MEC's speech on World Food Day 2011

ADDRESS BY MR. GNJ SHUSHU MEC FOR AGRICULTURE, LAND REFORM AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT ON THE OCCASION OF WORLD FOOD DAY IN PHILLIPSTOWN
16 OCTOBER 2011

Programme Director
Members of Executive Council Present
Members of the Legislature in attendance
Mayors and Councillors
Ladies and gentlemen


We are gathered here in our numbers exactly 32 years since the proclamation of the World Food Day by the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization. It is time for us to once more reflect on the plight of the poor and marginalized who do not always have a guarantee of having something to eat. Many of whom do not even have an idea of where the next meal will come from. This occasion also provides us with the opportunity to implement practical interventions to achieve food security for all South Africans.

It should be common cause by now that the purpose of commemorating World Food Day is to heighten public awareness of the world food problem and strengthen solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. In our province this event has been held since 2006 with activities aimed at raising awareness on the importance of household own food production and implementing projects that actively contribute to the fight against food insecurity. Through all this we seek to send a message that, the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger is reaffirmed.

Compatriots, this year’s World Food Day is held during the process of our census. It is benefitting that our food security interventions should coincide with the counting of the population. This is primarily because the results of the census will not only provide government with the size, distribution and structure of the population but also supply more accurate data for planning. It means that we will have a better picture of the location of our people, their socio-economic conditions including poverty and unemployment and level of access to public services. Indeed, it will also feed into our processes of determining the level of food insecurity in the Republic.

Our celebrations of this day also coincide with the passing of one of the stalwart of the struggle to emancipate black people from racial oppression Mme Charlotte Makgomo Maxeke in 1939. Charlotte Maxeke was a teacher, social worker, politician and founder of the Bantu Women’s League of South Africa. She would have been in the forefront of the battle waged by our people against poverty and hunger in particular because of her interest in the safety of young people. It was for this reason that ANC Women’s Section nursery in Morogoro, Tanzania was named “The Charllotte Maxeke Child Care Centre”. Our efforts today to ensure food security for all are inspired by her contribution to the struggle and social difficulties of black people.

The Theme

Ladies and gentlemen, the theme for this year’s World Food Day is “Food Prices-From Crisis to Stability”.  This theme is indicative of the challenges posed by food price increases on food security and calls upon all of us to devise innovative means to move towards stability in the prices. Given that according to the National Food Security Programme, South Africa’s biggest food security challenge is access to food, the increase in food prices remains a key point of consideration.  

The world today is facing a multiplicity of capitalist crises: the crisis of the global financial sector, an energy crisis, an oil crisis, a food crisis, and the crisis of climate change and global warming. Whilst it would be foolhardy to predict an imminent demise of the global capitalist system, nevertheless there are important qualitative shifts that are taking place marking the possible beginnings of a new global era. It is a global era that may for a while be characterized by uncertainties and instabilities in many parts of the world, not least economic instability in pockets of the advanced capitalist countries. This is likely to be accompanied by a wave of successive crises whose outcome will in the end be determined by the workers and poor of the world to seize the political initiative.

We take cognizance of the fact that the root causes of hunger are multiple and complex as concluded by the recently published World Disasters Report of 2011. Lack of investment in agriculture, climate change and food commodity market speculation have been identified as some of the major factors contributing to chronic problems of severe hunger and malnutrition. However, this year the world finds it appropriate and befitting to focus on rising food prices.

I have no doubt that all of us have noticed and felt the impact of increases in food prices. It has become more and more expensive for our people to buy basic food stuffs while others have no means at all to buy food. According to FAO between 2005 and 2008, the world’s staple food prices soared to their highest levels in 30 years. During the last 18 months of that period, maize price increased by 74 percent while that of rice almost tripled, rising by a whopping 166 percent.

In the 1980s and 1990s, food security was articulated as a counter-paradigm to the banner of free trade waved by the United States (US) and as a response to their hard lobbying efforts with the European Union (EU) to dump their ever-growing surpluses of grain, dairy, and meat products of third country markets.

It was resisted because of the devastating effects for domestic economies, rural life, local culture, and communal structures it posed.

As advanced by its proponents, food security meant the ability of a country to produce most of its basic food necessities, the survival and economic welfare of peasant producers and the protection of food preferences, and stability of a country from the vagaries of world trade in grain and other foodstuffs.


In South Africa, the May 2011 Food Price Monitor report released by National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) showed that inflation increased by 48 percent in food and non-alcoholic beverages between April 2010 and April 2011 due to the annual increases in the prices of oils and fats  by 22.7 percent, meat  by 8.3 percent and sugar by 6.3 percent.

The Food Price Monitor of February 2011 reported that the overall food price index increased by 33 percent from January 2010 to January 2011, reaching its highest level since January 2008. During February 2011, it reached its peak of 237.2 index points. In March, it decreased for the first time in 8 months. From March to April, the food price index showed a slight increase again and reached 232.1 index points.

In certain instances the food price crisis resulted in social and political instability as more people struggled with access to food. Food riots broke out in more than 20 countries while editorialists decreed the end of cheap food. Truth be told, without food security global peace cannot be guaranteed.

More disturbing is the effect that food increases have had on the poverty situation across the globe. The World Food Programme estimates more than 44 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty and hunger since June 2010 while more than 110 million people were plunged into the ranks of the undernourished. This has essentially eroded significant gains made throughout the world on the United Nation’s Millennium goal of halving poverty by 2014.

There is no doubt that the rising food prices affect primarily the poor and the rural motive forces. This is because poor households spend at least 70 percent of their income on food. Against this background, one is inclined to agree and spread the message of the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Josette Sheeran that and I quote “We must work together to break the cycle of hunger and build resilience for the world's hungry poor”. Our movement and government concurs and says working together we can do more to fight poverty and hunger.

The Case of South Africa
Ladies and gentlemen, I should not take it for granted that we know the extent of food insecurity and poverty in South Africa and the Northern Cape in particular. At face value one might be tempted to conclude that food security is not such a big issue in this country. The government of the people has since 1994 developed and implemented economic policies that placed the country in better position relatively speaking.

Today South Africa is a net exporter of agricultural goods; has a high per capita income even for an emerging country; there are no tight foreign exchange constraints; and the country is not landlocked. Most importantly, the right to adequate nutrition is entrenched in the Constitution and forms the basis of our Integrated Food Security Strategy (IFSS).

However, despite the political and economic advances made since 1994, our country continues to be plagued by high levels of poverty and unemployment; and more recently steep food and fuel prices; high energy tariffs and increasing interests rates. In terms of food security, the Human Sciences Research Council reveals that in 2004 at least 14 percent of the population was estimated to be vulnerable to food insecurity, and 25 percent of children under the age of six were reckoned to have had their development stunted by malnutrition.

Last year, we noted the fact the hunger index developed from the National Food Consumption Survey shows that at the national level 51.6 percent of households experienced hunger; that approximately 28. 2 percent was at risk of hunger and 20.2 percent appeared food secure.

We also made the point that the geographic spread of hunger points to a higher percentage of prevalence amongst households in rural areas than in urban areas.  Concomitantly a lower percentage of households in rural areas are food secure. This highlights the fact that it is more vulnerable communities, the poor and the working class, and the marginalized that are likely to experience hunger, poverty and undernourishment.

World Food Day Commemoration

Programme Director, there is indeed no doubt that food security remains priority of our government.  Accordingly, government has prioritized programmes which are aimed at raising the nutritional levels of the population, particularly the more vulnerable members of society.

This has found expression in the Medium-Term Strategic Framework. Furthermore to give effect to this important strategic intent the War on Poverty (WOP), Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP), and Zero Hunger Campaign among other programs have been adopted.  It is therefore imperative for us to reflect albeit briefly on some of the activities and initiatives implemented in the past to address issues of food security.

Government has adopted the Integrated Food Security and Nutrition Programme (IFSNP) to curtail the prevalence of chronically hungry and under-nourished people. The Northern Cape Government through the champion of IFSNP, the Department of Agriculture Land Reform and Rural Development will reinforce our agenda in attaining the Millennium Development Goals by continuing to invest in food security.


We indicated in the beginning that our province has since 2006 commemorated World Food Day. This event has seen the department collaborate with IFSNP partners to host this day in all five districts of the Northern Cape Province. During this time food production projects were launched as a sign of Unity or integrated approach by stakeholders in the fight against poverty.

Hosting communities benefitted immensely from these interventions while awareness campaigns were conducted to inform the community/households about the importance of own food production in addressing issues of food insecurity at a household level.  To date, we can report proudly that five projects were launched through IFSNP efforts and those are:

1.    Kopanang vegetable production at Barkley West, in Frances Baard District which is still sustainable with a secured market in Kimberley;
2.    Sikhulule broiler production at Noupoort, in Pixley Ka Seme District, which continues to produce even in the light of challenges such as extreme temperatures that has negative impact on its productivity and profit;
3.    Mayeding Letsima awareness campaign in John Taolo Gaetsewe District was held for the establishment of backyard vegetable growing and fruit tree planting. This project has increased the interest of the community to be involved more in their own food production through a community project which will soon be ready to produce for market;
4.    Blocuso is vine yard or grape production project at Soverby, in Siyanda District and is still successful; and
5.    Levuyu Hydroponics production at PortNolloth, in Namakwa District which is doing very well with a secured market for its produce and still support the community feeding scheme.

These projects are indicative of the fact that our approach is not just to think about those affected by hunger and poverty but also to implement practical interventions to alleviate the plight of poor communities. Apart from these projects IFSNP partners have done considerable work in the past to pursue the ideal of food security for all in our province.

Amongst others the following initiatives have been undertaken by members of the IFSNP:
•    The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development has since the inception of food security program supported 60 projects and at least 44 of these are still viable. Over 7 000 household vegetable gardens were established since the inception of the Food Security  including home base care centers, clinics, schools and drop-in centers.  The department has spent over R18 million since the inception of food security programme in raising awareness and providing inputs for own food garden production.

•    The department of Social Development has implemented poverty alleviation programmes which  were used very effectively in supporting community feeding schemes such as the 274 soup kitchen, 28 drop-in centers, and 271 Early Childhood Development centers as well as development of community enterprise with   potential to generate income and job creation.

•    The Department of Education is actively involved in the community food security initiatives through school feeding schemes and school vegetable gardens. Throughout the Province 173 schools have vegetable gardens although there is inconsistency in the status of production at schools due to different challenges faced by schools.

•    The Department of Health is actively involved in encouraging community members with chronic diseases to be involved in the production of fresh vegetables at their centers. The department supports 24 health centers with vegetable gardens while on school nutrition programme they campaign focuses on healthy eating.

These are just some of the important initiatives that our government has implemented in the province to deal with the issue of food security.

Phillipstown

I must address myself to the issue of why this year’s commemoration of the World Food Day is held in Phillipstown.  This town has been identified as one of the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme sites. Its identification and declaration was based on scientific analysis of the socio-economic conditions and the needs of the community.

The result of the 2010 Balelapa Household profiling in the Renosterberg Municipality (1479 household sampled) which includes Phillipstown shows that unemployment is very high in this area. At least 3.7 percent of the people in this town have given up on seeking work, whilst 67.8 percent would like to seek employment, 45.5 percent were interest in starting a business and 34.9 percent would like to volunteer in developmental programs. The majority of households at 35.7 percent depend on Social Grants and consequently 5.9 percent of household members indicated that they were eligible, but not receiving grants.

In addition, our interventions are a direct response to the commitments made by the Honourable Deputy President Motlanthe during the occasion of the War on Poverty Outreach Programme earlier this year. The Deputy President’s visit confirmed the abject conditions of poverty that the people of Phillipstown are living under. These includes social tribulations such as high rate of school dropout, lack of basic amenities which include water, sanitation and housing as well as high levels of drug abuse.

The hosting of the World Food Day commemoration in Phillipstown therefore gives impetus to efforts made by government to lift the people of Phillipstown out of abject poverty. We hope to leave with the community a legacy that will go a long way alleviating poverty and providing access to food. Ours should not be seen as a once off occasion to entice the poor but a genuine intervention which must be embraced and led by the community.


We launch on this occasion the Phillipstown Community Food Garden and intensify other food security interventions implemented in the past. This project was established in 2010 with 10 beneficiaries from the local community. It is a clear demonstration of the effectiveness of the integrated approach by the IFSNP stakeholders. Collectively, IFSNP have invested at least R700 000 for completion of the projects, stipends and fencing. This should go a long way in alleviating the unemployment situation in this area.

Agriculture is one of the predominant economic activities in Renostersnerg and the entire Pixley Ka Seme district, with livestock farming forming a significant component with approximately 2.3 million sheep in the District.  We therefore find it imperative to develop the Pixley ka Seme agricultural strategy. This strategy seeks to identify key priority intervention areas which will lead to optimization of each agricultural commodity with regard to production, agro-processing and marketing as part of the department’s job creation plan.  Of the commodities, sheep and ostrich production has the opportunity to have the biggest economic impact and would therefore become the focus area. 

It is envisaged that the strategy will also address the limitations posed by the declining natural vegetation in the district. The focus should therefore be on increased efficiency through utilization of indigenous breeds, optimal utilization of grazing land and development of niche products (organic meat, goat meat, etc.)  The potential to increase gross income from animal production by 10 percent does not lie in increased stock numbers, but in increasing the reproduction and marketing percentages of livestock in the district.  

While the strategy is being developed, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development has made several interventions that aimed to support agricultural production and processing in Pixley ka Seme district. R14, 430 million was budgeted in 2011/12 financial year to provide various support packages to 90 small holder farmers through CASP, Ilima/Letsema and LandCare.  R12 950 million will be set aside in 2012/13 to support 204 small holder farmers with various infrastructures for livestock farming and shearing equipment.


Furthermore household food gardens have been supported with starter packs as part of the “Fight against Hunger Campaign” whereby other stakeholders, including NDA has delivered starter packs and food parcels in villages. Through this campaign the following projects have been funded in this area:
•    Makaleni Piggery  to the tune of R150 000
•     Phillipstown Vegetable Garden total funding of R700 000

The launch of the School Vegetable Garden takes place as part of our emphasis on integrated implementation and the contribution of the province to the national goal of Zero Hunger. It is aimed at combating hunger and its structural causes which continue to perpetuate inequality and social exclusion.

Ladies and Gentleman I must emphasize, these food security interventions can only be successful and go a long way in alleviating poverty if they are embraced and cherished by members of the community. It is important to realize it is not sustainable for government to distribute food parcels and implements forever without communities and households taking full responsibility.

Each household must strive to have a food garden. It is a virtue that must be instilled amongst young people. We must understand that gardening is cool and it is the right thing to do. It is important that our people understand that home gardening contributes to household food security by providing direct access to food that can be harvested, prepared and fed to family members, often on a daily basis.

In conclusion, we remember the food crisis that has affected people located in the Horn of Africa where drought coupled with conflict in Somalia has affected 13 million people. Millions of people are on the brink of starvation while the worst drought in 60 year and the relentless conflict depleted the country’s food supply. Tens of thousands of Somalis have died of malnutrition related causes in the past few months. In the midst of this crisis food prices are escalating, coping mechanisms collapsing with many families driven from their land and many bread winners cut down in the iterations of the civil war.

It is indeed our responsibility as citizens of the world to do what we can to help those more affected by hunger and starvation. As we wage our battle against food insecurity we share in the plight of fellow Africans who face starvation of a worse kind. It is therefore necessary and important for the people of the world to unite in the fight against poverty and hunger.

Many thanks to all for the time and effort spent in the struggle to ensurie that our older generation and future generation have a decent nutritious meal every day.  It remains a mammoth task and an ongoing intervention that needs the dedication of each and everyone, including members of our communities at large.

I thank you!