Here's how community gardens can solve our food security crisis

The fact that the World Food Programme is the recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize not only celebrates the work they do feeding hundreds of millions of hungry people globally, but draws attention to the plight of the starving.

Source numbers vary so it’s difficult to know exactly how many South Africans live with a daily food crisis, but the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Social Change estimates as much as 34% of our population went to bed hungry during South Africa’s lockdown. It’s worth noting that Professor Kate Alexander, the author of the research, commented that the deputy director of the Department of Social Development told parliament that roughly 50% of the South African population is food insecure. This, together with the fact that the Department of Agriculture recently announced a R939m cut in its budget, leaves the most vulnerable facing an uncertain future.

Developing a culture of sustainable food gardens

Emergency food parcels, school feeding schemes and all the hard work done by corporates and NGOs are absolutely essential to keep our nation fed, but one of the key interventions and a long-term solution to the hunger and malnutrition faced by millions of South Africans is to develop a culture of sustainable food gardens in various sites such as schools, clinics, community sites, parks and households.
It may sound easy to recommend the often-quoted saying, and one full of social wisdom, ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime’, but food security is a complex challenge needing scalable environmental, social, and governance (ESG) solutions that take into account the water-energy-food nexus, effective planting and growing methods, financial investment, willing community involvement and, very importantly, appropriate training and mentorship. Only a well-balanced public-private approach that includes government at all levels, NGOs, civil society and communities will benefit hungry and malnourished people with limited access to the necessary resources, and because we’ve seen substantial cuts to South Africa’s agriculture budget, now more than ever, partnerships are needed.

Improving food availability can be achieved through capacitating small-scale farmers and gardeners and influencing city and settlement design to give people greater access to arable land, equipment and infrastructural resources, and assist with setting up small food enterprises in the community.

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