Scenario Planning

The objective of the transformative scenarios planning (TSP) process was to get people talking and thinking differently about the food system in South Africa. Part of this was to consider what could be done collectively to avert potentially dire outcomes.


In parallel to the TSP process, the SAFL and WWF commissioned an independent systematic literature review of the food system in South Africa to inform the process and to provide participants with a broad overview of the current system. The final review, written by Laura Pereira (at the time a post-doctoral research fellow at UCT, and now with the Centre for the Study of Complex Systems in Transition at Stellenbosch University), provides an overview of the South African food system.


After many months of hard work and collaboration, we presented the scenarios in their final form at a launch event on March 11, 2015 at the Wits Club in Johannesburg.


WWF and the Green Trust are currently supporting the SAFL to facilitate a range of discussions around the implications of the scenarios including inter alia:


  • AgriSA
  • Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF)
  • The Presidency and Outcome 7 Working Groups
  • SPAR
  • Oxfam-GB
  • EY


The food future scenarios, funded in part by the Green Trust, make it clear that an emerging crisis in sustainable food systems is effectively unfolding. As a cross-sectoral, collaborative initiative, the Food Lab has taken the scenarios as the underpinning of a clear strategic framework into several processes since their launch in 2015.


Funded by the Green Trust, SAFL has: used the scenarios in a number of cross sectoral forums and facilitated dialogue to encourage a collaborative approach to achieving an equitable and ecologically resilient food system in South Africa. The scenarios provide the basis of a clear strategic framework for a wide number of organisations within sectors including the state, private sector, civil society and academia.


These engagement forms have covered official meetings including with government (The

Presidency; Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; Department of Rural Development and Land Reform; SA Human Rights Commission; Western Cape Office of the Premier), private sector (RCL; EY Sustainability Forum; AgriSA), civil society (Oxfam-GB; Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action; Heifer International) and academia (Stellenbosch University: Complex Systems in Transition, Agri-Sciences; Dietetics; Sustainability Institute and Bureau of Food and Agricultural Policy at Stellenbosch/ Pretoria).


SAFL has also provided critical reflection of the implementation plan for the emerging Food and Nutrition Security policy by situating the scenarios as the context and feeding into the Phakisa process designed to develop the implementation model. Various other meetings including with the Presidency (responsible for Outcome 7 framing the NDP) and the Western Cape Premier’s Office have furthered the thinking behind Chapter Six of the NDP. The scenarios raise questions about existing governance arrangements of the food system in a context of increased uncertainty.


SAFL has provided support to private sector representatives that have been involved in the construction of the scenarios to practically respond within their corporate strategies. In particular this has involved Agri-SA, EY and SPAR, as well as others such as RCL.


SAFL engaged substantially with Oxfam and their ‘right to food’ campaign particularly in bringing together Oxfam-GB and Oxfam-Australia together with the private and public sector in the Phakisa process and meetings with the Presidency. In addition, SAFL was brought in by Oxfam and the the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII) to present the scenarios at a roundtable on socio-economic rights. Other civil society organisations such as the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (PACSA) were bought into forums with the private sector to deepen dialogue on the food system using the scenarios. A few examples of this work are provided below.


Free State Land Reform Committee: On the 14th of June, the Food Lab co-facilitated a strategic discussion with the Free State Land Reform Committee (under provincial Agri-SA) to “reach a clear, concrete, proactive, locally applicable and realistic plan for co-operation and direction in the Free State to address the real needs for land and agricultural sector transformation”.


The discussion was premised on the food futures scenarios, as well as the land reform

scenarios recently completed by Vumelana. WWF was brought in to co-present. An important outcome was a practical strategy to engage the MEC for Agriculture after he directly approached the group at the meeting; a new alliance is being sought.


Free State Agriculture (FSA) got around the table with various roleplayers, including provincial agriculture MEC, Oupa Khoabane, for a workshop on land reform. OFM News’ agri editor, Sabrina Dean, spoke to FSA operations manager, Jack Armour, about a few of the highlights. Armour says it is critically important to share the successes, build trust between Government and organised agriculture and to create an environment conducive to bringing emerging farmers up to the level of fully fledged commercial farmers.


Two journal articles were drafted drawing on the scenario process and the systematic review for the journal Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development:


Freeth, R and Drimie, S. 2016. Participatory Scenario Planning: From Scenario ‘Stakeholders’ to Scenario ‘Owners’”, Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development.


Pereira, L and Drimie, S. 2016. Governance Arrangements for the Future Food System: Addressing Complexity in South Africa”, Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development.


On the 21st of June the Food Lab Advisory Board engaged with researchers working with the NRF Centre of Excellence on Food Security as well as with Raj Patel, an academic and activist working on food systems. The Advisory Board, representing a range of perspectives from across the South African food system, were constituted to provide strategic guidance to the Food Lab. Part of this work was to consider key issues and questions that the Lab should address through facilitating multi-stakeholder dialogue and learning. Engaging with CoE researchers enabled the Board to critically engage with CoE researchers, not only informing them about the future direction of the Lab but also providing diverse response and reactions to the research findings. Such an interaction, with careful facilitation, was clearly mutually beneficial. The discussions were premised on the crisis in the food system as depicted by the four scenarios.


If you are interested in this process and would like to discuss it, please contact the SAFL Director, Dr Scott Drimie at


Although this project has been successfully completed, it also continues to provide the context against which the rest of the SAFL programmes and projects are implemented. There are no other projects listed at this time.

Programme Details


Start Date

End Date

March 2015




Key Outputs

Systematic literature review of the South African Food System