Fostering coherence in food security policy

The Southern Africa Food Lab, in partnership with The Presidency, recently hosted a dialogue to foster coherence in South Africa food security policy. The dialogue was attended by 30 government officials and academics including representatives from DPME, DAFF, DCE, GDE, DBE, DEA, The Department of Women, and the Gauteng Office of the Premier.

In Food Lab dialogues and research conducted over the last decade, diverse stakeholders have identified the importance of coherence in the design and implementation of government policy as an enabling factor for attaining food security in South Africa. Recent research conducted in partnership with WWF South AfricaStellenbosch University, the Centre of Excellence in Food Security and City University of London, showed that despite a richness of frameworks and approaches, there are opportunities for greater coherence and coordination between departments, levels and spheres of government.

The workshop was thus developed to adopt a dialogue approach to:

1) Provide an overview of 30 years of policies on food security in South Africa including pertinent experience and research on the need and opportunities for more coherent government policy and action, focused on food security;

2) Identify tangible and specific opportunities to develop such coherence.

Dr. Tsakani Ngomane from The Presidency and and Dr. Scott Drimie from the Food Lab opened the dialogue by acknowledging the challenges within current food security policies and noting that a careful alignment at different spheres of government (provincial and municipal levels) with commitment has the potential to impact stunting and other nutrition indicators.

These issues were explored through presentations by Dr. Ngomane on the institutional arrangements for the National Food and Nutrition Security Plan (NFNSP) for South Africa for 2017-2022; Dr Laura Pereria from London University on policies relating to healthy and sustainable food systems in South Africa; and Dr. Moraka Makhura from Pretoria University on multi-stakeholder partnerships to finance and improve food and nutrition security in the framework of the 2030 agenda. After each presentation there was a comprehensive question and response session. Through the process of an open dialogue with many questions by participants, the following actions were suggested by The Presidency as a means to increase alignment and cohesion in food security policy:

  1. Communication of the NFNSP to senior-level members within and across departments;
  2. Create accountability mechanisms to improve implementation at the local levels;
  3. Seek willingness and goodwill to move towards multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral approaches to food policy, and aim to include more voices representing civil society, particularly from the stakeholders who are impacted by the NFNS Plan. This would need to include an allocation within the budget to hear the voices of those outside the food system.
  4. Due to the long political and administrative process required to establish the proposed multi-sectoral Food and Nutrition Security Council, combined with an upcoming election year, it is unlikely that this process would be established until 2020, three years into the Plan. It is therefore recommended that an interim advisory council be established.
  5. Secure commitment and competencies from all the sectors who are involved in the implementation of the NFNS Plan. The Gauteng Phakisa becomes key in this process, which would also provide a starting point for this programme.

A number of other food security initiatives were also explored through the workshop:

  1. COE-COP: Establishment of a Community of Practice on Food Policy in the Western Cape in addition to the current plans to establish one in Gauteng. This COP would involve stakeholders from academia, civil society and different levels of government and aim to connect the formal and informal food sectors.
  2. Use of an existing programme as a space to promote FNS education, such as the 15-year agreement by the Department of Basic Education and WestBank to build local partnership in three districts.

The Presidency and participants expressed the importance of the Food Lab hosting multi-stakeholder dialogues around challenges in the food system, and cited the need for further dialogues to be convened where there could be an opportunity to share:

  • More examples of international practice of multi-stakeholder partnership (MSP) approaches in food security coordination strategies;
  • Involve private-sector stakeholders in the conversation;
  • Update participants on the progress of existing initiatives, such as reducing food waste.

Participants expressed the notion that issues surrounding the right to food is everyone’s business and lived experience.