Strengthening local food networks for food systems transformation

KwaZulu-Natal is one of the nine provinces of South Africa and is home to over 11.1 million people on 94 361 km2 of land. By province, the prevalence of child hunger in KwaZulu-Natal is two to four times higher than in any other province and accounts for over a third of child hunger in South Africa.

Ensuring that a growing population has access to a healthy, affordable, and environmentally sustainable diet will undoubtedly remain one of the greatest challenges facing the region. 

Addressing food insecurity in South Africa requires innovative responses that fundamentally reconsider its causes, particularly because challenges facing the food system cut across issues, sectors, and scales. 

The objective of the Strengthening local food networks for food systems transformation Project is to reconnect and recalibrate local food systems in eThekwini Municipality and iLembe District Municipality. 

The project aims to ensure local food systems function efficiently by identifying the smallholders and other small-scale producers’ needs, leveraging appropriate support and re-connecting them to markets, especially informal markets and feeding schemes.

The project works with small-scale farmer and agribusiness networks situated within eThekwini Municipality (largely metropolitan with a mix of semi-rural, peri-urban and urban) and iLembe District Municipality (largely rural). Due to COVID-19, these networks have become disconnected impacting on the ability of farmers to produce and sell food to generate income. The project aims to ensure that effective and resilient local food systems are enabled. 

Through ongoing dialogue with the key stakeholders in the early phases of this project, the following work streams that could lead to significant food system transformation have been defined and enabled: 

  • Place based initiatives in uMbumbulu, uMzinyathi (both in eThekwini) and Maphumulo in iLembe. Detailed actor mapping exercises undertaken in each of these areas is leading to the identification of potential reconnection and recalibration opportunities 
  • Ensuring that appropriate food and human safety standards are in place in the recalibrated food systems 
  • Enabling an ICT environment that that will best suit the needs of the local farmers, hubs, traders and consumers 

Much of the initial groundwork of this project has been based on dialogue, but in order to transition to the action element, a learning journey and transformation lab were held. The objectives of these events were to: 

  • Expose the diverse group (including people that have not been part of current activities) to the current realities, experiences and stories of the actors on the ground 
  • Consider the dimensions of power, inclusivity, transparency and democratisation and review the reconnection and recalibration opportunities that had been defined to date 
  • Define the barriers to enabling the reconnection and recalibration opportunities 
  • Set up transformation teams that will enable the reconnection and recalibration opportunities.

View the full learning journey and T-lab report here.