Comment & Opinion

The policy shift South Africa needs to achieve food sustainability

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The agricultural research community has a key role to play in contributing to sustainable resource management and food security.

Already facing a multidimensional agricultural crisis, South Africa urgently needs to direct more funding for agricultural research that serves the public good, rather than just assisting to boost agribusiness profits. New cuts to the agriculture budget will further put our food security at risk

The SA food system is in a precarious situation. Already there is ample evidence of the impacts of climate change, deterioration in food quality and increased vulnerability of smallholder farmers. Coupled with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on employment and food prices, and spiralling government debt, South Africa has an impending multidimensional crisis to address.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s Covid-19 Budget does not address the issue. It has been criticised by a consortium of civil society organisations for only aiding farmers who farm with chemical inputs – assistance can only be used to buy synthetic fertiliser and poisons. On top of that, Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza has announced that her department plans to make massive “savings” by slashing items in the agriculture budget. The consequences for food security (cut by R939-million) will be severe.

We have a solid understanding of what we need to be doing to address the food system challenges. Agricultural researchers have developed strategies for dealing with climate change and food quality, as well as for supporting smallholder farmers with training, quality management, shortening value chains and improving soil fertility.

This is an abridged version of the article originally published by the Daily Maverick. Read the full version here

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