An Empty Plate: Why we are losing the battle for our food system, why it matters, and how we can win it back

Date: October 24, 2018
Time: 12h30 - 14h00
Venue: Room 1G, School of Government, University of the Western Cape

Why is it that food prices are so high that millions of South African families go hungry, while the prices paid to farmers for that same food are so low that many cannot stay in business? Why are the people that produce our food – farmworkers – among the most insecure of all? Why do high levels of rural poverty persist while corporate profits in the food sector keep rising? How did country with a constitutional right to food become a place where 1 in 4 children is so malnourished that they are classified as stunted?

In this seminar Tracy Ledger will present analysis from her book “An Empty Plate” on the state of the South African agri-food system.  She will demonstrate how this system is perpetuating poverty, threatening land reform; entrenching inequality and tearing apart our social fabric. In her book Tracy asks two crucial questions: how did we get to this point and how might we go about solving the problem?

Tracy Ledger is a South African researcher in the field of economic development, with 25 years of research experience. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of the Witwatersrand and a Master’s degree in Agricultural Economics from Stellenbosch University. She is an agri-food activist, believing that a more equitable agri-food system is fundamental to building a more equitable society.

This seminar jointly organised by the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation and the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Food Security.

Forward RSVPs and enquiries to Camilla Adelle: cadelle@uwc.ac.za

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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.