CoE Articles

‘If we fail on food, we fail on everything’

Published July 3, 2023, by Carla Bernardo

“If there’s one thing I take away, [it’s that] ‘if we fail on food, we fail on everything’,” says CoE-FS grantee and UWC PhD candidate Keshia Hoaeane, quoting Oxford’s Prof Charles Godfray. Photo: Supplied.

Keshia Hoaeane, a doctoral candidate and grantee of the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security (CoE-FS), recently joined over 70 PhD researchers from 30 countries, for the “Bergen Summer Research School” in Norway.

The theme for the research school, which took place from 5 to 15 June 2023, was “Childhood: Nurturing care for building the future”, with five parallel courses focusing on health, nutrition, education, caregiving and migration.

Among the researchers, Keshia Hoaeane met were those from the University of Bergen, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norwegian School of Economics and the Norwegian Research Centre. Photo: Supplied.

Reflecting on learnings from the research school, Hoaeane noted that while “tremendous achievements have been made for child survival over the past decade”, we remain off-target when it comes to child health, well-being, and development.

“For some indicators, we are even losing sight of the goal.

“[Thus] intersectoral and cross-disciplinary approaches are clearly needed,” she said. “There is work to be done!”.

Community engagement, continuous learning

Hoaeane’s PhD research is conducted under the CoE-FS’s “Food systems, governance and policy” programme, and is supervised by CoE-FS director Professor Julian May, former CoE-FS principal investigator, Professor Bruno Losch, and co-supervised by former CoE-FS project lead Dr Camilla Adelle. It is conducted in collaboration with the Policy, Strategy and Research Unit in the Western Cape’s Department of the Premier.

Her work focuses on food governance in the Western Cape, where the provincial government designed a food security strategy, “Nourish to Flourish”.

“The aim of the research is, firstly, to investigate how place-based approaches at the municipal level can be used to help improve food governance.

“Secondly, to develop an area-based governance model that facilitates coordinated action in response to food systems’ change, which is central to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals,” explained Hoaeane of her research.

With her experience as a researcher, her involvement in the CoE-FS’s co-convened Learning Journeys, and now having completed her Bergen Summer Research School course, Hoaeane highlighted the role of a social scientist and the importance of community engagement and continuous learning in her field.

Keshia Hoaeane says the research school has fostered professional relationships that have led to new research projects and publication opportunities. Photo: Supplied.

“As a social science researcher, we shape public policies in South Africa. Through research, analysis, and consultation, we design evidence-based policies that address societal issues and enhance the lives of all South Africans.

“Engaging with communities is at the heart of our work as social sciences graduates in South Africa. We foster dialogue and facilitate community-led projects, enabling individuals to become agents of change. And continuous learning is essential in the field of social science,” said the CoE-FS grantee.

From Kampala to Bergen

Hoaeane’s participation in the Bergen Summer Research School in Norway follows a two-week research school in Kampala, Uganda.

Hoaeane applied and was accepted to attend the inaugural Makerere-Bergen Research School, hosted in Kampala, at the end of 2022. It is a collaboration between CoE-FS collaborating institution Makerere University, and the University of Bergen.

‘I left Bergen with new, lifelong friends and scholarly partnerships,’ says Keshia Hoaeane. Photo: Supplied.

She was one of 20 PhD candidates selected to participate, along with four other University of the Western Cape-based students, including another CoE-FS grantee, Ziga Metron.

During the Kampala leg of the research school, Hoaeane presented the CoE-FS’s Langa Learning Journey, as a case study from South Africa.

Developing young researchers

Part of the support afforded to CoE-FS grantees includes networking and mobility opportunities, such as Hoaeane’s participation in both legs of the research school. On this, she noted: “In the CoE-FS, we embrace global collaboration and diverse perspectives, engaging with international networks and conferences, promoting social change, and shaping public policy.”

And on the importance of affording early-career researchers such as herself, Hoaeane added that, “building a sustainable future requires an investment in the next generation”, and that she hoped that the CoE-FS would continue to capacitate others, continue to grow and enable young researchers like herself, and, in this way, advance their academic careers.

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