2018 in review

In January, WWF and the Food Lab hosted thought leaders from the finance sector, insurance and investment on a learning journey regarding the nation’s future food system. “The purpose of the day was to give the private sector insight into some of the big changes we’ve seen in South African agriculture over the last 20 years, to share future trends with them, and to demonstrate innovations addressing these.” Its striking how conversations around agricultural technology continue to emerge in the wake of the drought.

In February we shared commentary from Advisory Board member Mervyn Abrahams and his team on the zero-rated food list and in March we commented on the listeriosis outbreak.

We attended the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa’s Tomlinson Commemorative Lecture at the University of Pretoria and reported on that.

The Food Lab received international recognition twice in April. First off, our work with smallholder farmers was recognized by the UN’s 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns within their Sustainable Food Systems Programme.

Secondly, Advisory Board member Ralph Hamann presented a paper based on learnings from the Food Lab at a Harvard University workshop.

We met with a number of researchers through the year, giving feedback on such topics as the impact of technology in changing the food system and on the value of social labs.

In July we co-hosted a workshop on food waste and the technology being used to address the issue. Advisory Board member Tatjana von Bormann’s article on the subject was published in both Business Day and the Daily Maverick.

A major achievement this year was the research which WWF commissioned Incite to undertake with food sector players. The Food Lab was a co-convenor. The report, An Appetite for Collaboration, will guide our work with the private sector in 2019, starting with a Food Systems Dialogue to be held at GIBS, at the University of Pretoria in Johannesburg on 6 March 2019.

We made headlines on World Food Day… our views on addressing SA’s triple burden of malnutrition were published in the Cape Argus and a piece on the link between malnutrition and poor education outcomes was published in Business Day. Advisory Board members Tatjana von Bormann and Scott Drimie also conducted a number of interviews on various radio stations in this regard.

In early December the Lab hosted a learning journey together with the University of the Western Cape. The two-day Dialogue on Food Environments, Poverty and Health was held in Khayelitsha and aimed to raise awareness about how local food environments promote obesity and to explore solutions.

The Food Lab has also begun using our online platforms to profile interesting projects and people in the sector such as Nonhlanhla Joye and her plastic bag farming, Ryan Meiring’s tiny farms project and Loubie Rusch’s fynbos foods.

2019 marks the 10-year anniversary of the Food Lab. We look forward to a significant year in both our history and in the Southern African food system at large.