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Municipalities urged to play bigger role in food security

An expert has urged local municipalities to play a bigger role in food security.
Written by Mogale Mojela

With millions of people in South Africa not having access to food and going hungry every year, an expert has called on municipalities to step in and fulfil their constitutional role in helping to ensure food security for their communities.  

In 2017, 6.8 million people experienced hunger and 10.4 million people had inadequate access to food in the country, according to a Statistics South Africa survey on food security, and this number is expected to be considerably high now due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Ultimately, it is up to municipalities to play a bigger role in providing food security, according to Jaap de Visser, director of the UWC Dullah Omar Institute for Constitutional Law, Governance and Human Rights and the Centre of Excellence in Food Security. 

Presenting his research, titled Municipalities and Food Security: Constitutional Analysis, de Visser said food security should not only be based on food production. 

“My argument is based on the research that I have done looking at intersections of food security and the role of local government and broader system of local government in South Africa. I’m focusing on whether there is an argument to be made for the role of local government in real life in the right of access to food,” he said. 

Food security: Not just about production

“The argument that I’m making is to rebuff the notion that food security is a national or provincial concern in South Africa. Quiet often, the argument is made that food security has much to do with agriculture, which is about producing enough food. Since local governments don’t really involve themselves too much with agriculture as they are really about providing basic services, [the perception is that] food security therefore falls outside the domain of local government.” 

However, de Visser pointed out that food security is not just about producing food, but more about access to food and affordability. He argued that, according to the constitution of South Africa, local governments are compelled by the constitution to attend to food security challenges. 

“I want to bring up two constitutional points countering that: firstly, municipalities are indeed constitutionally responsible for a significant part of realising the right to access to food. Section 27(1)(b) state that everyone has the right to have access to sufficient food and water. Secondly, food, access to food and food security are not about production alone, but more about a food system that needs to work and make food affordable and accessible. This approach puts municipalities in the picture.” 

Outside its jurisdiction

When Health-e News contacted Mopani District Municipality about its role in providing food security and whether any programs are in place to address food security, the municipality claimed that this was beyond the scope of its jurisdiction. 

“The role of the district is largely to coordinate the efforts of key stakeholders such as the farming community, and departments such as Agriculture, Water and Sanitation, and Social Development, among others, to work towards a common goal of ensuring food security,” it said. 

“[Its role is] also to create an enabling environment for the farming community to operate efficiently. The food bank is not fully operational now, as we have less donors coming through with food donations. However, the Department of Social Development does have other social relief programs that should target the distressed.” – Health-e News 

About the author

Mogale Mojela

Mogale Mojela is one of our Limpopo based citizen journalists. He was born and raised at Topanama Village in Tzaneen. Mojela went to Serurubele High School and after completing his matric went to study media at the University of Limpopo. He has freelanced for The Tribe Newspaper and Mopani Herald in his hometown. Currently, he is also a radio presenter at a community radio station Greater Tzaneen FM.