Smallholder agriculture plays an important role in supporting the livelihood and welfare production strategies of pluri-active rural households, while informal food retail makes a vital contribution to livelihoods, dietary diversity and food security in poor consumer food environments.

Understanding the National and Global Food System (SYSTEMS)

The global food system is characterised by increasing concentration and financialisation. In South Africa, the deregulation of agriculture from the late 1980s onwards has accelerated both trends, leading to a rapid reduction in the number of farming units and the concentration of processing and distribution units. This period was also characterised by the development of highly controlled input markets in agricultural supplies (especially seeds, fuels, feeds, fertilisers, chemicals and farm machinery), as well as in agro-processing, agribusiness services, food manufacture and retail. This contributes to the reshaping of mega-farms and other segments of agro-food value chains as investment opportunities for institutional investors.

This programme is concerned with the structure, dynamics and influences on the South African food system and how this is changing. The research aims to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the implications of high degrees of market concentration on prices and price formation, and on the ability of the food system to provide employment and create livelihoods?
  2. How do trade-offs between livelihoods, food availability and nutritional security play out in local food geographies and in the consumer food environments of poor people, and how does local food system regulation affect the connections between food production, food trade, local food access and dietary diversity?
  3. What are the interactions and contradictions between formal and informal actors in the food system?


Livelihood land reform and local food system restructuring

Governing a changing food system

Mapping the South African Agro-Food System: Implications for food security and livelihoods

Professor Andries du Toit

Professor Frans Swanepoel

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Principal Investigators

Professor Andries du Toit

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Professor Frans Swanepoel

Prof Frans Swanepoel is a Research Fellow in Residence with focus on Future Africa at the Centre for Advancement of Scholarship...

Social Protection for Food Security

One in five children display stunted growth. Yet since South Africa's democratic transition in 1994, social protection programmes have increased dramatically.

Food Politics and Cultures: Humanities Approaches to Food

The POLITICS Programme explores human relationships to food, the power dynamics around food production and access and the meanings that food acquires in particular cultural and social contexts.

Food Governance and Policy Reform

The POLICY programme facilitates dialogue between researchers, the community and policy makers to inform policy making and shape research.

Persistence of Child Malnutrition in South Africa

The CHILDREN programme examines trends, determinants and consequences of food insecurity for mothers and children in South Africa

Shelves, Baskets and Plates

The PLATES programme investigates the dietary intake of poor and vulnerable South Africans, and details the food environments that shape food preferences and choices.

Food safety hazards that affect food security and how these can be...

If food is not handled, stored, distributed and prepared correctly, it can become contaminated and no longer be fit for human consumption.

Innovation and Technology for Enterprise Development

Organisational and technological innovations of food systems can help maintain and improve livelihoods through enterprise development for food security.