Working Papers

  • School Feeding in South Africa: What we know, what we don’t know, what we need to know, what we need to do

    By Stephen Devereux, Tessa Hochfeld, Abdulrazak Karriem, Clement Mensah, Matseliso Morahanye, Thabang Msimango, Agnes Mukubonda, Sigamoney Naicker, Grace Nkomo, David Sanders, Mohammed Sanousi, June 2018

    This working paper draws on the proceedings of a ‘National Workshop on School Feeding in South Africa’, convened in November 2017 by the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security. Workshop participants engaged with unresolved debates in school feeding, notably its objectives and impacts, which include food security and nutrition, education access and outcomes, intergenerational poverty reduction, employment creation and support to local agriculture. In South Africa, the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) currently provides meals to over 9 million learners. The NSNP has two other pillars – Nutrition Education and Deworming, and Sustainable Food Production – but 96% of the budget goes to school feeding. School food gardens can increase children’s consumption of fruit and vegetables and function as ‘outdoor classrooms’, but less than half of NSNP schools have a food garden. No rigorous impact evaluation of the NSNP has yet been conducted, partly for methodological reasons – notably the challenge of identifying a control group – but a comparison of NSNP with an NGO-run in-school breakfast programme found that adding a second meal led to enhanced positive impacts on learners’ nutritional status, school attendance and learner performance. NGOs and public-private partnerships are making important contributions, either by expanding the coverage of school feeding or by piloting innovative modalities. South Africa can also learn from experiences in other countries, such as Brazil, Lesotho and Namibia, for instance with alternative models such as local procurement and ‘home-grown school feeding’. 

    Keywords: School feeding, food security, nutrition, education, social protection, South Africa 

  • Accountability and the right to food: A comparative study of India and South Africa

    By Ebenezer Durojaye and Enoch MacDonnell Chilemba, May 2018

    It remains a great source of concern that, as richly endowed as the world is, each day millions of people go to sleep hungry and almost 870 million people, particularly in developing countries, are chronically undernourished. Also, every year, 6 million children die, directly or indirectly, from the consequences of undernourishment and malnutrition – that is, 1 child every 5 seconds. The international community at various forums in the last twenty years or so have committed to ending undernourishment in the world. The right to adequate food is guaranteed in a number of international and regional human rights instruments.

    Despite these developments, many countries have not lived up to their obligations to realise this right. South Africa and India provide an interesting comparison. On one hand, South Africa has a progressive constitution that explicitly guarantees the right to food, while the Indian Constitution does not recognise the right to food as justiciable right. Yet the Indian courts have developed rich jurisprudence to hold the government accountable for failing to realise the right to food of the people. Indeed the courts have played key roles in ensuring the judicialisation of the right to adequate food in India in the wake of the fact that the Constitution does not expressly set out the right.

    This report shows that South Africa can learn from the Indian experience by using litigation as a tool for holding the government accountable to its obligation under international and national laws. Besides litigating the right to food to hold the government accountable, it is noted that chapter 9 institutions such as the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), the Gender Equality Commission and the Public Protector all have important roles to play in holding the government accountable to the realisation of the right to food. This is because these institutions are constitutionally empowered to monitor and report on the measures and steps taken by the government towards the realisation of socioeconomic rights, including the right to food under the Constitution.

    The report concludes by noting that civil society groups in South Africa will need to be more active in monitoring steps and measures adopted by the government to realise the right to food. It also notes that, where necessary, litigation can be employed as a useful strategy to hold the government to account for its obligation to realise the right to food.

    Keywords: Accountability, right to food, judicialisation, South Africa, India

  • Food security and nutrition: Impure, complex and wicked?

    By Julian May, October 2017

    Food security and nutrition are receiving renewed attention in international and national policy agendas. This has been accompanied by a profusion of theoretical concepts borrowed from diverse disciplines and then employed to describe challenges to achieving food security and adequate nutrition. Complex eco-systems, wicked problems and public goods are among these.

    In order to make a constructive contribution to policy debate, the underlying political economy of food security is interrogated to understand why food security problems may be indeterminate. This reveals food to be an outcome from a complex problem-determined food eco-system. The problems are ill-defined, the solutions uncertain and food itself is a commodity, predominantly privately produced and purchased. As a result, governments are compelled to take account of competing interests of actors within the food system when considering any intervention. Further, food security includes non-exclusive components such as food safety, social protection

    Further, food security includes non-exclusive components such as food safety, social protection and food price stability and the right to food is enshrined in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Albeit impure, food security is then a public good requiring public sector action to ensure that it is universal, indivisible and interdependent with other human rights. Achieving this requires that collective action problems be resolved in order to achieve food security and nutrition.

    Keywords: Food system; impure public goods; social-ecological systems; collective action; human rights

  • Why does malnutrition persist in South Africa despite social grants?

    By Stephen Devereux and Jennifer Waidler, January 2017

    According to most subjective and self-reported indicators, food security in South Africa is improving over time. However, objectively measured anthropometric indicators record only a marginal improvement in children’s nutrition status since the early 1990s.

    This is despite the introduction in 1998 and subsequent expansion of the Child Support Grant, which now reaches over 11 million children in South Africa and has been found to increase food consumption and dietary diversity in poor households. How can this paradox be explained? This paper reviews the evidence on food security and child nutrition trends in South Africa and identifies several reasons why nutrition outcomes appear to be lagging behind improvements in other food security indicators. 

    Keywords: Food security, Nutrition, Social grant, Social protection, Child Support Grant