WSU’s fight for a healthy province
The Centre for Excellence in Food Security housed at University of Western Cape has set its sights on collaborating with WSU to influence change in food security policies in the Eastern Cape.
The two academic bodies discussed establishing an institutional research flagship section on food security at WSU which will be funded by the National Research Fund.
The research that goes into food security will be used to influence government by making the information available to policy makers.
UWC’s applied poverty reduction assessment expert, Professor Julian May described food security as the availability of food, its accessibility, safety and whether it’s the kind of food people want to eat. “The food must be culturally acceptable as well as sustainable going into the future,” he said.
“As the centre we also tend to think of food security and nutrition as: Is the food healthy? Is it good for the body? And is it nourishing?” May added.
According to May, the Centre tries to understand how the food system looks in South Africa in terms of the process it goes through from the production of food on the farm to the consumption of it by a family.
“In this way the centre can adopt policies that can make the food healthier or to make the food better able to create jobs. We cannot solve the issue of food security in South Africa if we cannot solve the issue of unemployment first. The question is how we can get more jobs in the agricultural sector,” May said.
Land and land ownership was among the key focus areas discussed in the issue of food security in the province. Secondary to this was how to persuade producers, consumers and retailers of food to encourage healthier diets and to look for innovation, new ideas and products that can generate work.
“A critical thing that we cannot escape from in South Africa is the issue of land and the ownership of land. But it’s not that you should take away land from commercial farmers because that would mean less food,” May explained.
May further added that South Africans are going through what is called a ‘nutrition transition’.
“We are changing from diets that used to have more vegetables to diets that are highly processed – products that are manufactured that have high energy content but very little nourishment,” he said.
According to WSU deputy vice chancellor for academic affairs and research Professor Sandile Songca, the flagship will look at finding a food security barometer for the province which is a way of providing information about food security in the process of policy making.
“Unlike other provinces like Gauteng, the Eastern Cape has a lot of unproductive land that is not utilised for agricultural purposes. As WSU we want to make an impact on what is called the “green revolution” for the Eastern Cape where every square inch of land will be utilised,” said Songca.
Songca also projected that WSU is intending to consider venturing into providing academic programmes of study in agriculture.
“In the next five years or so we could have fully fledged programmes on agriculture,” he said.
WSU spokesperson Angela Church said that this research workshop was a typical example of how WSU becomes involved in community issues.
“Universities play a major role in research and the generation of new knowledge which provides a scientific context for policymakers,” she commented.
Communities can be a part of the conversation by joining the Centre of Excellence in Food Security Facebook page.
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