Food security is imperative for
human survival with dignity

What price cheap goods? Survivalists, informalists and competition in the township retail grocery trade

About 54% of South Africa’s township microenterprises trade in food or drink. More than two-thirds of these are grocery retail businesses in the form of spaza shops and smaller ‘house shops’. These are the predominant businesses within the ‘township economy’ and play an important role in food security, self-employment and community cohesion. In the last decade, the business of spaza shops (dedicated, signposted businesses with a range of foodstuffs and open five days per week or more) has undergone extensive change towards a new class of entrepreneurial traders – mostly foreign nationals. This change has meant that the sector...

Organic Food Systems Meeting the Needs of Southern Africa

Organic agriculture world-wide allows farmers to produce healthy food with low levels of external inputs, and often shortens the value chains, giving farmers a higher share of the consumer dollar. This book reports on long-term comparative organic farming systems research trials carried out over the last four years in South Africa’s Southern Cape, as well as research on the organic sector and the technical tools it requires in South Africa, Zambia, Uganda and Tanzania. The trials show how the yield gap between organic and conventional crops was closed over 3 years. Water use efficiency was also greater in the...

Multilevel Government, Municipalities and Food Security

Realising the right to food in South Africa requires more than an increase in food production. Increasing access to food is equally important, so this contribution adopts a ‘food systems approach’. It argues that food security is not just a national and/or provincial government concern but that the Constitution demands of municipalities to contribute to realising the right to food. Against the backdrop of a general introduction into the division of responsibilities between national, provincial and local government, it deploys two arguments to make this assertion. The first is located in the jurisprudence of the South African Constitutional Court...


There is growing concern around the impact of formal retailers and supermarkets, in particular on marginalised urban communities in developing countries. This report unpacks the impact of formal retailers on informal micro-enterprises through a case study in Philippi East township, Cape Town. The cases focuses on a high street precinct which encompasses a number of formal food retailers and supermarkets. Supermarkets are the main supply of household food (in value terms), with residents spending about one third of their food purchases at one of three outlets.

COVID-19 and Food Security
Hunger could be as big a threat as Covid-19

Vulnerable households are struggling to put food on the table as the government lockdown puts their livelihoods on...

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Local government best placed to tackle food insecurity, especially in times of...

If food insecurity is also about access and utilisation, local government is as much a part of the...

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COVID-19: A place-based approach offers options to relax the lockdown

South Africa bought time by slowing the spread of the virus; but an abrupt end to the lockdown...

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UpComing events

WEBINAR: Epidemic shocks and food cultures in the new millennium
Date: May 29, 2020
Time: 15h00 - 18h00
Venue: Zoom Webinar


We recognise that producers, processors, distributors and consumers are incorporated into the food system under varying terms and returns. We also recognise the economic, social, human and environmental health impacts associated with food security. Therefore our goal is to conduct research, build capacity and disseminate findings that will promote a sustainable food system in South Africa.


Our research is concerned with the scale, nature, causes and consequences of food insecurity in South Africa and elsewhere on the African continent. Thus our mission is to investigate products, technologies, processes and policies that can reduce food insecurity and mitigate its negative outcomes. We seek to make a difference to food security by linking innovative science with critical enquiry.

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2016 NRF Director’s Forum, UKZN


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