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Towards democratic urban food systems governance: Re-interpreting the urban food security mandate Re-interpreting the urban food security mandate

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Abstract and Figures

Although South Africa is food security at a national level, there is widespread household food insecurity. Despite clear evidence of high levels of urban food insecurity, the problem is generally framed as being predominantly rural. This has led to a neglect of urban considerations in food security policies and programmes at the national and provincial levels, and an approach that fails to consider the systemic drivers of food insecurity. This has left local government without a clear mandate to address food insecurity. Although National policies and strategies continue to neglect the drivers of urban food security, the 2014 National Policy on Food and Nutrition Security does identify a role for local government. The National Development Plan argues for a more complex understanding of food security and its possible solutions. Although the vast majorty of local government food security initiatives focus on urban agriculture, there are indications that a more systemic approach is being considered. This policy brief calls for national government to formally acknowledge the mandate for food security to local government, and for provincial government to provide more scope for local government to drive the provincial urban food security agenda. The South African Cities Network has an important role to play in driving these processes, and in providing opportunities for horizontal learning. The brief argues that local governments should seek to maximise their food security programming and interventions within their existing mandates and develop over-arching food security and food system strategies, which address sustaianability issues and vulnerabilities to mega-trends. Finally, it argues that food systems governance should be recognised as an intervention with multiple benefits and returns on investment.
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Towards democratic urban food
systems governance:
Re-interpreting the urban food security mandate
SACN Programme: Sustainable Cities
Document Type: Policy Brief
Document Status: Final
Date: October 2015
Towards democratic urban food systems governance Page 1 of 5
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Executive Summary
Although South Africa is food security at a national level, there is widespread household food insecurity.
Despite clear evidence of high levels of urban food insecurity, the problem is generally framed as being
predominantly rural. This has led to a neglect of urban considerations in food security policies and
programmes at the national and provincial levels, and an approach that fails to consider the systemic drivers
of food insecurity. This has left local government without a clear mandate to address food insecurity.
Although National policies and strategies continue to neglect the drivers of urban food security, the 2014
National Policy on Food and Nutrition Security does identify a role for local government. The National
Development Plan argues for a more complex understanding of food security and its possible solutions.
Although the vast majorty of local government food security initiatives focus on urban agriculture, there are
indications that a more systemic approach is being considered.
This policy brief calls for national government to formally acknowledge the mandate for food security to local
government, and for provincial government to provide more scope for local government to drive the provincial
urban food security agenda. The South African Cities Network has an important role to play in driving these
processes, and in providing opportunities for horizontal learning. The brief argues that local governments
should seek to maximise their food security programming and interventions within their existing mandates and
develop over-arching food security and food system strategies, which address sustaianability issues and
vulnerabilities to mega-trends. Finally, it argues that food systems governance should be recognised as an
intervention with multiple benefits and returns on investment.
Background
South Africa is food secure at a national level.
It currently either produces enough food to
feed its residents, or is able to cover the cost
of food imports through a trade surplus from
agricultural exports. However, it is not food
secure at a household level. This means that
many households lack adequate access to
affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate
foods.
There are high levels of food insecurity in
South Africa’s towns and cities. The
SANHANES (South African National Health and
Nutrition Examination Survey) survey found
national prevalence of households at risk hunger
to be 28% and experiencing hunger, 26%. The
equivalent figures in urban informal areas were
32% and 36% respectively. Approximately two
thirds of urban populations in SA cannot afford a
basic healthy food basket.
Food insecurity in cities is driven by the
complex structure and trends of South African
food systems - the stakeholders, activities,
interactions, regulations and power dynamics
spanning food production, processing,
warehousing and distribution, marketing and sales.
Food systems governance is largely driven by
highly concentrated private-sector interests
The South African food system has become
increasingly consolidated in the last two decades.
As a result, much food systems data is proprietary,
contributing to significant knowledge gaps around
urban food systems, while food systems
governance is neither transparent nor democratic.
Urban food systems in South Africa face
severe sustainability issues, contribute to
environmental degradation and are vulnerable
to megatrends including climate change, energy
system instability, water scarcity, soil loss, waste
and pollution, macro-economic debt, GMOs and
biodiversity loss. These vulnerabilities pose a
threat to food system resilience and could trigger
sudden food systems failure and rapid increases
of urban food insecurity. Such trends would entail
severe public health challenges, exacerbate social
tensions and undermine urban governance and
security.
However, food security has been understood
to be a predominantly rural phenomenon. As a
result the vast majority of food security
programming has focussed on rural areas. This
belief has been reinforced by the ways in which
data are aggregated. Percentages and absolute
numbers have been consistently blurred leading to
misinterpretation of the extent of food insecurity in
different locations. For example, the Western
Cape’s Department of Social Development’s
current Strategic Plan indicates that because the
proportion of rural households experience food
security is higher than the proportion of urban
households (27% versus 22.7%), food insecurity is
more prevalent in rural areas. However, some
90% of the Western Cape’s households are urban
dwellers. This means that 294 120 urban
households are food insecure, compared to just
44 118 rural households. This blurring of
percentages and absolute numbers is also
evidence in the Integrated Food Security Strategy,
which guides all food security interventions.
As a result of this lack of recognition of urban
food security, there is no formally-
acknowledged mandate for local governments
to address food insecurity. However, local
government has a variety of existing regulatory,
planning and management mandates and
instruments that provide leverage to influence food
systems, for example through environmental
safety and health, SDFs, IDPs, Town Planning
Schemes, Transport Master Plans, Open Space
Plans, Environmental Impact Assessments and
through institutions such as fresh produce markets
and abattoirs. These points of leverage are not
currently coherently addressed or utilised to
influence food security outcomes.
Where local governments have attempted to
address food insecurity, their actions have
been guided by national and provincial
programming. This has led to a dominance of
urban agriculture as the primary intervention.
Critique of Existing Policy
Current policies and strategies do not engage
with food security from a systemic perspective.
They do not explicitly recognise their role and
potential to influence other stages of the food
system through existing mandates in urban
planning and management.
The 2002 Integrated Food Security Strategy aimed
to integrate previously fragmented policy.
Coordinated by DAFF it aimed to bring together
departments in a collaborative manner. While an
important development, it has widely critiqued for
its lack of action. Further, the policy does not
integrate the complexities of the urban scale or
role of local government.
The 2014 National Policy on Food and Nutrition
Security also coordinated by DAFF aims to “to
serve as a guide to national, provincial” - and
importantly “local government in working towards
food and nutrition security at every level” (DAFF,
2014,29). It aims to “maximize synergy between
the different strategies and programmes of
government and civil society” (DAFF, 2014,28).
However the policy continues to identify food
Towards democratic urban food systems governance Page 1 of 5
insecurity as primarily a rural problem. This is, in
part, due to the fact that DAFF is a Nationally
and provincially scaled department with little
presence at municipal scale.
The lack of a municipal focus in national food
security policy is of vital importance as it
influences the development of local level
policy.
A review of Municipal IDPs and other policy has
illustrated that many draw on the national rural
food security bias within policy and stemming from
this position urban food production as their policy
response therefore not overall adequately
engaging with more complex urban food security
issues surrounding this.
There are, however, a number of points of
innovation that suggest a wider
conceptualisation of appropriate responses to
food insecurity is possible. These include:
1) Recognising the role of the Fresh Produce
Market as a means to generate a more
inclusive food system (Buffalo City)
2) Recognising the municipal role in the
characteristics of value chains (Ekurhuleni
and Johannesburg)
3) Recognising the need for planning to
consider the generation of food networks
(Ekurhuleni), and the need to understand
the spatial determinants of food insecurity
(Johannesburg, Mangaung)
4) Connecting food security to climate
change mitigation strategies (eThekwini,
Cape Town)
5) Developing a co-ordinated multi-pronged
approach to food security (Johannesburg)
6) The need to engage stakeholders outside
of municipal government (Johannesburg)
7) Conducting baseline evaluations to
determine different levels of food security
in different municipal wards
(Johannesburg)
The 2012 NDP offers important food and
nutrition security guidance, offering a broader
and more systemic approach and emphasising
the importance of inter-departmental
collaborations to address these complexities.
While the recent 2014 Draft IUDF does not
explicitly engage with food systems, like the NDP,
the IUDF calls for inter-sectoral collaboration and
taking this further it specifically speaks to the
importance of geographical and spatial links
Urban planning and management strategies
and instruments do not adequately consider
food security, and where it is a consideration,
it defaults to urban agriculture. Monitoring and
evaluation of current initiatives is poor, limiting
assessment of their effectiveness and the potential
for learning from good practice.
Local government capacity to engage with the
complexity, sensitivity and cross-departmental
nature of food systems governance is limited
due to constraints in funding, personnel,
knowledge, skills and infrastructure.
Recommendations
National government should be encouraged to
recognize the existing mandate for local
government to address food insecurity, as
alluded to in the new Food and Nutrition
Security Policy. In order to do this, it is essential
that national government is provided with data and
information explaining the extent and drivers of
urban food insecurity. A directive from national
government is essential in order to provide
motivation for local government to proactively
address food insecurity.
Provincial government should provide more
scope for local government to drive the
provincial urban food security agenda. At
present municipalities may be part of provincial
working groups, but they are largely expected to
implement strategies and programmes rather than
formulate them. This has led to the perpetuation of
predominantly rural-focussed strategies being
implemented in urban areas, rather than strategies
designed to be responsive to urban needs.
The South African Cities Network should play a
role in lobbying national government and
providing voice for local governments. The
South African Cities Network represents a
collective voice for the metros and is beginning to
work with secondary cities as well. Individual
municipalities may lack voice in engaging national
government to request greater recognition of
urban food security, including motivating for
improved modes of data collection and
aggregation from StatsSA. The Network can play
an important role in providing a coherent voice.
Towards democratic urban food systems governance Page 2 of 5
The South African Cities Network should play a
role in connecting local governments to each
other to encourage horizontal learning. Various
municipalities are attempting new approaches to
food insecurity. The Network can play a role in
facilitating cross-municipality learning and serve as
an archiving hub for urban food security resources.
Local governments should maximize their food
security programming and interventions within
their existing mandates. Local governments
have tended to consider their food system role as
providing access to urban agriculture. However,
when the food system as a whole is considered, it
becomes clear that local government plays a much
wider role in shaping the characteristics and trends
seen within the food system. There is a need
therefore to acknowledge these existing roles and
to consider how the local government can work
with other food system stakeholders to enhance
urban food security through coherent food system
interventions within existing mandates. This could
include, for example, intergrated planning of the
food retail environment, especially along transport
corridors and nodes, support for informal food
retailers, restrictions on advertising of unhealthy
foods in public spaces or deferment of
supermarket waste from landfill.
Local government should develop an over-
arching food security and food system
strategy. This would involve the development of a
Food Charter, which can be used to raise
awarenesss of the issue within local government
and wider stakeholders and to build consensus. It
would also act as a stakeholder engagement
strategy including a food systems governance
council consisting of a small, core group of
stakeholders that will be engaged on an ongoing
basis, and a larger group who can be engaged at
specific points on specific projects. Where feasible,
it is recommended that municipalities establish
working groups for food system knowledge
management and innovation. It is essential that
these structures be formally institutionalised, well-
resourced, and have the necessary clout to
encourage change.
References
Battersby, J., Haysom, G., Tawodzera, G., Kroll,
F., Marshak, M. (2015) A study on current and
future realities of urban food security in South
Africa, Report for the South African Cities Network.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Technical Report
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Suppose I told you that New York City had the opportunity to create thousands of new jobs – but we just weren’t doing it. You’d probably be pretty upset. Now suppose I went on to say that we’ve actually had that opportunity for years, we just weren’t paying close enough attention. I bet you’d all have some choice words for me – the kind that shouldn’t be repeated in polite company. Alright, now suppose I told you that by taking steps to create those jobs, we could also improve public health and reduce our energy consumption. We could fight childhood obesity and asthma. We could keep millions of dollars in the local economy, instead of sending those dollars across the country or around the world. But we still weren’t doing it. Well the fact is, we have been ignoring those exact opportunities. For years, we’ve been missing a chance to create a greener, healthier, and more economically vibrant city. How? By ignoring the enormous potential of our city’s food system.’ (Quinn 2009) There are currently high levels of food insecurity in South African cities. The SANHANES survey found national prevalence of households at risk of hunger to be 28% and those experiencing hunger at 26%. The equivalent figures in urban informal areas were 32% and 36% respectively. The figures are reinforced by case studies which consistently show high levels of food insecurity. With regard to trends: nationally food insecurity was in decline, but it appears to have plateaued. Ever increasing food prices and other price shocks suggest that levels of urban food insecurity are unlikely to improve. Urban food insecurity is characterised by low dietary diversity, high malnutrition and obesity, and distinct hunger seasons. This is caused by both household and extra-household scale factors including: Household income, income stability, household structure, and household asset base. The extra-household scale factors include geographic access to a range of sources of food, access to transport and stability of food prices. Households themselves engage in strategies to mitigate food insecurity, which may increase household vulnerability to food insecurity in the longer term. These include consumption smoothing and accessing credit. The brief for the study requested a particular focus on urban agriculture as this is the most common programmatic response by municipalities to food insecurity. However, in reviewing national large-scale surveys and smaller case studies, very little evidence was found to support the assertion that urban agriculture is an effective means of addressing food insecurity for the most vulnerable households. Uptake of urban food production varies widely across the country, but is generally low. There is an extremely weak evidence base on what is being produced, by whom and how production impacts food security. Without such data the dominance of urban agriculture as the programmatic response cannot be justified.