South Africa’s drive to create a competitive and food secure state was boosted on Tuesday, 15 April, with the launch of the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Food Security at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).
Studies show that in South Africa, where over 60 per cent of the population is urbanised, food insecurity is widespread, with Statistics South Africa reporting that approximately 45 per cent of South Africans live below the poverty line. Chronic malnutrition affects one in five young children in both rural and urban areas and about 10 per cent of households in South Africa experience hunger every month.
The Food Security CoE is the first to be hosted or co-hosted by a historically black university since the CoE Programme began 10 years ago. Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, said he hoped that this would be the start of a trend.
Minister Hanekom emphasised that “Food security is high on the country’s list of priorities. Obviously, food security is a subject that requires comprehensive treatment. This is true of most important socio-economic issues, but food security is arguably an extreme case as it involves questions of agricultural production systems, market dynamics, nutrition, people’s habits and preferences and our social security system. This is one reason why achieving food security is such a challenge, and why the CoE approach is particularly appropriate in this case.’
According to a study released in 2013 by the Human Sciences Research Council, more than half of South Africa’s population does not have regular access to enough food and national food security is estimated to be 45,6 per cent. It is initiatives such as the CoE in Food Security that will ensure that we build more skills and resources and conduct more research to help confront the issues of poverty, hunger and malnutrition in our country.’