initiative at the Dullah Omar Institute Vivienne Mentor-Lalu and Nelson Mandela University lecturer Sivuyiswe Wonci.

The webinar aimed to delve into the coping strategies adopted by South African communities during the national lockdown looking specifically at how access [to] and choices about food during the pandemic reflect on persistent social and economic inequalities in South African society.

READ | Thousands may die daily from hunger due to Covid-19 - and SA is a new hotspot

The panelists pointed out the issue was not food security but rather the distribution: who gets the food and why?

Mentor-Lalu said to understand women and food security, the bigger picture of how women were positioned generally in the country needed to be looked at.

"Women's access to food does not take place in a vacuum but in the politics around it.

"We believe in fighting for feminist leadership in government, so that we can begin to see better service delivery and consideration for women, including [in] food security," she added.

Ndondo said the focus should not be on Covid-19 as these challenges surrounding food security existed pre-Covid-19 and would continue after.

"In the Covid frenzy, we got caught up in the humanitarian crisis looming around food security. We were distributing large amounts of food across the country."

She described several challenges to food security she had observed such as the logistics of the distribution of food proving to be costly, the issue of food choices as well as the criteria on who gets the food.

This led the organisation to moving to food vouchers through a partnership with major supermarkets in the country, but Ndondo realised this further perpetuated inequalities with respect to the township economy.

"We realised that by doing this we destroyed the township economy. Those who get their tomatoes from a spaza [shop] were forced to go to the supermarket, so we were perpetrating the inequality and most of those spazas are run by women," she said.

The organisation moved to cash transfers and observations proved this also came with challenges to food security.

Ndondo added food relief could only be as good as the data that was collected.

"Where the food went and how, the beneficiaries, what household and that is the data that we are lacking as a country.

"There is enough food in the world to feed everybody , it is about the distribution, who gets the food and why."

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