The corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic has compounded the challenges faced by the South African economy. Amongst other, rising unemployment, poverty and food insecurity as well as the slow growth with many sectors struggling to regain meaningful growth and investment. The effects are impact the country’s ability to realize its commitments to 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Regrettably, the SDGs were already off track even before COVID-19 emerged especially on poverty reduction, improvement of maternal and child health, universal access to electricity, and achieving gender equality. Equally, efforts on other vital areas, including reducing inequality, lowering carbon emissions and tackling hunger, progress has either stalled or reversed. To illustrate the slow progress in SDGs attainment, the share of the world’s population living in extreme poverty fell from 10.1% in 2015 to 9.3% in 2017. This means that the number of people living on less than $1.90 per day dropped by just 52 million leaving over 689 million people still trapped in extreme poverty. Majority of these poor people are in Africa and Asian regions.
Where is South Africa in the ranking of Global Food Security Index?
The recent Global Food Security Index (GFSI) report by The Economist aims at tracking action by various nations towards achieving the United Nation’s SDGS of reaching zero hunger by 2030. It weighs up the affordability, availability, quality and safety of food, as well as assessing how resilient nations are in protecting their natural resources and resilience across a set of 113 countries. In this index, South Africa ranked at 47th with 62.9 point in 2016 and 70th with 57.8 point in index in 2021. South Africa was reported to score high mainly on food safety, micronutrient availability, agricultural import tariffs, change in average food costs, food loss, nutritional standards and food safety net programmes. On other side, the GFSI report indicates that the country faced several challenges relating to the volatility of agricultural production and food security and access policy commitments.
The aforementioned challenges could be attributed to the country’s changing climate that affects the production level and structural food and economic issues that constrain access and affordability to food by millions of South Africans. It is estimated that a quarter of South Africa’s population is food insecure. To address these structural economic challenges, South Africa must formulate and implement correct agricultural policies. This is another area where the GFSI report finds that South Africa is lacking. The report highlights that the country has produce several comprehensive policies to upscale food security status, however, the implementation of such policies is weak, consequently deepening the food insecurity challenge in the country. Recently, the country has completed national dialogues on how to upscale and transform the food system in order to address issues of access, affordability and sustainability of food. This process was conducted parallel to the development of the Agriculture and Agro-processing Master, a blueprint social compact for growth, investment, transformation and decent jobs in the sector. Improving the implementation of policies followed by strong monitoring and evaluation framework could assist to improve South Africa’s ranking in the global food security index.
As the pandemic continues to unfold and the world moves further off track in meeting the 2030 SDGs commitments, there is an urgent need to reinforce support, financial and non-financial coupled with enabling policies to assist countries meet their 2030 SDG’s obligations. On the priority focus area is the eradication of hunger and reducing food insecurity levels. The 2021 UN Food System Summit that took place in September this year, was one of the key interventions taken by global leaders to upscale efforts of achieving zero hunger and meeting all SDGs commitments. South Africa was part of the UN Food System Summit and the country has commitment to prioritise research and development, investment in infrastructure, equitable access to natural resources, and skill development to get ahead of the Covid-19 crisis and trigger stronger recovery actions to reconstruct the food system post the pandemic. The success of such food system recovery will depend largely on effective public-private-academic partnerships to leverage on existing resources, skills and knowledge.