Tuesday, January 18

Civil society groups can help fix South Africa’s food system

There is a long list of existing global crises aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic, including poverty and inequality. Another is food insecurity.

In South Africa, the researchers found thatMore than a year after the pandemic, food insecurity was still well above pre-pandemic levels. Simply put, this means that more people than before do not have reliable access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. The figure was already high before Covid-19: almost 20% of South African households had inadequate or very inadequate access to food. In some of Cape Town’s poorest neighborhoods, the figure was as high as 54%.

But the pandemic didn’t just shed light on existing problems. It has also identified those who could help address these long-term problems: civil society organizations. In South Africa, these groups did heroic work during the initial Covid-19 crisis, providing million meals for people in need. In the Western Cape Province, for example, organizations provided more than a half of food aid distributed in the first months of closure, reaching 5.2 million people.

Without these organizations, a much larger humanitarian crisis would have occurred. And his work is in progress as the emergency food aid need keep going. That’s because they not only responded to the effects of the global pandemic: they also grappled with the fundamental inequalities of a food system. designed to make profit for large corporate retailers and food processing companies instead of providing safe and nutritious food for most people.

And, as we discussed in our recently published study, these organizations should be more formally integrated into food governance.

There are three main reasons for our argument. First, South African civil society organizations have demonstrated are willing and able hold government to account. Second, they are in an ideal position to contribute their detailed local knowledge. They intimately understand the specific needs of the most vulnerable in their communities. Third, given their role in communities, they can play a huge role in education and information sharing on the food system and nutrition, as well as agricultural and nutrition training.

Our research

Our research tried to understand the new landscape of civil society organizations in relation to food safety in response to the Covid-19 crisis. We examine the relationship between these organizations and government agencies. We also identify how organizations can be helped to engage in food governance after the Covid-19 crisis has passed.

The research showed that civil society organizations relied heavily on their existing networks and relationships with communities when seeking to distribute food. These relationships helped them identify vulnerable people who might otherwise have escaped the cracks and starved.

The association was key. We found that larger organizations often helped channel resources to smaller, more informal community organizations.

But this collaboration did not extend to a great extent to the relationships of civil society organizations with government departments. In general, these organizations found it difficult to work with the government. This was due to a mismatch between the government’s culture of strict compliance and checkboxing and the realities that organizations were seeing on the ground. There were some good points: some organizations developed valuable relationships with people from the provincial government.

It is clear from our research that civil society organizations already play a vital and varied role in South African society and governance. But it is important that they are considered more than service delivery mechanisms. This will allow them to play a bigger role in shaping a better food system.

There is an international precedent for this approach. In the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte, civil society organizations worked closely with government departments to design and implement programs that reduce hunger.

In the same way, South African civil society organizations must have a seat at the decision-making table and be empowered to help drive long-term change.

Set up systems for collaboration

There are several ways to do this. South Africa’s National Food and Nutrition Security Plan of 2017 stipulated that a Food and Nutrition Security Council should be created. This process must be accelerated and representatives of civil society must be among the members. Similar councils could be created at both the provincial and local government levels.

It is also critical that short-term solutions, such as emergency power, are linked to long-term system change. This can be achieved by helping food system stakeholders, such as government officials, to “see” and understand the system as a whole. Community kitchens they are a valuable way of doing this. They bring people together not only to grow, cook and share food, but also to deliberate on how to solve food insecurity and recognize what it is like. shaped by other forms of inequality.

Civil society organizations must also be connected to the debates that help shape decisions and policies on food and the policies that affect food.

It is essential that they are allowed to operate in an enabling environment. They should not be controlled by heavy-handed regulation or stifled by bureaucracy. There are well established government programs to reduce bureaucracy or increase the ease of doing business, targeting the private sector. Similar initiatives would benefit civil society organizations.

Has been examples effective collaboration between civil society organizations and local and provincial governments during the crisis to deliver food aid. Building on this collaborative approach is necessary for it to become a lasting legacy of the crisis.

But creating enabling environments and partnerships takes time and resources. Covid-19 has shown that the government needs to invest in developing and strengthening relationships outside of times of crisis that it can turn to in times of need.The conversation

Camilla Adelle, Researcher, Department of Political Science, University of Pretoria and Ashley haywood, Doctorate Candidate at the School of Government, University of the Western Cape

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the Original article.


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