The Narrative

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In 2008, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) embarked on a research review on food security in South Africa, while the German Technical Co-operation Agency (GTZ, now part of the German Association for Co-operation, or GIZ) commissioned research into the role of the private sector in enhancing food security in South Africa. Two academics, Milla McLachlan, and Ralph Hamann respectively took a lead role in these two pieces of research. When Milla met Ralph to invite him to contribute to the DBSA project, they discovered a mutual sense of frustration with the fragmented way in which complex issues of food insecurity were being tackled and conceived of using their research as a springboard for bringing together a multi-stakeholder group of people for a conversation about food security.

 

Seventy people attended the first public gathering in early 2009, funded by WWF and facilitated by Reos Partners, which spurred the formation of the Southern Africa Food Lab in 2009 to “foster more creative responses to the situation of hunger”. This workshop led to the establishment of the Steering Group and the year-long Change Lab process, inspired by

methodologies implemented in a range of similar initiatives, including the Sustainable Food Lab in the United States. Reos Partners were contracted to facilitate the process.

 

Over the subsequent two years, in pursuit of the question, “What will it take to ensure sustainable food security in South(ern) Africa?” SAFL convened a series of learning journeys and workshops to enable a more shared understanding of pertinent issues, strengthen relationships across institutional and ideological divides and build up a head of steam for tackling key issues. By 2010, the group had converged on four key areas of work they wished to embark on together. One of these was to catalyse a national conversation on food security, another on supporting smallholder farming. These evolved into the Transformative Scenarios Planning (TSP) process and the Supporting Smallholder Agriculture (SSA) projects.

 

The time for a national conversation was not deemed to be ripe, and so other areas of shared concern took centre stage, particularly the initiative to support smallholder farming. This evolved through wide participation from effectively focusing on linking smallholder

framers to differentiated markets to a project consisting of a number of innovations strongly influenced by what smallholder farmers deemed necessary to drive a change agenda. This largely focused on the Mopani District through the Mopani Farmers Association in Limpopo Province. During this time, the language of the Lab evolved from a focus on food security to a broader focus on the food system.

 

By 2013, in the context of economic, social and political turbulence in South Africa, alongside deep inequality, there was a high level of anxiety about the future of the food system, with different role players along the food value chain – from producers to consumers – expressing concern about different aspects. This galvanised the Food Lab into convening the Transformative Scenarios Planning (TSP). {link to TSP page, which is 6B} Since the launch of the four scenarios in 2015, a number of smaller initiatives have emerged linked to using the scenarios to help shift approaches to the food system whether within the private sector, the state or civil society. A key message of multi-stakeholder engagement permeates these processes.

Timeline

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2009

February

Multistakeholder meeting on food price crisis: agreement on need for greater collaboration across food system

SAFL Steering Group forms

November

GIZ approve funding for Change Lab process in 2010
2010

Jan/ Feb

Dialogue interviews with key food system stakeholders

May

Learning Journeys in CPT and JHB

Workshop in JHB following up on Learning Journeys

August

Limpopo Learning Journey

September

Innovation Workshop: Innovation Teams formed

November

Follow up Innovation Team meeting
2011

January

GIZ funding for Change Lab process ends

June

Follow up Innovation Meeting and Breakfast Forum, CPT: Roelf Pienaar (Pick n Pay) and Prof Andries Du Toit (UWC) speak on effect of retailers’ procurement policies on food security

October

Breakfast Forum, JHB: Andre Jooste from NAMC speaks on food prices

Funding received from National Research Foundation for academic research into innovative social processes like the SAFL. The ‘Social Learning for Sustainable Food Systems’ project is headed by SAFL founder and director at the time, Prof Milla McLachlan

November

Prof Ralph Hamann wins UCT Social Responsiveness Award for his work in setting up the SAFL
2012

April

Supporting Smallholders into Commercial Agriculture (SSCA) project initiated with PLAAS at UWC

May

PLAAS begins SSCA research: compiling database of all smallholder farmer projects

June

Breakfast Forum, CPT: Stanley Visser (City of Cape Town) and Gavin Andersson (Director of the Seriti Institute) speak on how urban design affects food security

October

Breakfast Forum, JHB: Erky Wood (GAPP Architects) and Adrian Masson (Adrian Masson and Associates Planners) speak on the role of food in the sustainable future city

November

UCT MBA students present findings of their research on SAFL
2013

March

Discussion Forum: Speakers from Oxfam GB, Women on Farms, Stellenbosch University and the Sustainability Institute speak on creating a just food system through active citizenship

April

SAFL ‘Stalwarts’ Retreat on future of SAFL

SSCA KwaZulu-Natal Learning Journey on market access

August

SSCA Limpopo Learning Journey on extension and farmer support

SSCA Gauteng Learning Journey

October

First SSCA Innovation Lab

Second SSCA Innovation Lab

November

SAFL members lead a panel discussion at the 3rd UCT GSB Conference on the Business of Social and Environmental Innovation: “Co-innovation to address wicked problems
2014

January

SSCA Transition Lab: planning next phase of project

 

April

Prototype phase of Supporting Smallholder Agriculture (SSA) begins

 

July

Art of Hosting and Farmers’ Voice Innovation Team meeting, Tzaneen

 

September

First Transformative Scenarios Process workshop, hosted by EY in Sandton

 

October

Second Transformative Scenarios Process workshop, hosted by SANBI in Pretoria

 

2015

March

The Food Futures scenarios were officially launched at the Wits Club
The SSA hosted a media learning journey in Limpopo that was well attended by journalists from print, radio and TV media.
2016

Updates Coming Soon