Our Mission

We seek to make a difference to food security by
linking innovative science with critical enquiry.

Welcome to the Centre of Excellence in Food Security

The Department of Science and Innovation-National Research Foundation Centre of Excellence in Food Security (CoE-FS) was launched on 15 April 2014 to undertake innovative research to enable South Africa to tackle the challenge of food security and nutrition.

South Africa, like many rapidly developing countries, faces a triple burden of malnutrition. This includes underweight (caused by diets of inadequate quantities), malnourishment (arising from diets of inadequate quality) and overweight.

Food insecurity is approached in a number of ways. One view is concerned with the lack of income with which to purchase sufficient calories and nutrients. Another takes a broader perspective and emphases the inability of a country or region to provide affordable food to its population. This can be due to constraints on the physical environment limiting the production of food such as water scarcity, poor soil quality and climate change.

Weaknesses in the economic environment can also prevent the importation of food or investment in the infrastructure, such as roads, dams and agricultural extension, needed to exploit available natural resources. A third approach focuses on individual attributes such as biological constraints leading to a predisposition to nutrition related illnesses, as well as the choices and behaviours that increase the risk of non-communicable disease.

The Committee on World Food Security defines food security as existing “…when all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” This definition recognises the diverse factors and influencers that contribute to the challenge of food insecurity. Thus our approach to research is to investigate these issues and find solutions to the challenge affecting the attainment of food security for all.

The Centre – hosted by the University of the Western Cape and co-hosted by the University of Pretoria – is a virtual organisation that brings together the expertise of numerous South African and international institutions and over 100 researchers across various disciplines. It is the first DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence to be hosted at a historically black university.


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.

Our partners

Our research is concerned with the scale, nature, causes and consequences of food insecurity in South Africa and elsewhere on the African continent.

Steering Committee

The Steering Committee (SteerCom) - comprised of the DSI, NRF, the Deputy Vice Chancellors (DVC) of UWC and UP and a group of international and national experts - provides governance oversight to ensure transparancy and accountability.