Source: Pretoria News
Many countries in Africa will see their populations continue to increase during the next decade, with South Africa expected to reach 51 138 490 by 2020.

This means the country will need to produce more food to support its growing population and that requires a different approach to the challenge of ensuring sustainable food security.


The 2011 report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation on the state of food and agriculture found that one of the reasons the agricultural sector was underperforming was gender inequalities in the distribution of resources.


By supporting women with the resources and opportunities to increase their productivity, a growth in agricultural output could be achieved in the range of 2.5 to 4 percent and food security from 12 to 17 percent in terms of a reduction in the number of hungry people. There will also be broader economic and social gains.


Food security is part of our Section 27 constitutional rights. The country faces food security challenges which include food access by all; access to markets by subsistence and smallholder farmers; the threat that climate change and other economic activities like mining pose to domestic production; the creation of opportunities for the poor to participate in economic activities for their empowerment to purchase food; the empowerment of citizens to make choices for the consumption of nutritious and safe food; adequate safety nets and food emergency management systems to provide for people who are unable to meet their food needs and mitigate the impact of disasters; and the availability of adequate, timely information for analysis, monitoring, evaluation and reporting on the impact of food security programmes on targeted population.


Speaking on the role of women in meeting food security needs, the director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation Jacques Diouf said: "I believe we can and will succeed. But only if the contribution of women and their enormous potential are recognised. And that means addressing the deep-rooted inequalities that impede them from gaining equal access to productive resources and services".


Our agricultural policy development should continue to recognise the contribution that women make to ensuring food security needs are met, ensure equality for women under the law, and provide the necessary support services and infrastructure to enable them to achieve their goals and make their full contributions to society.


If women had the same access to productive agricultural resources as men, they would produce 20 to 30 percent more food and their families would enjoy better health, nutrition and education.


Food security would be greatly improved and communities would grow richer in social and economic terms.


Through such an empowered approach, the Millennium Development Goal on hunger and poverty reduction would be achieved far more easily and South Africa would be doing its part to make it possible to feed a larger world. In the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries budget address on May 29, the message was unequivocal, that South Africa would continue its campaign of recognising women as important contributors to food security and agricultural development.


One such intervention is the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries' Female Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, an annual event now in its third year that encourages women entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector to participate and be recognised for their efforts in matters of food security, job creation, economic growth and poverty alleviation.


The awards serve as an empowerment platform that recognises the entrepreneurial skills of women in agriculture and raises them from subsistence farmers to smallholder and commercial enterprises.


The female entrepreneur programme is part of a comprehensive intervention by the department to address key challenges relating to food security and women's empowerment in agriculture.


The award categories appeal to progressive entrepreneurship to encourage proactive contribution to food security. Winners are chosen based on criteria which include quality of product and quantity of produce, scale of operation, farming practices, care for natural resources, adaptation to climate change, innovation and creativity, usage of new technology, sound financial management and record keeping skills, marketing and prospects for economic growth, job creation, skills transfer, mentoring and coaching, community and social investment, youth and disabled participation and exposure and sustainability imperatives.


The awards were presented in March.


Women play a critical role as the main nurturers, farmers and teachers in rural and semi-urban areas. To achieve women's empowerment, there is a need to ensure greater advocacy for gender issues in food production, ensure the availability of resources to maximise production and ensure best practices are introduced.


Most solutions to food security challenges exist, they simply need to be inculcated at grassroots level.


World Food Programme gender unit chief, Isatou Jallow says gender inequalities are at the heart of the pernicious cycle of malnutrition. "The fight against hunger and malnutrition will not be won without addressing gender inequalities. Countries with the highest levels of hunger are also those that have the highest levels of gender inequality. Women are not vulnerable by nature, but they live in vulnerable situations. The vulnerability must not delude us into forgetting that women are strong, resilient and key agents of change and progress.

IOL farm

South Africa will need to produce more food to support its growing population and that requires a different approach to the challenge of ensuring sustainable food security, says the minister of agriculture


Go to top