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What Is The Role For Social Entrepreneurs In Addressing The Food Security Challenge in Cape Town?

Mis à jour : 25 oct. 2019

Past history and present reality show that food security is an issue that states, and international institutions have tried – and are still trying – to address.

The United Nations made “zero hunger” their second sustainable development goal, to be achieved by 2030. Besides, the Right to Food is set out in the South African Constitution, and therefore should be respected, protected and accessible to all citizens.



But a zero-hunger country is still a long way off. In South Africa, the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in the total population has raised between 2014 and 2018: it went from 45.4% (25.1 million people) between 2014 and 2016, to 51.1% (29 million people) between 2016 and 2018.

This may seem contradictory if we focus on the immense quantity of global food production and food waste. Indeed, food insecurity should not be handled as a production problem only, but as a result of systemic failure, one of the core causes being financial and geographical accessibility


Who Are The Actors In The Food System?


We consider that food insecurity is the result of a dysfunction in the food system. The food system comprises the activities, actors, and institutions who grow, process, distribute, acquire, consume and dispose of food and how they interact with other systems and actors.

Among the actors of the food system, the agri-business Multi-National Firms (MNF) which have a monopoly on world food trade often focus on productionist strategies, and the national states appear to be too weak to confront them.

Social entrepreneurs can help to build a more productive, efficient, inclusive, sustainable, transparent, and resilient food system by addressing three challenges: operational excellence, supply chain orchestration, and transparency.

First, regarding operational excellence, the main objectives are the improvement of productivity, efficiency and quality to meet the rising demand for food and to tackle the global challenge of food waste. The second challenge is supply chain orchestration and it includes the vulnerability of the agribusiness’ value chain, the useless intermediaries and the difficult access to markets for some buyers and small sellers. Finally, transparency implies the monitoring for product safety, social and environmental responsibility.



Social Entrepreneurship: A Lever For Transformation In Cape Town?


Oribi Village's “Food System Incubation Programme”is currently supporting seven socially-driven initiatives in Cape Town and surrounding townships. Each project appears to have impacts at a local level as a means of contributing to a more productive, efficient, inclusive, sustainable, transparent, and resilient food system.

For example, PEDI, Mhani Gingi, Making Kos and Ubuhle Bendalo Food Gardens are working towards a greater local production, to maximize their social impact and limit their environmental footprint. However, at this stage, the volume of their production is relatively small. To give an example, the South African fruit and vegetable industry represents several million tons of produce exchanged from national and imported origins: the three key products that dominate sales at the Cape Town Fresh Produce Market (CPFPM) are potatoes, onions and tomatoes, and they respectively represented around 9 500, 2 400 and 2 300 tons sold in June 2017. If their sales are aggregated, PEDI and Umthunzi Farming Community provide at best 1,5 tons of fresh produce per month to the market.


PEDI (Philippi Economic Development Initiative) working with small-scale farmers




Each project appears to have impacts at a local level as a means of contributing to a more productive, efficient, inclusive, sustainable, transparent, and resilient food system. All the projects have real impacts on the lives of some individuals and can be considered as experimental laboratories to find solutions. Furthermore, the different projects contribute to a rethinking of food security, as they go beyond an understanding as a production and rural issue.

However, at this stage and because of both a lack of impact measurement and a problem of proportions, it is not possible to say that they bring about real changes in the dysfunctional food system.

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