South Africa facing future food security challenges

SEPTEMBER 10, 2015

South Africa is likely to face crippling food security problems in the future as a result of its overlooked population growth and lack of population self-reliance, research has found.

The study by Walter Sisulu University's (WSU) Research, Innovation and Development Directorate Acting director, Dr Eliphinah Cishe examines the performance of key indicators such as per capita land utilisation and the production and consumption of selected staple foods in post-apartheid South Africa.

Her findings suggested that there has been a decline in per capita land cultivation, per capita food production and mixed results in the per capita consumption of some major staple foods in post-apartheid South Africa.

“We learnt that the contributing factor to this decline is lack of self-reliance as people have turned to rely on government grants. The fields they used to cultivate prior 1994 aren’t productive or have been used as squatter camps,” Cishe said.

In addition to Cishe’s findings, per capita consumption of maize in South Africa is below the 160kg per person, per year as it had been recommended by the World Health Organisation.

“South Africa is generally a food secure country but there’s poverty because we export a lot of our food to other countries,” she said.

The research shows, as a result of this lack of staple foods, South Africa’s general population has a high consumption of sugar and potato.

“Cheap and easily accessible foods like potatoes commonly available in markets might have complications to people’s health as they may cause allergies and diseases. It’s high time we go back to basics and eat staple foods that are healthy,” added Cishe.

The secondary data for the study on the production of staple food crops was sourced from the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) and Stats SA.

Dr Elphinah Cishe was presenting her paper at the first Univen-WSU International research conference in East London.

Image: Dr Eliphina Cishe. Supplied