Reos Johannesburg is working on an innovation- and action-oriented Change Lab to enhance food security in southern Africa.
Food security is particularly disturbing in southern Africa. The inability of a large proportion of southern African households to reliably access decent food is a fundamental aspect of their deepening poverty trap. Furthermore, in the context of rapid urbanisation in this region, the character of food insecurity is changing – it is no longer primarily a rural problem. Increasing agricultural production is vital, but enhancing food security also requires broader, more systemic interventions in the value chains linking the production, manufacturing, and retailing of food.
Reos Johannesburg has been working since early 2009 with a group of partners from civil society, government, business and academia on an innovation- and action-oriented Change Lab to enhance food security in southern Africa. An initial workshop was convened in February 2009 bringing together about 70 stakeholders from across the food system. They were exposed to data demonstrating the degree and breadth of the challenge of food security in South Africa and on that basis, started considering key areas they believed deserved attention and new thinking, including issues of access and availability, competition and pricing, land and resources and consumer attitudes.
The project is due to run a series of Learning Journeys in different parts of the country in May 2010. These will focus on the experiences of consumers and farmers, the people at opposite ends of the food value chain who, based on the views of stakeholders interviewed over past months, are most challenged when it comes to exercising power in the system and yet are as farmers the lynch pin and as consumers the intended beneficiaries, of the system.
After the Learning Journey phase is completed, participants will come together to spend time identifying initiative areas and beginning to develop innovations.
Reos' main convening partner on this project is the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town. Other partners driving the process through a steering committee include Stellenbosch University, the SA National Department of Agriculture, Action Aid, WWF, the SA Human Rights Commission, International Food Policy Research Institute, and the Development Bank of Southern Africa. GTZ (German Technical Assistance) has provided funding for the interviews and subsequent phases of the project.
Initial outcomes from the project include bringing stakeholders together in a sector where intra-sectoral communication and awareness had been weak; creating a high degree of commitment to future activity from workshop participants (more than 60% committed to participating in the process in the longer term) and raising awareness of the need to better understand the perspective and role of the players in the system who are typically not heard (farmers and consumers).
What participants have said
"This forms a basis from which we are bound to perform and intervene better."
"I appreciate being able to see the whole chain, getting a possible methodology and having a starting point."
"The involvement of the business sector is encouraging, it shows that South Africa is really moving somewhere in addressing the question of food security."