Working Papers

Engaging civil society organisations in food security governance in the Western Cape: Reflections from emergency food relief during COVID

Published 17 November 2021, by Camilla Adelle, Ashley Haywood

Publication: Food Security Working Paper #008

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, South Africa was experiencing a food crisis but this was deepened and made more visceral by the subsequent lockdown. Low-income households bore the brunt of this economic and social shock: 3 million jobs were lost; two in every five adults reported that their household lost its main source of income; existing government-funded feeding schemes (including the National School Nutrition Programme) closed; and government support, in the form of extended social grants, was slow to be paid out.

These manifestations of lockdown had a grave effect on food security: 47% of adults reported that their household ran out of money to buy food in April 2020 and, while these figures declined in May and June, they were still well above the pre-COVID levels. As the crisis progressed through the winter of 2020, the hope was that government could move from food parcels to providing assistance through grants and then economic recovery in a ‘relief to recovery’ pathway. What transpired, in reality, was something far more unsettling: food insecurity was in danger of being seen as part of the ‘new normal’ as Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) struggled to fill the gap in an ongoing humanitarian crisis.

CSOs are a vital but missing voice in food governance in the Western Cape. The CSO landscape is mainly dominated by CSOs working on meeting acute short-term needs. CSOs must be facilitated and supported to play an active role in food governance that goes beyond delivering emergency food aid to patch up a broken food system. This report recommends approaches to do this.

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