#BRIDGETHEGAPS challenge- 21 days to rethink the food system

Lockdown the opportunity to disrupt and solve social problems.

The 21-day lockdown that kicks off this evening shouldn’t be seen as an excuse to stagnate, but as an opportunity for innovators to co-create effective solutions to make South Africa a better place for all. In that light, three national innovation organizations– Oribi Incubator, the Wakanda Food Accelerator and the Southern Africa Food of the University of Stellenbosch – are calling food sector disruptors to work together, yet separately, on finding disruptive ways to eradicate risks of accelerated food insecurity in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.

 Besides human health and our GDP, the corona pandemic is severely impacting South Africa’s already dire food security levels. Last year, 50% of the population was hungry or at risk of going hungry, the latest South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows. This is likely to worsen due to the covid-19 pandemic, which has already slowed down our economy. There is also a genuine fear the 21-day lockdown, which comes into effect today at 23:59, will add to this, despite food producers being exempt from these measures. 

That is why the Oribi Village, the Wakanda Food Incubator and the Southern Africa Food Lab are calling all South African food innovators to use the next three weeks to co-create sustainable and disruptive solutions to help South Africans become more food secure.  

“As we collectively help to stop the spread of the virus by staying home, let’s use our skills and the power of technology to drive, develop and fast-track innovations that ensure people have enough food on the table – today and tomorrow,” says Ellen Fischat, Managing Director at Oribi Village in Cape Town. “Let’s treat the next three weeks as a period of growth, disruption and innovation, not as one of stagnation. This mindset will help us come out of this crisis stronger, as individuals and as a nation.”

She explains that for this purpose, Oribi Village, Wakanda Food Incubator and the Southern Africa Food Labs have developed an entrepreneurship and innovation challenge. “We will announce more information on the challenge’s process and prizes in the next few days.”

Miles Kubheka, Wakanda’s founder and director, says it was a no-brainer to get involved in this initiative. “When looking for local solutions for large local and multi-faceted problems such as food insecurity, you need partners who have the same passion but bring different strengths to the table,” he says, noting that he worries about the impact of corona on South Africa. 

“According to friends all over the world, especially those living in countries most affected by the pandemic, South Africa has no idea of what is coming its way. As a doer, I don’t want to remain on the side-line.”  

Scott Drimie, Director of Southern Africa Food Lab, agrees the lockdown offers the perfect opportunity for innovators to work together, yet separately, on fighting problems such as hunger and food insecurity. 

“We need to use this corona crisis to ask questions about what we should be doing to strengthen our resilience in the face of an increasingly uncertain future,” he says, noting the focus shouldn’t be just on reducing the immediate impact of current problems. 

“The evidence that the climate collapse will drive the transboundary spread of diseases in animals, plants and humans suggests that our future holds more of the same. So yes, this is the best time to innovate and work to find short- and long-term solutions.”