Speech delivered by Mrs LJohnson, MEC for Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development during the KwaZulu-Natal World Food Day celebration
23 Oct 2011
Mayors and Councilors present here today
Stakeholders for both public and private entities
Representatives of Cooperatives
Members of the media
Our provincial World Food Day Commemoration event comes just a few days after the World celebrations last week Saturday, 16 October. World Food Day was proclaimed in 1979 by the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and it marks the date of the founding of FAO in 1945. The aim of the Day is to heighten public awareness around the world about issues of food supply by taking an opportunity to zoom in on matters of food production, distribution and security.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) states that currently there are over 1 billion hungry and food insecure people around the world, out of which 98% live in the developing countries where food production needs to double by 2050 to feed their growing populations. The situation as it stands then compels us to embark on an action that will strengthen solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. Our province has approximately 3,5 food insecure people who live below the breadline. Many of these people are so destitute such if they don’t get support, they can literally perish because of malnutrition. Somalia is an evident example of what I’ve just alluded to, where people have died because of famine. In essence World Food Day reminds us that every day is an opportunity to commit to do more, to address hunger in our communities and across the globe. We should therefore accelerate our actions and interventions as we forge ahead with the war on poverty.
Our theme this year says “Food Prices – from Crisis to Stability”. It calls upon us to look at what causes swings in food prices, and then do, what needs to be done to reduce their impact on the weakest members of global society. This event also attracts attention to the importance of government in creating the environment for communities to deal with food insecurity and to gauge the impact of actions that have been implemented so far. There is no other perfect opportunity for us to engage one another on these issues either than this one. We only need to fully understand the dynamics of food supply and access in the world so that we may in the end come up with practical solutions that can change our lives for the better.
The objectives of World Food Day celebrations take into account the following aspects
- Heighten public awareness of the problem of hunger in the world
- Encourage attention to agricultural food production and to stimulate national, bilateral, multilateral and non-governmental efforts to this end.
Encourage the participation of rural people, particularly women and the least privileged categories, in decisions and activities influencing their living conditions
Strengthen international and national solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty and draw attention to achievements in food and agricultural development.
In the past four years, global prices of staple crops such as maize and wheat have twice hit record levels, driving hundreds of thousands of the world’s most vulnerable people further towards hunger and poverty. Ultimately, the poorest people and those vulnerable to food insecurity are the most affected by the higher prices of staple foods. Specialists argue that unstable food prices are attributed to low food stocks, when supplies get to certain low levels, food prices become vulnerable to volatility. Once the prices of staple foods increase, households immediately react by spending less on other diverse foods such as fruits, vegetables and protein. Food Security interventions, such as school feeding schemes are also adversely affected as suppliers to school feeding schemes reduce the amount of protein that constitute the meals.
To mitigate the impact of food price volatility, Government’s Food Security Programmes are focusing on food policy adjustments, building grain reserves, increasing access to markets for small scale farmers, including boosting production, improving food distribution systems to increase the supply of food and bring down prices. Government is mobilising Traditional Authorities and Local Government to provide land and leadership to promote food production at a ward level.
To support the production of food at a local level, the Ugu Fresh Produce Market has been established. The objective of this market is to facilitate the distribution of food and to encourage sales of produce from small scale farmers in the area. Provincial and National level Plans, aimed at boosting food access, include the revitalisation of food processing plants that support mass production of food to enable people to become self-sufficient by encouraging own productivity and building up local and national food stocks.
The Food Security Interventions of Government continue to support small scale and emerging farmers with inputs, including seeds, fencing and water infrastructure (Jojo tanks), training and mentoring. Households are supplied with seeds to produce food for consumption in their households through the 'ONE HOME ONE GARDEN' campaign that has encouraged visibility of gardens throughout the province. Tractors are made available to plough huge parcels of land for massification projects.
In partnership with SASSA, vulnerable households are identified for relevant targeted food security interventions and social grants. Grant beneficiaries are also supported to start and maintain homestead gardens. All identified vulnerable households are assisted with planting and closely monitored for further assistance.
KwaZulu-Natal Government is working closely with a range of stakeholders, including Food Bank and the Office of the Premier to encourage women in agriculture, both as small scale farmers and providers for their families. Women often bear the brunt of poverty because they are the ones who suffer the most when their families are food insecure. As a province, we are working very closely with women to drive agrarian revolution because agriculture remains the only weapon to fight the formidable challenge of combating hunger and malnutrition.
Apart from issues of underinvestment and low productivity that make it difficult for people to feed themselves and earn a living from farming, continuation of high prices and food price volatility will still increase over the next decade primarily because of more frequent extreme weather conditions. Natural disasters such as droughts and floods have adverse effects on agricultural yields and food security. They spell a double tragedy for the mankind because they deplete the natural resources which we highly depend on for our survival.
As I conclude my speech today I wish to urge each and every one of you, to commit to pulling your weight in the fight against poverty. There are numerous ways we can do this, perhaps through sustaining our household gardens for subsistence farming and consumption, build a thriving agricultural sector for profitable farming and instill the value of public service by giving to the less fortunate. Please let us go back home and practice Ubuntu out there by helping those that are caught in the intricate web of poverty to get out of it.
I thank you.
Issued by: KwaZulu-Natal Agriculture, Enviromental Affairs and Rural Development
23 Oct 2011
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