The Democratic Alliance (DA) is extremely concerned by the revelation that almost a quarter of KwaZulu-Natal’s (KZN) people are food insecure. This while the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (DARD) seemingly has no idea how to deal with the crisis.
The figure forms part of a recent parliamentary reply Food Security CP by MEC, Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi, to questions posed by the DA.
Amongst the disturbing findings is the revelation that a staggering 24.5% of people in KZN are food insecure. The data is from the 2018 General Household Survey and considering the recent economic downturn and the negative effects of Coivd-19, it can be realistically assumed that this figure will have risen dramatically. Equally worrying is that DARD is unable to provide data on the number of child-headed households in KZN that are food insecure.
The same reply also reveals that DARD has never done research into the state of food security in the province and instead relies on the 2018 survey as well as the now outdated National Census (2011) data. The Department also admits that no food security strategy exists.
Of significant concern is that the outcomes of the Department’s interventions indicate that while it has assisted just over 21 000 households with food security initiatives in the past financial year – and 1.4 million households since 2010 – there is no data available to analyse the long-term impact of these and past interventions. This means that DARD is implementing programmes and spending money to alleviate food insecurity, without having reliable and up-to- date information available to assess the impacts of these programmes.
DARD’s mission is: To advance sound agricultural practices that stimulates comprehensive economic growth, food security and advancement of rural communities. It is against this backdrop that the Department should analyse the state of food insecurity in the province and, most importantly, the success of its interventions to improve food security (noting that its interventions are from an agricultural perspective).
In order to understand how successful government has been in responding to food insecurity in the province it is also important that DARD understands what food security is. Food Security is defined by the United Nations State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (2019) as: “A situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Food insecurity can therefore be considered as a situation that exists where a population, or part of a population, does not have sufficient physical, social or economic access to safe and nutritious food to live an active and healthy life at all times.
The DA officially adopted “Evidence based decision making” as one of its values and principles at its recent policy conference. It is in practically implementing this principle that the DA will make recommendations to the Department that, through its own research unit, it now produce a report twice a year on the state of household food security in KZN. This will help government to better plan programmes to alleviate food insecurity.
The DA welcomes the Department’s commitment, during a recent portfolio committee meeting, that it will begin implementing impact assessments on its interventions and move away from an outcomes-based approach of activities. We will continue to critically investigate the work done by DARD in order to ensure that KZN’s agricultural sector is properly supported and to ensure that the people of our province are food secure now and in the future.