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Hunger in South Africa

Opinion

The root cause of hunger is not simply a shortage of food, but factors which impede people’s access to food.


THE PRESENT SITUATION

South Africa is a nation of diversity, with more than 50 million people and a wide variety of cultures, languages and religious beliefs. Close to 15 million South Africans, including 10 million children are beneficiaries of state social grants. This is one of the means the State has implemented, to support the most vulnerable individuals in our society. South Africa has extremely high rates of child poverty. Children are disproportionately represented in poor households. In 2010, six out of ten children lived on less than R575-00 per month with many of their caregivers being unemployed.

To eradicate hunger in South Africa, it is essential to first recognize that the root cause is not simply a shortage of food, but factors which impede people’s access to food, be it environmental, political, economic or socio-cultural. 

HUNGER MANAGEMENT

While the link between poverty and hunger is undisputed, poverty reduction is a complex issue requiring long term state, business and technological interventions. In the interim, sustainable intervention measures are required to reverse the cycle of malnutrition, dependency, poor education, lack of skills and feelings of hopelessness.

The provision of food hand-outs alone by small independent organisations is no longer an option. The solution lies in the development of sustainable community projects that centre on food production activities in partnership with organisations that, through a collective pooling of resources, skills and knowledge and a participatory approach, ensure that the beneficiaries of such interventions are actively involved and as a result retain and/or regain their self-respect and sense of human dignity.

It should be understood that food production activities include not only the establishment of gardens and food kitchens, but also, amongst others, clean water supplies, education pertaining to child rearing techniques, hygiene, good nutrition and the introduction of child care centres in which developmental activities are introduced thereby feeding not only the body, but also the mind.

Ownership of any project, the development of skills focused intervention strategies and tangible outcomes, such as supplying vegetables for soup kitchens as well as for sale, are key to success. The community is thereby encouraged to engage in new activities such as brick making or chicken farming leading ultimately to thriving self-sustaining healthy communities. The ultimate aim of any community development organisation is to work itself out of business 

The current economic conditions in South Africa have resulted in funding becoming a problem with the result that it is increasingly difficult for non-profit-making organisations to go it alone. In addition, state departments and municipalities do not always have the resources or even the necessary expertise to engage in extensive community development work.  Commercial and business enterprises, while often prepared to contribute towards funding are under pressure from an ever increasing number of organisations requesting financial support and may not even be aware that there are other ways in which they can contribute towards poverty and hunger alleviation e.g. goods and services in kind. Solutions lie in partnerships with like-minded organisations, a collective pooling of resources, skills and knowledge and authentic engagement with communities, in full recognition that the community itself is capable of contributing towards problem solving activities. A participatory approach ensures that beneficiaries of interventions are actively involved. 

A PARTICIPATORY APPROACH

Based on its years of service to communities, a Non-Government Organisation (NGO), such as Operation Hunger, in conjunction with a community organisation or business corporation may identify a focus area such as the development of nutrition and skills training programme. Pooling of resources is of critical importance e.g. an organisation may be able to provide facilities, donations and/or goods in kind, while the NGO provides staff with skills and expertise in community development, health related issues and networking as well opportunities for sourcing funding for special projects and provision of equipment. This partnership forges links with relevant communities through meetings with local and/or traditional leaders.

A needs assessment follows during which the community becomes a full member of the partnership. A community profile clearly outlining needs and challenges is developed. Relevant committees and sub-committees are established to ensure effective implementation and monitoring of various tasks, with feedback provided at scheduled meetings. The NGO networks with various service providers such as the Departments of Water Affairs and Agriculture and local health clinics, all of which have a role to play in hunger management. Furthermore, outside sources such as transport companies can be requested to transport equipment when needed in conjunction with scheduled deliveries to the area and shop owners asked to contribute goods in kind.

Partnerships involving all sectors of society play a vital role in hunger management through the development of sustainable self-help projects that contribute towards the quality of life, independence and dignity of individuals and communities.  

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