Towards Democratic Urban Food Systems Governance: Re-Interpreting the Urban Food Security Mandate

2015, Sustainable Cities Programme. South African Cities Network (SACN).

Although South Africa is food security at a national level, there is widespread household food insecurity. Despite clear evidence of high levels of urban food insecurity, the problem is generally framed as being predominantly rural. This has led to a neglect of urban considerations in food security policies and programmes at the national and provincial levels, and an approach that fails to consider the systemic drivers of food insecurity. This has left local government without a clear mandate to address food insecurity.
Although National policies and strategies continue to neglect the drivers of urban food security, the 2014 National Policy on Food and Nutrition Security does identify a role for local government. The National Development Plan argues for a more complex understanding of food security and its possible solutions. Although the vast majorty of local government food security initiatives focus on urban agriculture, there are indications that a more systemic approach is being considered.
This policy brief calls for national government to formally acknowledge the mandate for food security to local government, and for provincial government to provide more scope for local government to drive the provincial urban food security agenda. The South African Cities Network has an important role to play in driving these processes, and in providing opportunities for horizontal learning. The brief argues that local governments should seek to maximise their food security programming and interventions within their existing mandates and develop over-arching food security and food system strategies, which address sustaianability issues and vulnerabilities to mega-trends. Finally, it argues that food systems governance should be recognised as an intervention with multiple benefits and returns on investment.

Jane Battersby, Gareth Haysom, Florian Kroll and Maya Marshak